If it wasn’t for knowing I put a disc titled Iceman into the DVD player, I’d swear the first half hour played like an alternate version of John Carpenter’s classic, The Thing. As it is, it’s a Fred Schepisi film with Norman Jewison’s name attached to it as producer. It’s a film I haven’t seen since it debuted on VHS tape back in the mid 80’s.
Iceman starts off with an arctic expedition locating something entombed in the ice. The large block is quickly flown over a glacial backdrop to their arctic station for research and tests. Excitement reigns as the group including Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse and David Strathairn begin to cut through the ice until they get an image of a Neanderthal’s face sitting just below the surface.
Time to thaw him out and perform an autopsy in the name of science. Unlikely as it may seem, there is life in the long frozen creature. Paging Colin Clive to deliver the “It’s Alive!” line. Time to break out the defibrillator and have Strathairn holler, “Clear!”
Under heavy make and giving an inspired performance is John Lone ( The Last Emperor) as the primitive man waking in a controlled environment. The lab techs have put him in an enlarged life size aquarium with trees, rivers and food to forage. Not surprisingly much of the drama takes place behind the scenes where the lead actors will argue over what is ethically right and what’s going to far in the name of science. The Iceman could hold the key to cryogenics and prolonging human life.
Into his world comes Hutton. This leads to a classic me Tarzan, You Jane scene and as the two become unlikely friends they even sing a little Neil Young around the campfire. What’s interesting in part here is that it’s Lone who attempts to do much of the teaching to bring Hutton into his world. Lone’s curiosity will become a major problem when he discovers there’s another world beyond his borders after seeing Danny Glover through a concrete passage.
What the lab techs are finding out is that Lone is a very spiritual individual. Things are going to be compounded when he sees what he believes to be a large bird or God overhead when in fact it’s a helicopter. There’s also an amusing scene involving Hutton taking Lindsay Crouse into the aquarium where Lone realizing she is of the opposite sex wants to trade his shiny sprinkler head for Hutton’s girl.
Having mentioned Colin Clive earlier, this film has a certain Frankenstein feel to it. Hutton sits in for the role of the creator, Lone the creature and even the location of the barren arctic has a familiar ring to it for those well versed on the novel and some of the film adaptations through the years.
I recall this film hitting theaters back in my younger years and marvelling at the fact that a real Iceman was eventually discovered in 1991 on the Austrian – Italian border. Art imitating life falling just short of the 1991 find thawing out and walking away. At least as far as we know……….