Wow, this is actually gonna be a short one from me for a change, more in line with my first reviews for Night of the Big Heat and Island of Terror.
Name of the Movie: The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
Rating: 2 slimes
Steve West - An astronaut who needs to consume human flesh to survive after space radiation makes him begin melting. Gets his arm chopped off, then melts completely.
Dr. Ted Nelson - (Supposedly) brilliant doctor who is (apparently) a friend of Steve's. He likes crackers. Shot in the head by triggerhappy security guards.
Judy Nelson - Ted's pregnant wife.
General Michael Perry - Grouchy army general with an affinity for turkey legs. Mauled by Steve.
Sheriff Neil Blake - Local cop who thinks something strange is a-goin' on. Fried when Steve throws him onto some high-voltage powerlines.
Helen and Harold - Judy's mother and her boyfriend. Last seen discovering that Steve is in the backseat of their car.
Nell and Matt - All this couple ever wanted to do was see a movie. Matt gets snuffed by Steve, Nell flips out.
Dr. Loring - Ted's colleague, who bears an uncanny resemblance to O.J. Simpson.
Astronaut Steve West is the commander of Scorpio V, a manned mission to Saturn. The mission very quickly goes wrong when some sort of celestial phenomenon that the movie never bothers to properly explain bombards the shuttle with radiation. Steve is knocked unconscious by the blast, and upon returning to Earth he and his two comrades quickly fall prey to some sort of bizarre disease which swiftly kills the other two astronauts. Steve, who has been unconscious since their return, is confined to his room at the hospital, and only a handful of people know about the disaster. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, the Scorpio V mission was a complete success. Steve's physician, Dr. Loring, can't seem to find an answer to the unusual problem his patient has. And that problem becomes apparent to the audience the moment Loring leaves the room. Steve, awakening from his comatose state, finds his hands covered in open sores. Discovering his face bandaged, he goes to a mirror and rips the bandages off to discover his face in a similar state. Returning to change his IV, an unfortunate nurse walks in on him, and, flying into a homicidal rage, Steve chases her out of the hospital and into the parking lot, where he kills her.
And he does a lot more than just kill her. After discovering the body, Dr. Loring calls in his esteemed colleague Dr. Ted Nelson, who just so happens to be a good friend of Steve, and shows him the nurse, and we see that half of her head has been consumed! Here we finally learn what ails poor Steve. It seems the bizarre space illness he has contracted is causing his body to rapidly deteriorate and liquify. In a ward, he's melting. It has also given him enhanced superhuman physical strength, and turned him into a complete homcidal maniac. Oh yeah, and he needs to consume human flesh in order to survive. (On the surface it looks like Ted is pulling this all out of his ass, but there's evidence for it in Steve's actions since he woke up, like ripping the sink off the wall in his room, partially eating the nurse after killing her, etc.) Ted then gets into contact with General Michael Perry, who is also a friend of Steve and has some vague connection to the Scorpio V mission. Perry tells Ted to keep a lid on things, lest word of the escaped melting lunatic get out and cause a panic. In the meantime, said escaped melting lunatic kills a random fisherman he stumbles across.
Then the plot kind of slows down for a while, as though the writer suddenly realized we were introduced to Ted Nelson without even knowing what kind of a person he is. So, we forget about the whole former astronaut-turned melting, cannibalistic wacko for some quiet day-in-the-life scenes both at his work and at home, in which we learn that his wife Judy has finally gotten pregnant after they tried three times before, and that, more importantly, they're out of crackers! Intersped with this stuff are some ultimately pointless scenes of some annoying children who encounter Steve in the woods near where he killed the fisherman, but sadly are not killed (and despite it being set up in such a way as to look like the kids will stumble across the fisherman's severed head, this never comes to pass, annoyingly). Then General Perry, probably getting as tired of the slow-moving plot as the viewers, phones Ted to tell him he's flying out there to assist him in searching for Steve, of which Ted has done surprisingly little on his own.
Driving home from the airport with Perry, Ted notices some police cars and an ambulance and pulls over to have a looksee, and here we're introduced to Sheriff Neil Blake. It seems someone did eventually find the fisherman, and Neil, proving to be pretty intelligent, suspects that Ted and the stranger riding shotgun know something about the murder, but Ted and Perry keep their lips zipped. Perry will be staying with the Nelsons for the duration of the movie, and after more non-searching, Judy invites her mother Helen over to dinner with her, Ted, and the General. Helen never makes it, though, as she and her boyfriend Harold stop off at a lemon grove to pick some of the fruit for a pie, and, upon returning to their car, discover none other than Steve (who by this point looks a lot like the title character in Darkman) sitting in the backseat. Exit Mom and her man.
When the old folks turn out to be no-shows for dinner, everybody gets understandably worried. Ted leaves to go and see Sheriff Neil, but before he does, he slips Judy a mickey to help her sleep, and leaves General Perry with instructions to guard the house. Proving to be a woefully inept military officer, Perry instead raids the fridge, then hears a noise outside. Armed with naught but a turkey leg, he opens the front door and is promptly ambushed by the ever-more gooey Steve. In the meantime, Ted joins Neil out at the lemon grove where the Sheriff has found Harold's car, inside which is what's left of him and Helen. Neil yells at Ted a lot to get him to spill the beans, and Ted finally caves and tells him about the failed Saturn mission and the whole escaped melting killer thing. They return to Ted's house too late to save Perry, but just in time to drive Steve away before he can victimize the sleeping Judy. Foiled, Steve goes to the neighbors' house, just as Nell returns with Matt (boyfriend? husband?) from a movie. He kills Matt, but Nell cuts his arm off with a handy meat cleaver, and the melting murderer flees the scene. After hearing about Steve's latest exploit, Ted and Sheriff Neil hurriedly track him down to some kind of local factory for a final showdown up on the roof.
Neil tries to shoot Steve with his shotgun, but it proves to have the same effect as shooting Jell-O. Enraged, Steve grabs Neil and hurls him off the roof and onto some convenient powerlines, where he is not only electrocuted but literally explodes as if he has kerosene for blood and fireworks stuffed in him. Steve then tries to do the same number on Ted, who ends up hanging off the edge by his fingers, and he pleads with Steve to save him. Some semblance of humanity surfaces in Steve and he recognizes his friend and pulls him to safety. Then two security guards, having heard all the noise, arrive on the scene, weapons drawn, and are understandably freaked out at the sight of Steve. Ted tries to play mediator and avert disaster, but the moment he picks to step in-between Steve and the guards is the moment the guards open fire. Ted catches a stray bullet in the forehead, and dies instantly. What little progress Steve made to becoming a sane, rational human again goes right out the window as he attacks and murders both guards in revenge.
That done with, he stumbles off, destination unknown. But wherever it was he was going, he never gets there. The last person he ate was hours ago and he threw the guards to their deaths rather than eating them, so his deterioration finally catches up to him here. In what I can honestly say is a disgusting and disturbing scene, Steve melts down to naught but empty clothes and a puddle of lifeless glop. Cut to the next morning, where a janitor arrives and cleans the mess up, as a radio broadcast announces that N.A.S.A. will soon attempt a Scorpio VI mission...
This movie's biggest failure lies in the handling of the two main characters. First, let's tackle Dr. Ted Nelson. Despite the little peek into his life early in the film, he really comes across as a one-dimensional character. Worse, he's bland and unemotive as can be. Not to mention lazy since he doesn't do a whole lot of searching for Steve, thereby costing many innocent people, including his own mother-in-law, their lives.
And then we have Steve West himself. There are two major problems with this character, the first being we know absolutely nothing about him, what kind of person he was prior to "the incident," or what his friendship with Ted and General Perry was like (and the vagueness of both his affliction's origins and the nature of the Scorpio V mission itself are problems in their own right). From what we see of him, briefly, during the mission at the beginning of the film, he seems like an okay guy, but we still know nothing about who he used to be. Therefore, it'd impossible for me to get emotionally invested in his plight. The second problem is his M.O. The idea is that he's melting, and that he needs to kill people and eat their flesh in order to retard his own degeneration. But, although he certainly racks up quite a body count, he, uh, doesn't really eat anybody hardly. The best example of this problem is the fisherman. Steve rips off the guy's head and throws it away into a stream, and then, when the corpse is found later on, apart from the missing head, it's remarkably intact with few signs of being nibbled on. And when he attacks Perry, Steve takes one bite out of his face before moving on to stalk the sleeping Judy. No wonder he's melting. He won't go through with eating his victims enough!