Written and Directed by William Sachs
Run Time: 84 minutes
25 Words or Less: A murderous, melting mutant astronaut named Steve.
Open in deep space where stalwart astronaut Steve West and his sacrificial crew cruise past the planet Saturn. Note that the FX team uses Apollo moon landing footage in a misguided attempt to convince us that this is Saturn floating by…we’re really off to a good start here, I tell ya.
"It’s amazing! You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the sun through Saturn’s rings," Steve says as an off-camera stage hand shines a bright Kleig light through the prop capsule’s window. Anyway, after another round of stock footage of sun spots, sun flares, and pretty much any space stock-footage the producers could dig up, "something" happens which gives Steve a nose bleed. Space is weird, isn’t it? Steve gets a glassy look in his eyes and…passes out. Yea verily! Do not scoff at the mighty Rings of Saturn lest thou also should bleedith from thy nose!
In order to avoid costly FX shots of Steve’s return to Earth, we simply jump cut to find Steve in a hospital, wrapped head to toe in a bandages due to his injuries from…Saturn’s rings? Hey, movie! A little info would go a long way about now, <sigh>. Attending physician Dr. Loring decides that the astronaut’s injuries are a bit out of his field of expertise, especially the whole melty-thingy, so he calls in our hero, Dr. Ted Nelson.
Left to himself, Steve awakens and tears free from his restraints (why is he restrained?). Discovering that his face and hands are all gross and slimy and he now looks like something from a cheap 70’s monster movie, Steve freaks out and starts smashing things around the room in despair. The resulting commotion brings in a rotund nurse who instead of, say, helping Steve when she sees him, promptly turns tail and runs screaming down the hall (in slooooooow-mo!) with Steve in hot pursuit. At the end of the hall, the unlucky nurse plunges through a glass door (instead of simply opening it!) while a POV shot of Steve’s hand only adds to the hilarity.
After the nurse’s off-screen murder, we cut to the morgue where a sheet is draped over her a lifeless form.
"Don’t quote me, but this wasn’t any animal," notes the ever-alert Dr. Nelson, who’s conducts the autopsy by merely lifting the sheet and taking a 3-second look at the remains. Ted decides that the combination of Steve’s escape and the dead nurse warrants a quick call to the heavies, namely Generic General Perry, an aging pencil pusher in change of melting astronauts. Well, after getting word of Steve’s, er, "condition", Perry flies down to wherever the hell this is taking place to meet with Ted and plan a course of action to reel in their mutated buddy.
As Ted and Perry discuss the situation over the phone, Steve has left the hospital grounds and is now stomping through a local forest looking for his next victim. (A quick shot shows Steve leaving a long trail of slime from the soles of his shoes as he walks through the grass…just how the slime is getting from his feet and through the bottom of his shoes is unclear to this weary reviewer.) The murderous rampage continues as a lone fisherman is attacked and killed by a slimy hand ripping off his head. (The film’s director unwisely decided to show us the fisherman’s head bobbing down a creek just like a soccer ball wrapped in flesh-colored rubber…just sayin’…)
Just a couple of thoughts here:
OK, fair enough, Steve really is gross looking and slimy and all, but just how long can he continue to melt until he’s, you know, totally melted? Wouldn’t he just get weaker and weaker and smaller and smaller?
In another scene, Nelson is aimlessly walking around with a Geiger counter yelling, "Steve, where are you?" and I have to wonder: is this really the most efficient way to find him? I’m no doctor, but couldn’t you just follow his slime trail?
Anyway, we next see Ted picking up General Perry from the airport and rushing him back to (cough) "headquarters". Hilariously, the General is in a civilian "disguise" composing of a flannel shirt and baseball cap because he doesn’t want anybody to recognize him and get an idea as to the gravity of the current situation. Yeah, like some random person on the street would spot him and say, "Oh my God! Isn’t that General Perry? He never shows up unless things are really bad!"
As our limp story staggers to its inevitable conclusion, Ted’s wife, Judith, invites General Perry back to their place for dinner along with her parents. Hilarity ensues as we watch the elderly couple bicker in their car regarding what kind of gift to bring to the dinner party. Instead of buying a bottle of wine like any intelligent person would do, they decide to stop in the middle of a dark fruit orchid so they can pick oranges as a gift instead. I think you can see where this is headed…Yes, Steve is of course walking around that exact area and manages to sneak into their car and kill them both. (This movie really has it out for the innocents, sheesh!)
Later that evening when the her parents still haven’t shown up for dinner, Judith gets worried and fearfully suggests that Steve must have gotten them. Upon hearing this, General Perry gets pissed at Ted for letting the cat out of the bag regarding Steve’s homicidal tendencies, when Judith (rightfully) screams, "This is the most pathetic excuse for a search I’ve ever seen!"
Outside in the backyard , melting Steve stares at Ted’s house from the darkness. Wow, does Steve get around or what? Inside, Ted takes a call from the police informing him that they found Judith’s parents torn to pieces inside their car. This naturally upsets Judith, so Ted does the responsible thing and sedates her, leaving her alone with General Perry while he drives out the murder scene. Is this guy Husband of the Year material or what? With Judith unconscious on the bed upstairs and a melting, homicidal maniac on the loose outside, Perry passes the time by raiding the fridge for beer and leftovers.
At the murder scene Ted finally tells Sheriff Blake who’s behind all the recent murders. Yeah, Ted, after 4 homicides maybe informing the cops as to who the killer is would be a good idea…moron.
Ted ends his revelation by warning Blake, "You can’t tell anybody, not even your wife!"
"You know I’m not married, Ted," Blake reminds him. (Uh…ok. That was an awkward bit of dialog.)
Sooooo….after clearing up Sheriff Blake’s marital status, we cut back to Ted’s house and see General Perry sitting on the sofa happily chomping a turkey drumstick. Steve, sensing that it’s time to kill again because it’s been, gee, a whole 5 minutes since somebody died, finally breaks into the house and drags Perry out into the front yard where he tears off his face or something. As usual, it’s dark and you can’t see anything since that would require an actual special effects budget. Well, Ted and Blake return to find Perry’s remains in the yard. It’s sad that they can’t figure out where Steve’s run off to…I guess there’s no point in following the freaking slime trail he leaves behind him! Hey, guys: he’s melting for cripes sake!
A quick look around the yard reveals a big chunk of meat on the ground near Perry. Assuming the worse, they take a closer look only to realize it’s a turkey leg. What’s really strange about this scene is that they both start to chuckle, and not the nervous laughter of trying to relieve stress due to the horrible recent events, but a completely inappropriate mirth-filled laugh while standing right over the disfigured body. It’s like:
"Hey, (gasp!), please don’t tell me that’s Perry’s face laying on the ground!"
"Hmmm…no, it’s just a turkey drumstick"
(In unison) "Ha ha ha ha!"
Anyway, Blake gets a call on his police radio about somebody named Nell who’s "in some sort of trouble with some guy". Wow, Dispatch, thanks for the detailed report. (I suppose yet another person was killed while I was away for a whole 2 minutes getting a beer.)
Blake wants to rush off and investigate, because I guess he psychically knows that this must have something to do with the Melting Man, especially with all the information just given to him.
"I can’t just leave Judy here!" Ted protests
"I can have a car here in five minutes…C’mon, let’s go!" Blake reassures him as they drive off. (Really? Really, Ted?! Perry is laying DEAD on the front lawn and you’re leaving your sedated, pregnant wife unconscious on the bed? Good grief!)
Cue the obligatory Drunks See the Monster and Can’t Believe Their Eyes. Har-dee-har har.
Somehow Ted and Blake track down Steve to some sort of refinery or something; it’s all really dark so it’s hard to see. Equally unsurprising, the super sleuths manage to lose track of him again! Not to beat a dead horse here, but here’s a hint: he leaves a trail of slime behind him, you idiots!
"It’s incredible," Ted gasps while pointlessly running around, "He seems to be getting stronger as he melts!" Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, Ted.
As is the norm in dumb movies, Ted and Blake decide the best course of action would be to split up. Noting that Ted is unarmed, Blake gives him his service revolver, and I don’t reeeeeelly think that’s allowed, but ok. After a few steps, Ted has a change of heart and tosses the gun away because…well…I have no idea. I just doesn’t make any sense. I suppose we’re to think Ted doesn’t want to hurt his former friend, even though he’s become a murderous melting slime dude. But still, Ted, maybe the Sheriff might be needing his gun back when this is all over? Just sayin’….
More Incredible Melting Man Incredibly Boring Chase scenes. Finally Steve gets cornered at the top of a tall tower. Wow, I wonder what’s going to happen next?
After a couple of seconds, Blake loses his cool and blasts Steve with his shot gun. Absorbing the shots with his gooey exterior, I guess that’s an advantage with melting skin, Steve grabs Sheriff Blake and tosses him from the building. As he plummets to the ground, Blake hits some power lines and transforms into a stiff-limbed store dummy filled with roman candles and sparklers which ignite in a huge shower of sparks, literally, like a fourth of July show. As Blake sparks and sputters on the street below, Ted pleads for his life. (Bet you wish you had that gun now, don’t cha Ted?!). Steve simply gives Ted a punch to the chops, leaving him hanging from the railing.
But wait! Sweet violin music begins and, yes, Steve discovers his lost humanity buried deep in the slime of his melted mind and helps Ted back up onto the walkway. As we bask in this scene of renewed comradery, a pair of security guards appear and mistakenly gun down Ted! What the…?! Steve goes into rage-mode and fatally pummels the guards as Ted dies on the floor. Oh, the humanity! (This of course means that Judy, pregnant with child, has lost both her parents and her husband in the same night…Poor lady! This film sure isn’t kind to innocent people.)
As daylight approaches, Steve stumbles around dripping slime at a higher and higher rate. As the distorted sights and sounds of his ill-fated Saturn trip replay in his head, Steve collapses against a work shed and completely dissolves into a pool of disgusting goo. A few minutes later, a lone factory worker shows up for work and mistaking Steve’s slimy clothes for rubbish, tosses them into a nearby garbage can. Ahhh…what an uplifting ending.
Later that day, we see Ted’s dead body still laying on the floor…sheesh, where the hell is everybody? As we fade to black, a news announcer announces a new manned mission to Saturn has just launched… Oh, what bitter irony!
Dennis Grisbeck (December 2013)
A tame 70’s monster flick that tried a different angle: A “melting” monster. The biggest problem for me was that his melting-ness provides no special powers or abailities…he’s just slimy. Not to mention that the reason for his, er, disability, was the rings of Saturn? Man, they could have at least used something remotely plausable, for example that good old stand by: radiation. Maybe they were trying not to be too clichéd…who knows. The movie has a pretty bleak ending: the hero and all of his friends are killed, then the monster just dissolves, offering no chance for redemption. Well, the movie does deserves its low ratings, but on the other hand it’s a curious oddity that you might find worth watching after all.
Oh, and yet another sci-fi character named “Steve”…I love it!