This movie has been on my radar for decades, Somehow, and wisely, I had managed to miss it until now. It is pretty much what you would expect – the story of the titular Melting Man, shot without artifice, though fairly credibly.
Astronaut Alex Rebar — OK, his character is named Steve King, but Alex Rebar is the kind of manly-man name I want my astronauts to have — is on a mission to Saturn. We hear the lift-off and they get to Saturn in about the time it takes to get from Terminal A to Terminal C at the Atlanta Airport.
There are a lot of shenanigans pulled in the depiction of Saturn. Released in 1977, IMM had the luxury of being released long after anyone was excited by NASA, but long before the internet was available for for the checking of facts, the picking of nits and the downloading of porn. Also, Neil Degrasse Tyson would have only been about 19. Surely, he could have pointed out the problems, but who would have listened?
Despite being almost a billion miles from the sun, Astronaut Rebar & Co. witness solar storms that look like they were filmed from Mercury — at the top of a tall ladder. As we now know, solar flares viewed through Saturn’s rings = melty melty (man, is there anything Einstein didn’t predict?).
Luckily, NASA had a plan to recover astronauts in 1977 (sadly, by 2001, cost-cutting led to the abandonment of Dave Bowman, Frank Poole & crew). In a jump cut which compresses time only slightly less than the famous edit in 2001, Rebar is back in a NASA hospital.
The effects of the solar flares are seen for the first time as Rebar reveals his hands which not only show the titular melting, but seem to have gotten 50% larger – why, it almost looks like some sort of prosthetic! He begins unwrapping his bandages, although inexplicably leaves a piece attached to his face. OK, toilet paper on one’s shoe is merely a faux pas – this is a real pas.
Even after taking the time to wreck the hospital room, it is still attached to his face. I have got to get this on DVD – surely the commentary will explain this artistic choice.
Rebar kills his nurse (after an extended slow-mo shot (although it might have just been the tubby nurse running at top speed)), including a POV where she is seemingly chased by a disembodied hand), and blows the hospital. His first stop is at the world’s worst fishin’ hole — basically some wet mud — where he encounters a guy drinking Coors, wearing a Coors hat. I can only assume this is product placement by the Budweiser people.
This must be the Big Two-Quarted River Hemingway wrote about.
Rebar summarily removes the fisherman’s head like a Coors pop-top and continues on his way. Said fisherman must have been no brainiac as his head floats some ways downstream, before going over a waterfall similar to one found in your finer Koi ponds.
Rebar continues his excellent adventure, throwing a scare into some kids. It is worth noting that the kids — not over 10 years old — are introduced in a scene sharing a smoke. This is why the 70’s were the golden age of cinema. Sadly, these bad seeds are spared and no doubt grew up to be a burden on society.
Finally, after 25 minutes, we get to the highpoint of the movie. 70’s icon Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith is playing her breakout role as “Model.” This follows years of honing her craft portraying such characters as Girl Buying Ticket, Groupie, Twinkle Twat Girl, Cheerleader Heather, Pom Pom Girl Roxanne, Model in Yellow Negligee, and Naked Hippie Girl on Motorcycle. Amazingly, she still does not seem to understand her role in the industry:
After several more bodies and beaucoups of goo, Rebar goes up against someone who fights back. Locals Matt & Nell get back from the movies to discover their kitchen ransacked. Matt (future Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme) buys it almost immediately, but Nell plays defense, pushing a refrigerator in front of the kitchen door. Not just a refrigerator, but one of the killer old ones with a latch that kids died in before dry-cleaning bags became much more convenient. As Rebar tries to cop a feel through the window, Nell switches to offense and effortlessly hacks off his arm like a warm axe through Ned Stark’s neck. Even though she hacks it off just above the elbow, later in the film, it seems to be gone at the shoulder. Maybe he just met another feisty chick in a deleted scene; certainly the men-folk aren’t doing much damage.
The sheriff and Rebar’s doctor track him to a power plant (or is it supposed to be NASA?) for a final showdown. The sheriff ends up being tossed off a platform and frying on some electrical wires. This is actually a pretty impressive light show, and I’m glad they spent the money here rather than on Saturn’s rings.
Eventually, Rebar just poops out and collapses into Final Goo. He is unceremoniously shoveled into a 55 gallon drum. Sadly, this is done off-screen, squandering the potential of a great scene. Why didn’t Jonathan Demme speak up?
- The sun viewed from Saturn would be about 1/10th of its size to us.
- DeForest Covan — the janitor at the end — is the history of Hollywood personified. He was in a Marx Brothers movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Rocky and Russ Meyer’s Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. Also proof that Dr. McCoy’s parents weren’t weren’t insane, just cruel.
-  While Cheryl Smith’s role as Naked Hippie Chick on Motorcycle in Boogievision might have been great (I haven’t had the pleasure), the definitive NHCM must remain Gilda Texter in Vanishing Point. Her snubbing by the Academy remains shameful.
- Covered by MST3K, available on You Tube.