William Sach’s 1977 movie, The Incredible Melting Man is probably the first Intelligently Designed movie every made. I don’t mean in the religious, pseudo-scientific sense or even in a particularly intelligent one, but in that it disregards anything that even alludes to scientific accuracy.
And I am okay with that. From Night Of The Living Dead to Star Trek, science fiction and horror have a proud history of ignoring anything approaching real science in the effort to terrify, or amaze.
I have always assumed that this is because more often than not scientific accuracy requires some sort of explanation, and that the facts around how an event happens can be a bit dull, which isn’t what anyone wants from a movie.
Though the disregard for logic in this movie exists on a whole other level.
- The Distance Between Celestial Bodies, And Other Science-Stuff Like That
I mentioned Star Trek earlier, though it at least tried to present a logical basis for devices for things like the Transporter and Warp Drive, though outside of that universe they’re a bit nonsensical (though the interesting thing is that we are beginning to see real-world science touch on such things today, though I wonder if it’s less a case of Gene Roddenberry predicting the future than scientists and engineers being so enamored of Star Trek that they are seeking to bring technologies it introduced to life).
The Incredible Melting Man begins with three astronauts on a voyage to the rings of Saturn, whom spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the sun.
And speaking of a trip to Saturn, keep in mind that Voyager I was launched September 5, 1997, and actually flew by Saturn, so why whatever organization– the movie doesn’t tell you who’s actually behind the trip. I would assume NASA, but there nothing in the movie to actually support my supposition other than the type of mission itself (this was made before private companies like Space X were building and launching rockets)
The thing is, the distance between the planets change as they move through space, though when closest to Earth, Saturn is somewhere around 746 million miles away. And if that weren’t far enough, according to Universe Today the amount of time it would take for such a voyage would depend on the type of trip you take. For instance, you could either aim your spaceship directly at Saturn, or instead aim it at other celestial bodies, using their gravity as a slingshot to speed you on your journey.
Another important factor is the type of engine your spacecraft has, as well as whether you intend to just flyby (in which case your craft would need to do some serious breaking, which would take awhile) or if your intention is to orbit, in which case you would have to approach slowly enough to be captured the planet’s gravitational field.
Various unmanned craft, by the methods listed, have taken anywhere from two to four years to reach Saturn, while our three intrepid astronauts seem to have done it in a day (or a week, or a month because no timetable is actually given, though I feel reasonably comfortable saying that it definitely wasn’t a year).
Then there’s the astronauts’ tendency to stare at the sun. Let’s assume that the window was polarized (there’s no mention of it, but let’s give the film makers the benefit of the doubt) that still doesn’t change the fact that on Earth you can damage your eyes staring at the sun, and we’re over 700 million miles FARTHER AWAY than the spacecraft in the movie.
It would have made more sense if the astronauts were flash-blinded the minute they opened their eyes.
Though the radiation that does effect the astronauts (and one gets a nosebleed), just not nearly in the way that it should have.
Believe it or not, wonky science is the least of this movie’s problems. On what is probably the most undermanned military base in history we see Steve West (Alex Rebar) the only survivor of the aforementioned Saturn mission, with his entire head wrapped in bandages. He’s being looked over by a doctor and a nurse, and he’s in a pretty spacious hospital room.
The lack of people curious about his condition is especially odd considering that he’s just returned from a space mission suffering from an unknown aliment though what’s arguable more curious is that he hasn’t been quarantined.
West eventually comes to while the doctor and nurse aren’t in the room. What’s most interesting is that he somehow comes to the realization that by only eating human flesh can he slow the mysterious condition that’s causing his flesh to literally melt from his bones.
When the nurse returns to draw his blood, and runs when she sees that his interest in her isn’t of the medical variety. What’s interesting is that she runs really fast. So fast that she not only leaves West in the dust but burst through a metal and glass door and keeps on running.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I was strong enough to run through a steel and glass door, I wouldn’t be particularly worried about a half-decayed ghoul.
The next time we see the nurse she’s in the morgue, being presided over by the same doctor she was examining Steve West with earlier! The problem being that medicine is divided into specializations, which means a coroner wouldn’t, let’s say, be operating on someone or a podiatrist wouldn’t be doing open heart surgery.
Rick Baker’s makeup effects were awesome, though they’re a mixed blessing because it’s pretty apparent that that’s where the bulk of the budget went. After all, maybe if the entirely practical effects weren’t so good then maybe the filmmakers could have afforded a hospital set with more than three people on it.
Though things actually get weirder. At the end, when the melting man has melted into a puddle of goo, complete with clothes and bones, a janitor (DeForest Covan) comes along, picks up what he can, then goes to get a broom and dustpan to clean up the rest!
I can’t speak for anyone else, but when the job requires cleaning up liquidated corpses–which must be fairly obvious–then it’s probably time to start shopping resumes.
A remake of this movie would be relatively easy to do and have to start with the idea that you’re going to make a decent, gory horror film that–at least initially–starts from a place of scientific accuracy.