Saturday, May 31, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Iceman (1984) ***

PG, 100 min.
Director: Fred Schepisi
Writers: Chip Proser, John Drimmer
Starring: Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse, John Lone, Josef Sommer, David Strathairn, Philip Akin, Danny Glover, Amelia Hall, Richard Monette, James Tolkan

So I had a mini 1984 sci-fi/drama Man Out of Place film festival last weekend watching “Starman” and “Iceman” back-to-back. It was quite enjoyable. “Iceman” certainly wasn’t as iconic a film as “Starman”, although both have become somewhat forgotten 30 years down the road.

I probably never would’ve seen “Iceman” without HBO. It was a very adult drama driven sci-fi movie, lacking aliens and spaceships and any potential for explosions. At 13, those elements would’ve been necessary for me to seek the movie out, but with HBO you could always count on certain films to be played so often you couldn’t help but consume them. It’s important to remember that there were only three major networks at that time.

Anyway, having seen it in its entirety and portions of it countless times, one thing in particular was ingrained in my head about this movie—it’s hauntingly sad score by composer Bruce Smeaton. I immediately connected with the lilting notes as Ian Baker’s camera scanned across the icy wilderness in which the film takes place.

The movie is about an arctic scientific team that discovers a Neanderthal man frozen in the ice. They thaw him to examine their find and discover that certain chemicals in his body have preserved his life. He comes back to life and they try to learn about his culture from him. There is a good deal of philosophical debate about the potential for realizing a workable cryogenic freezing process—a theory that was very popular at the time. There is also a debate about how to deal with the man who is at once a scientific discovery and an individual entity.

Timothy Hutton and John Lone put in some good performances as the anthropologist and the Neanderthal man. Lone has the most difficult task, realizing as full character arc with a person who doesn’t speak any known language. The premise might sound like a joke, but these actors help the filmmakers realize their debates without a hint of irony or silliness. The supporting cast holds a few surprises as well. Danny Glover plays one of the controllers. It’s not a tiny part, but he isn’t billed very high. Anyway, “Iceman” is no classic, but it’s an interesting movie from its time in Hollywood.

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