Episode 704- The Incredible Melting Man
Movie: Gabe Kaplan is an astronaut and he's somehow irradiated during a failed space mission. I don't really get science and stuff but the movie suggests that he contracts enormous amounts of radiation by looking at Saturn. (It didn't seem like a big deal at the time -- all he got was a nosebleed.) Back on Earth he's hospitalized and bandaged from stem to stern, looking like a giant papier mache hot dog. He wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, peels off his bandages to find that he's been burned to Original Recipe Extra Crispy. Man has begun to Melt, though not yet Incredibly. Somewhat upset, he escapes from the hospital. At the warehouse/hospital, Drs. Mod and Groovy are concerned. Dr. Groovy, aka Ted Nelson, goes searching for his friend, the eponymous Incredible Melting Man, so as to conduct more tests on his liquefaction problem. In a subplot, Dr. Ted confides in Dr. Mod that his wife is pregnant (Ted's wife, not the other guy's. That would be really weird if your male co-worker confided in you that your wife was pregnant.) This is all very hush-hush, top secret, on the Q.T. and the floppy-faced general to whom Dr. Ted reports wants it kept that way. Meanwhile, IMM is on a killing rampage in the hills of greater Los Angeles. While Dr. Ted Nelson creeps through the dry underbrush with a Geiger counter, he finds gooey bits of astronaut snagged on trees: A piece of pizza on an evergreen turns out to be Incredible Melting Man's ear. In an ironical visual statement, we are treated to bucolic shots of IMM romping through the L.A. hills in slow motion as he has an aural flashback to the doomed space flight.
IMM's melting spree continues, and Dr. Ted Nelson's involvement with the case really puts a strain on Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Ted Nelson's already boney marriage. Things get really awkward when IMM kills Mrs. Dr. Ted's mother and her new boyfriend (the mother's new boyfriend: that would be really weird if Mrs. Dr. Ted Nelson had a new boyfriend, considering she's still seeing her husband). By this time, the General has arrived at the Nelson's house to hang with them, and when the mom and her squeeze don't show, Dr. Ted suspects the worst and goes out looking for IMM, leaving the General in charge of the misses and the refrigerator. Although IMM's condition grows progressively melty-er, he manages to maim the General, attack a white trash couple, a bunch of hobos and, with Dr. Ted and a generic sheriff on his trail, he's finally chased to a nearby refinery. In a dramatic, gooey confrontation, Dr. Ted refuses to shoot his friend, thereby saving possible future victims. So the sheriff shoots IMM, it really stings, and IMM is enraged and tosses the sheriff into a power line resulting in a human fireworks display. When Ted Nelson pitches off a landing, he is able to hold on with just one hand high above the empty parking lot. He begs IMM for help and the gentle melting giant pulls his friend up. The cops show up and not only shoot IMM but Dr. Ted as well (what? Is this New York? Ha! I tease over-zealous murderous police!!) The weakened and puddly IMM drips down like a chianti bottle candle. The next morning, a janitor listens to a radio broadcast of another space launch while he unknowingly cleans up the disgorge that IMM has become. As Crow put it so well, how many monster movies end with a janitor scooping up a monster into a garbage can?
Prologue: In honor of the fall classic, Mike, et al, play ball in the SOL. He gets beaned in the noggin with a wild pitch. Et al charges the mound and there's a fight in the infield.
Segment One: Mike nurses his injury. Dr. Forrester and Mother Forrester announce to Crow that a studio has bought his screenplay, "Earth Vs. Soup." Clay and Pearl declare themselves in charge of the film. The budget is a measly 30 million, of which Crow gets $800 to shoot his film, and the studio insists on Kevin Bacon for the lead.
Segment Two: Mike assumes the role of Kevin Bacon for the movie, and the Forresters are aboard the SOL for a script run-through. Updated script pages are exchanged, and the meeting is over.
Segment Three: And... ACTION! An unctuous, inept Crow flails at directing his first feature film, yelling out "Judy! What am I doing?!" at every turn. It's a wrap after two or three seconds of film are shot.
Segment Four: Dr. Forrester conducts a focus group for a screening of "Earth Vs. Soup." Nobody likes the plot, except Doug, who thought it was too short.
Segment Five: Studio execs Pearl and Dr. F break the news to Crow that "Earth Vs. Soup" is going to be released as a trailer -- but only if Crow's name is removed as director. Crow is understandably upset.
Stinger: The flappy elderly people crying out, "Let's get the hell out of here!"
Reflections: Good god, we watched some wretched movies. This is another one of those movies where we were hostage to watching Rick Baker's protracted, masturbatory special effects. I can't help but feel that most, if not all, of the melting scenes were shot in the dark for a reason.
Nevertheless, I thought this movie was really progressive, ahead of its time really, for several reasons: It featured an African-American doctor before television tokenism really took hold; the nurse is a person of size who is also a health professional and is not simply in the movie to be the butt of fat jokes (except ours). Never mind that she freaks out at the first sign of pus -- hey, big girls get upset and queasy too. And it portrays the underclass as fighting against the tide of unrelenting economic forces -- okay, maybe I'm reading too much into the symbolism, but the white trash girl fights back against IMM, chops his arm off and saves herself. It also portrays elderly people having viable, amorous relationships. An unpleasant thought though it may be, the movie puts it out there.
The host segments were an exercise in healing after our struggle to make the Mystery Science Theater movie. It was a difficult process, and not really fun at all -- working with the studio and all the attendant politics and creative roadblocks was really, really frustrating. We didn't have the freedom to be as irreverent and eclectic as we were in the TV show. We had to work with people who had silly names that they had made up for themselves. I remember at one point, while the studio shepherds in charge of MST3K: The Movie were in Minneapolis, it was during the height of the ubiquitous O.J. Simpson deal. The studio exec informed us over lunch that there was a big trial in Los Angeles with O.J. Simpson because he'd been accused of murdering his wife, and "had (we) heard anything about it out here?" It was like a hog-pile on our souls.
Mary Jo Pehl
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