A three man mission to Saturn runs into problems when the men are exposed to a blast of radiation. Two of the men are instantly killed. The third man, Steve West (Alex Rebar) survives the blast but the radiation affects him. When he wakes up in the hospital he is strapped to his bed. With, now superhuman strength, West breaks his bonds and sees his hands for the first time. The flesh is raw, his fingers claw-like and they appear to be melting. Taking of the bandages and looking at himself in the mirror he sees his face is the same putrid pussy mess as his hands. A nurse (Bonnie Inch) sees him, screams and runs away. West chases her. He catches her and kills her. He then wanders off into the countryside killing and eating whoever he runs across.
West’s friend and physician Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning) reports to the head of the space mission, General Michael Perry (Myron Healey), that West has escaped. Perry flies down to assist Nelson in finding West. West begins his killing spree by attacking and killing a fisherman. As West continues to melt he continues to need to eat people to try to maintain himself. Nelson and Perry come upon Sheriff Neil Blake (Michael Aldredge) as he’s trying to assess the situation concerning the dead fisherman. The Sheriff suspects that Nelson and Perry know something about the murder. The sheriff also knows that getting information from the military is almost impossible.
After searching all day and only finding melted bits and pieces of West, Nelson takes Perry home to get something to eat. Nelson’s wife Judy (Ann Sweeny), who happens to be pregnant and has a history of miscarriage, has been expecting her Mother (Leigh Mitchell) and her mother’s boyfriend Harold (Edwin Max) for dinner but they never showed up. Eventually Nelson gets a call from the sheriff after he found pieces of their bodies. While Nelson is off identifying the remains of his mother-in-law West shows up at his house and kills General Perry.
Now Nelson has no choice but to tell Sheriff Blake about West and what is really happening. While still at the crime scene of General Perry the Sheriff gets an emergency call from Nell Winters (Janus Blythe) about a guy that invaded their home and killed her husband Matt (Jonathan Demme). Blake and Nelson are left to try to find West before he kills more people. It’s going to be a long night.
“The Incredible Melting Man” was released in 1977 and was directed by William Sachs. It is a low budget horror film with science fiction undertones. The film is very much ala “First Man into Space” 1959 and “Quatermass Xperiment” 1955. Sachs maintains that he never saw either film, and that he was influenced more by “The Night of the Living Dead” 1968.
Originally the film was meant to be a parody of horror films; however the producers had Sachs edited out the comedy parts and add some new horror scenes. There are still aspects of it that seem more on the parody side, especially the General Michael Perry character. As for the melting man himself, the actor who played him looked a lot like the “My Pillow” guy so seeing him start to melt added, at least in my mind, a little something to enhance the parody side of the film.
The special effects were done by Rick Baker so that part of the film was great. The actual melting of the melting man was really good and rather gross. There were actually quite a few gross parts to the movie. Sachs actually intended the film as an homage to fifties style horror movies. In that respect it seems to work. Other than a rather sad and basically heartbreaking ending, the rest of the film was lacking in cinema quality, but camp and cheeze were in abundance. Between the camp value and the actual melting man the movie was a one of those guilty pleasures that you like to keep around and watch over again.
Rick Baker’s melting effects inspired Rob Bottin when it came time to create his effects for the henchman in “RoboCop” 1987 who rammed into a vat of toxic waste and began melting.