Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Meltdown

For the duration of my trick or treating years (1975-1981), I never wore a really great costume. At first, dressing up as Spider-Man or Captain Marvel (better known as "Shazam!" to kids of the '70s) was pure pleasure – no matter how chintzy the store-bought outfits may have been – but as time went on, I felt that I wasn’t living up to my full Halloween potential.

Finally, in 1978, I saw an opportunity for all that to change.

A few weeks before Halloween that year, as I walked through a Kaybee’s toy store with my mother, I spotted an actual, honest-to-God, officially sanctioned make-up kit for The Incredible Melting Man. The film – about an ill-fated astronaut who returns from a space mission only to find that he’s melting away – had been released the year before and even though it had tanked, I had no concept of the success or failure of movies back then. I just knew that it had come out and that it had looked absolutely awesome.

I remember having excitedly gawked at MM’s melted mug on the cover of Famous Monsters and knowing that this had to be one of the scariest movies ever made – I had no capacity at the time to discern that it was likely to be utter shit. In that regard I can’t be too hard on myself because honestly, Rick Baker’s make-up for the titular melting menace was so badass that it single-handedly sold the movie as a must-see.

And standing in the toy store on that day in ‘78, I saw my golden chance to become the talk of the neighborhood by transforming my face into the glistening visage of The Incredible Melting Man.

As I looked at the picture of MM on the cover of that kit in all his dripping glory, I knew that’s exactly how I was going to look. I pictured that head sitting on my shoulders - there would be no discrepancy between the image on the box and how I’d look once that make-up was applied. The kit was designed by make-up maestro Rick Baker himself and I knew that he’d make the process of becoming The Incredible Melting Man an easily accomplished one.

I’d never be able to find that out first hand, however, because as soon as I called my mother’s attention to what I wanted, she made it clear that she would not allow me to be the Melting Man. After one look at the oozing edifice on the front of the box and examining the array of materials pictured on the back, my mother told me that there was no way I was putting any of this on my face. I tried to argue, being adamant that there was no potential harm in whatever materials were used in the kit but she was sure that something in that make-up would cause some kind of reaction in my skin, that there must be unknown chemicals that would leave me permanently marked (I shouldn’t have been surprised – after all, this was the same woman who adamantly refused to buy me a chemistry set for fear of exposure to deadly materials) or that it would drip into my mouth or eyes and we’d have to spend Halloween in the emergency room. There was nothing I could do to convince her otherwise.

When Halloween finally came a few weeks later, I didn’t see any Melting Men walking the streets (my only solace in the situation) so maybe my mother’s reaction wasn’t a unique one. I can’t even remember now what my own costume was that year. I’m sure I settled for a full-head Wolf Man mask or something. Whatever it was, my heart wasn’t it. Once we left Kaybee’s without that make-up kit, I was done caring. I had wanted to walk the night looking like someone had poured a bucket of dripping snot on my head. I wanted to be hideous - spectacularly hideous, as only a melting man can be.

But in 1978, my chance to live that dream came and went. And with it, my hopes of Halloween greatness melted away for good.

The above post was my contribution to a group blog on "Halloween Memories" by The League of Tana Tea Drinkers. Read the rest of the LoTTD contributors' recollections here.


FilmFather said...

Oh wow, The Incredible Melting Man. I remember in 3rd grade, my friend Dennis (who saw it somehow) describing it to me with detailed excitement. The head rolling down the river and the Melting Man's demise are the only memories I have left of that conversation...

I had no idea there was a makeup kit for TIMM, let alone that Rick Baker designed it himself. Out of curiosity, I just searched for "melting man kit" on eBay. No dice. :(

This is one of those films that sounded awesome to me as an 8-year-old, but if I tried to watch it now, it would probably be a craptastic experience.

Jeff Allard said...

It's funny - to this day I've never actually seen this movie! When it came out in the theaters, my mother didn't take me to see it (to be honest, I probably would've been too chicken at the time) and since then I've just never bothered to catch up with it - not even when it ran on MST3K. But I have a feeling that if I ever do see it, I'd quickly stop being so fond of it!

John said...

Interesting! I never knew about the make-up kit, but I once owned an officially licensed (Rick Baker-approved) Incredible Melting Man mask! I found it at a discount party store in the early '90s for about $2.99, and it was easily the best latex investment I ever made. I actually used it to take my Jason Voorhees costume to the next level, enabling me to pull the trademark late-in-movie-hockey-mask-removal at various Halloween functions.

Unfortunately some kids stole it off a porch mannequin a year later.

And you're right about the movie itself, Jeff. MGM released it a few years back on the Midnite Movies label and I anxously grabbed it as soon as it hit the shelves only to re-sell it later; you could probably still find it on Amazon, if you're ever curious enough to chance it.