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Before he turned his hand to lycanthropes in An American Werewolf in London, shuffling zombies in the Thriller music video and hostile extra-terrestrials in Men in Black, special effects legend Rick Baker lent his talents to the creation of another memorable horror creature. Step forward, The Incredible Melting Man!
 
When spacecraft Scorpio V returns to Earth following a mission to Saturn, two of the crew are dead and the third, astronaut Steve West, is in a critical condition. Critical, that is, until he rises from his hospital bed to bite chunks out of a nurse before escaping into the surrounding countryside. The authorities set about trying to track Steve down before he claims any other victims, but they don’t know the really bad news yet -  Steve is also highly radioactive!
 
The Incredible Melting Man offers up a wealth of show-stopping B-movie moments in its relatively modest running time – chief among them, the scene in which a disembodied head floats down a river only to smash messily on the rocks further downstream – but the real star of the show here is Baker’s ultra-icky special effects work which let you see the Melting Man’s transition in all its gooey, glistening glory.


The materials used for this release were provided by a third-party, in this case MGM. Here’s what the accompanying booklet has to say about things:

Quote: The Incredible Melting Man appears in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with mono 2.0 sound. The High Definition master was produced by MGM and made available for this release via Hollywood Classics.

The Incredible Melting Man Super 8 Digest version was transferred from an original Super 8mm print, kindly made available for this release by Douglas Weir.

Video


Although I’d previously seen screen captures from the US Shout! Factory edition, I was still pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of The Incredible Melting Man’s visual presentation. The picture has that unmistakable seventies B-movie look, but MGM has done a bang up job with the restoration. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. There is some obvious print damage and debris on show, but this is largely confined to shots featuring stock footage, which are a good few notches below the rest of the film in the quality stakes. There’s also a bit of shimmer here and there, but it’s nothing too distracting. On the positive side of things the image sports a relatively impressive level of detail, providing a showcase for Rick Baker’s gloopy make-up effects, while colours and bold and blacks are inky, the latter of which proves extremely beneficial during the night-time sequences. A reassuring layer of grain dispels any fears that overt low-pass filtering has been employed, and I didn’t spot any other obvious signs of digital manipulation. Compression is also well-handled. This is an impressive presentation overall; one that belies the film’s miniscule budget.

Audio


The Incredible Melting Man comes furnished with an LPCM 2.0 Mono soundtrack that is pretty much what you’d expect from a film of this age and budget. Although imperfect, dialogue is generally intelligible and effects come through loud and clear, although there are one or two isolated exceptions. I don’t recall any particularly obvious instances of distortion and to be honest the overall fidelity came as a pleasant surprise. Arlon Ober's score is well-prioritised and lends a suitably creepy atmosphere to the proceedings. Although the track has a limited presence due to the mono nature of the mix (there’s no low end to speak of) it’s still a surprisingly good effort, all things considered.

Extras


Arrow’s release of The Incredible Melting Man appears to include all of the bonus material found on the US disc, save for the radio spot, and adds a couple of new features to boot.

  • Audio Commentary with William Sachs
  • Super 8 digest version of the film
  • Interview with Writer/Director William Sachs and Make-up Effects Artist Rick Baker
  • Interview with Make-up Effects Artist Greg Cannom
  • Promotional Gallery
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • DVD Copy
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film and more!

Sachs’ commentary is a little on the bitter side, given that the finished film doesn’t represent his original vision, but he still has plenty to say. His recollection of events is surprisingly detailed and he provides a lot of info about the shoot, the cast, the effects and his original intentions for the picture. It’s definitely worth taking the time to listen to this one. The Super 8 version of The Incredible Melting Man is an extremely truncated affair that condenses the plot into around seven minutes. The quality is poor (4:3 aspect ratio, faded and covered in dirt and scratches), so it’s really only of interest as a curiosity.

The Sachs/Baker interview is quite revealing, with the writer/director maintaining that neither the producers nor mainstream audiences ‘got’ the film he was trying to make. There’s a fair bit of repetition from the commentary track, but it’s nice to put a face to the name. Baker is more realistic and informs us that he didn’t really want to do the film at all, and so put in an outrageous bid for his services that was subsequently accepted – whoops. He also recounts an amusing story about Alex Rebar, who was apparently ‘really famous’ in Italy… The interview with Greg Cannom is much shorter and focusses on how he became involved with the film, the specific effects he worked on and what he learned from Baker.

The final on-disc bonus content consists of the promotional gallery and the theatrical trailer, both of which are self-explanatory. Of course you also get a DVD copy of the film, a booklet containing essays on the picture, plus reversible artwork.

Overall


Cheap, trashy and cheesier than a slab of Roquefort, no one could convincingly argue that The Incredible Melting Man is a good film. On the bright side there are one or two moments of enjoyment to be gleaned from its short running time, and although it doesn’t quite reach ‘so bad it’s good’ territory I can imagine it going down well as a Friday night movie after the consumption of many, many beers. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of the rotund nurse running through a glass door in slow motion for no obvious reason, Ted’s inopportune preoccupation with crackers, and some of the hilarious line deliveries (his wife’s ‘We don’t have a minute!’ and Ted’s Scotty-esque ‘I am a doctor, I am not a policeman!’). In fact, I kept thinking to myself that the film would make for a great episode of MST3K, so imagine my delight when I discovered that it’s already been done! What a fantastic extra that would have made…
 
The main feature’s failings aside, the Blu-ray release is actually pretty damn good, offering great visuals, solid audio and some entertaining and informative bonus material. After the relative disappointment of The Visitor this is a return to form for Arrow, so if you’re a fan of the film you’ll be more than happy with this release.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Incredible Melting Man, The
 Incredible Melting Man, The
 Incredible Melting Man, The
 Incredible Melting Man, The
 Incredible Melting Man, The
 Incredible Melting Man, The
 Incredible Melting Man, The
 Incredible Melting Man, The
As I said before, the MST3K episode would have been the icing on the cake, so here’s a handy YouTube link.



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