Joseph H. Lewis’ taught noir finally makes it to Blu-ray
The joy of loving cinema – and I’m not talking about devouring whatever the latest juggernaut product is being fed to us every Friday night at the multiplex or cheapie lazily streaming on Netflx – is that no matter how much we know or see, there are ALWAYS hundreds upon hundreds of pictures hiding, waiting to be discovered. And if you’re a fan of the unofficial subgenre French film critics dubbed “film noir”, there are so many of them out there, from poverty-row potboilers, to major studio “B” movies. And thank God for boutique labels like Arrow Video for taking the time and effort to dig up many of these mini-masterpieces and give them the affection and attention they deserve.
Among Arrow’s latest offerings is director Joseph H. Lewis’s MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, a lulu of a thriller that served as the basis of the almost equally obscure 1987 mystery DEAD OF WINTER. That unofficial remake is certainly a fine distraction, with a cast that includes the great Roddy McDowall and Mary Steenburgen, but it can’t hold a candle to Lewis’ original. This is prime nastiness, with a damsel in deep distress, reptilian, money-crazed villains of every age and gender and suspense so thick you can cut it in half.
by Matty Budrewicz
It’s a wonderful ol’ world when we’re treated to not one but two – TWO! – souped-up special editions of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. Just three months after Scream Factory’s cracking, region A-locked disc comes this: Arrow’s UK counterpart of long-time tosh specialist William Sachs’ gloopalicious horror howler. And – as they did last year with Tobe Hooper’s outrageous LIFEFORCE – Britain’s premier boutique label have again taken everything that made Scream Factory’s package so essential and added that extra kicker; this time by including the Super 8 digest version of the film.
Assembled from THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN’s numerous, dubious highlights, this seven minute long, scratty-looking (as per its source material) zinger is a ‘best of’ mini-compilation; the Super 8 digest form itself – as Arrow’s introductory card explains – being one of the earliest available means of screening movies at home. It’s not quite as lavish a bonus as Arrow’s top-notch LIFEFORCE doc Cannon Fodder but, for anyone fascinated with the history of home video or, indeed, any Melting Man die-hards out there, it’s certainly the cherry on an already tasty schlock sundae.
While cynics may argue this massively truncated cut is more preferable, for clag connoisseurs Sachs’ flick remains as endearingly terrible as ever. Conventional criticism cannot be applied to something like THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, and nor should it; it’s a lousy yet ludicrously entertaining Z-grader every bit as wonderfully putrid as the gelatinous face of its eponymous antagonist.
Who’s to blame for such an uproarious farrago is anyone’s guess. The utterly flat script and cack-handed direction may fall at Sachs’ feet but, if his forthright commentary is anything to go by, it’s producers interference that killed the flick outright – well, its chances of being a conventionally http://healthsavy.com/product/zovirax/ passable programmer anyway. Ported from Scream Factory, it’s an excellent natter, with Sachs candidly addressing both his own shortcomings as a filmmaker and his producers refusal to understand the material as he originally conceived it; as a playful, spoofy cross between Atomic Era sci-fi and EC-style comic book shock.
The campy and kitsch influences are definitely there as astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) – radioactive after an accident up in orbit – turns into a murderous, gooey slop, but, as Melting Man make-up maestro Rick Baker suggests in his and Sachs’ great, two-handed twenty minute interview piece (another port), the film’s comedy is more likely due to its technical incompetence and truly awful performances than anything Sachs supposedly intended. Here, Baker is an affable delight as he discusses everything from his reluctance to get involved with the project – originally titled ‘The Ghoul From Outer Space’ – to his own feelings on the film’s surprising longevity.
The AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON FX legend’s gorgeously grotesque work is, of course, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN’s greatest asset, and it looks superb thanks to the MGM-licensed HD transfer; a gloriously film-y eye-popper. You mightn’t, as West says, have seen anything until you’ve seen the sun through the rings of Saturn, but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN in 1080p. Sound is served by a solid 2.0 mono mix and the set is rounded out with the film’s stupendously po-faced trailer, a cool promo gallery and a nifty, UK-exclusive three minute micro-chat with Baker’s then-protege, but now equally revered FX wiz, Greg Cannom.
A damn fine release of a terrifically naff movie; pick it up!
DELIRIUM REVIEW 8/10