The Incredible Melting Man Blu-ray Review
Coming to a bucket near you soon!
PictureScream and Shout and let it all out!
Even with their incredible roster of cult genre releases, I admit to being both surprised and elated that the US label elected to slop The Incredible Melting Man out on to Blu. But whilst wildly limited in budget and scope, the film is astonishingly colourful and startlingly vivid, and it is actually a fine-looking visual experience. Thus, it makes for a wonderfully lurid and richly textured image here in 1080p, and encoded via AVC.
As I said in the film review, this film may have always had a special place in my heart but I haven’t actually watched it in a long, long time. I saw it theatrically, underage, and I recorded it off the TV in the early 80’s but despite several official releases coming along on home video, I have somehow managed to miss every single one of them. So, looking at this hi-def transfer is literally something of a revelation. The 1.85:1 image is culled from a very decent print that shows only minimal signs of age and wear and tear. The stock space footage looks appalling. It’s public domain stuff, and it’s vintage and subject to all manner of splotches, speckles, crackles, wobbles and blurriness. The film itself can suffer from some occasional softer shots, some contrast fluctuations and some variance in hue – all things that you would expect to see in a low-budget, largely disregarded production. But, in the main, the picture is surprisingly good. One element that kept on bugging me is the frequent frame-wobbling When the fisherman’s head is tossed into that dirty stream for the beginning of its grisly voyage, the frame judders up and down lots, and there are quite a few others instances of this throughout. I must admit that even though I watched this stuff over and over all those years ago, I can’t recall if it has always done this or not. But, given the overall quality on show, I inclined to believe that it is inherent to the source.
Grain looks fine to me. Nothing seems to have been manipulated here. No smoothing, sharpening or removal of the original celluloid texture. Edges haven’t received any unwarranted enhancement. There isn’t any aliasing, and I saw no banding taking place.
Colours are terrific. No question about it. This film has every shade and hue going, most of which slide down the lead’s face at one point or another, and it handles them with precision. There’s no point going about them at length, because we’d be here all day. They are icky, scintillating, gaudy, gleaming, entrancing, sick, beautiful, intricate and radiant whenever they are required to be. There is no smearing, and the natural landscapes (scrublands, meadows, trees, leaves, lemons etc), the interior décor of the various houses (wacky furnishings for the Nelsons and great bloodied chaos for Janus Blythe’s battlefield homestead), and the intricacies of the pipes, metal stairs, grill-works and ducts of the power-plant also come across with super steely-grey refinement and clarity. So, as you can probably tell, detail is very, very good indeed. Yep, there are some softer shots, but the image here is often astonishingly crisp and cleanly rendered. Facial texture is nicely resolved, with acute attention also paid to hair, eyes and clothing. Wounds and mutilations are, as you would hope, splendidly captured with tight definition. You can easily spot where Baker’s mask ends and the skin around Rebar’s real eye begins. You easily spot his arm hidden under his hospital gown.
I was impressed with the depth of field too. The film benefits from lots of exterior location work, and the sight of Steve wandering through the woods often makes for some striking compositions, like that walking along the branch shot I mentioned, and the transfer affords consistent detail up front and far back, leading to an image that is often rewardingly three-dimensional. And you’ve got to love the amusing flying saucer set-up with the lampshade when Janus Blythe goes creeping about the house. So even the interiors gain appreciable depth and spatiality from the faithfulness the transfer has for the photography.
Hospital whites are sharp and bright. Characters moving out of the shadows and into patches of light are handled with care and seem very natural, meaning that the contrast is well-balanced and smooth. Black levels are strong and deep and add immeasurably to the visual look and the atmosphere of the film. I detected no hint of crushing. Skin-tones are naturalistic and reveal some surprisingly ill-looking countenances, especially from DeBanning and Sweeny, who appear very grey and rundown. And very convincing as a result, I would say.
Mostly great stuff here, folks. Only the bits and bobs of damage and the juddering that lets it down.
SoundThe insane creativity in the visuals is quite well- matched by elements creeping in that are similarly inventive in the sound department. But the original sound design and the score, while not in any way lacking, just don’t have much scope to extend across the environment. We hear the original mono mix in DTS-HD MA and I’m pleased to say that it doesn’t make any errors at all that I could find.
You might wish that it did with regards to the dialogue which, sadly, comes through totally unobstructed and with complete clarity.
The score from Arlon Ober is a wacky affair and probably accounts for the majority of the aural intrigue. God, I wish I could get this as a CD release to review in-depth because it is soooo off-the-wall. There’s the orchestral stuff, the spacey-weird electronica and, of course, that fuzzy electric guitar that bends and rolls and buzzes all over the place. The track doesn’t swamp, lose or falsely heighten any of this as far as I can tell. There is great clarity to the shrieking violins and the funky guitar twanging. And, man, just listen to the crazy Scooby-Doo-style histrionics that Ober creates for the high gantry climax.
Melto’s agonized grunting and wheezing is suitably labored and pushed firmly ahead in the mix so you get the feeling he's in your vicinity and moaning his melting head off, and the chomping sounds he makes as he chows down on various victims is nicely up-front and slurpy. Listen to the ghastly noises emanating from the room in which Jonathan Demme is being gobbled-up. We don't see what's happened to him, but we can certainly tell what's going down ... him! There are a few gunshots and some shattering glass effects, none of which are given much priority in the mix, but don't sound too lame either. The power-line shorting-out into flames as a body is hurled on it delivers an array of fizzing and popping and that bloody Geiger Counter grates on the nerves, but it is Ober’s score and his numerous woozy stingers that provide the track with most of its dynamics. Little things like crunching twigs, footsteps on metal, clattering medical equipment and rustling leaves can all be heard quite readily, so subtleties aren’t neglected.
Overall, this is a pretty good track that makes no mistakes and delivers everything it needs to with agreeable clarity.
ExtrasHats off to Scream for actually getting anybody to talk about this movie other than devoted fanboys.
William Sachs rakes over the coals in his commentary track, and delivers a really good, honest and anecdote-filled dissection. He tells us of his original intentions for the story and the interference from the producers that scuppered them. They couldn’t comprehend his desire to have the film play as a comic-book homage to Creepy Tales and the campery of 50’s SF, and just wanted it played straight. To this end, they chopped and changed many thematic concepts and completely altered the original sense of mystery and of the ticking-clock suspense angle. He discusses the makeup, the gore and the locations and he supplies lots of interesting material about his cast and crew. There’s a nice little reference to Jeff Lieberman regarding his classic worm film, Squirm, and Sachs comes across as a genuinely likeable chap. You really feel for how he fought to get Melting Man made his way, and how he struggled to make the best of a bad deal. And this kind of makes you look at his movie in a different light, or at least try to.
We get some cool interviews.
First up is Greg Cannom who gets a couple of minutes to tell us how he got involved with the special makeup FX on the film as a protégé of Rick Baker. And then, in a much better and far longer (19 mins) section we hear from both Baker, himself, and Sachs. The two are filmed separately and the whole thing is quite frank and amusing, as both men recount how the film took such sloppy shape, both figuratively and literally. It is a good piece that is honest about the shortcomings of the movie and the successes that were made on such a shoestring. There’s clearly some affection here, too, even though Baker probably cannot believe that anyone is still interested in this splattery stuff from his formative years in the trade of special makeup FX. The only thing letting this down are the sudden zoom-ins to the two men, which seem oddly out-of-place.
There are some Trailers to muck about with, as well as a Radio Spot. One of the trailers focuses on Baker as the creator of the screen’s “first new horror creature” which is an interesting way of promoting the movie.
Okay, so there isn't much here ... but what there is good. If you listen to Sachs, I promise that you'll gain a completely new appreciation of the film, no matter how much you have loved or hated it previously.
VerdictComing to a bucket near you soon!
It seems amazing that a film as totally committed to grossing you out as The Incredible Melting Man could attain such a cosy, almost charming cult status, but this is precisely what has happened with this deliriously gloopy, yet decidedly cack-handed slayathon. Part creature-feature, part slasher, part SF homage, parts missing, William Sachs delivers the goods more by accident than by design. His direction is colossally bad and the performances are even worse. But the gore is tremendous, the early Rick Baker FX still quite impressive, give or take, and the flat-out desire to just splash as much gooey viscera across the screen is something that I hold dear with unashamed admiration.
I doubt very much that new audiences will find much to savour with this, though. Unless they go into it with a pure MST3K attitude, that is. There are plenty of bad horror movies around, but this is something else again and, gore aside, it is probably just nostalgia that now makes it tick. And if you don’t have some childhood affection for this sick silliness, then I fear it may well be little more than a chore to sit through. But if you can, switch on to its wacky story, look a tad deeper than its crazy kitsch tomfoolery and you might just catch sight of some unexpected artistry at work. The Quatermass/Frankenstein hints are cool and, believe it or not, there is some heart and soul in here, too.
Scream’s transfer is excellent. A rich, gaudy, redolent ejaculation of colour and fine detail ensures that you won’t miss a trickle of the main man’s melting. There is some frame-juddering that I’m afraid did tend to distract me, at least, for some of the time, and there are still some signs of print damage, but this is a very good transfer that is sure to please most fans.
A bad film, yet a brilliant cult-classic that gets a stunning new lease of gloopy life on Blu.
Long Live The Incredible Melting Man!
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