Wednesday, June 01, 2005

DVD: Iceman (1984)

If I could put a word in Roger Ebert’s ear, I’d advise him to book this movie in his Overlooked Film Festival. I’d schedule it elsewhere if I could. A ‘Great Films of the 1980s’ series, say, or a retrospective of the best science-fiction movies ever made. It features two of my all-time favorite scenes, and what is easily one of the finest performances in cinema history.

And yet nobody’s heard of the damn thing.

For years I was a one-man cult following for this movie, watching it a dozen times in 1985 alone. The premise – a Neanderthal man is brought back to life – was played for laughs eight years later in the Brendan Fraser comedy ENCINO MAN. Here it’s served up straight, with bracing intelligence and a unique respect for both science and spirituality. Yes, it gets a tad earnest at times. But that’s part of its charm.

John Lone stars as the title character, in a performance that is simply unparalleled. He’s asked to portray a man 40,000 years out of time, and does so without resorting to tricks. Which is probably why his work was ignored when 1984’s awards were handed out. Lone may be better known for THE LAST EMPEROR and his stylish Chinese-American gangster in YEAR OF THE DRAGON (he’s the best thing about that movie, coming to DVD this month). But he was at his peak here, in one of the greatest displays of acting that I have ever seen.

Two scenes have always haunted me: Lone and anthropologist Timothy Hutton singing together, and the ending, which consistently reduces me to rubble. I watched the film for the first time in 15 years the other day. Both moments hold up.

The only drawback to revisiting ICEMAN was the DVD, which sets a new definition for the term ‘bare bones.’ There’s not even a menu. But I suppose a special edition is out of the question.

Screenwriter Charles ‘Chip’ Proser also wrote 1987’s SF romp INNERSPACE. He’s a fellow Boston University alumnus. Posters for his movies adorned the halls of the film school while I was there. Several of his screenplays are available online, including INTERFACE, which American Film named one of the ten best unproduced scripts in Hollywood in 1984.

Miscellaneous: Links

The Los Angeles Times considers the merits of the book tour with mystery novelist Harley Jane Kozak. MTV offers a few tips on making a quality superhero movie. And the San Francisco 49ers’ training film, complete with racist jokes and a lesbian wedding, leaks out. Hard to believe a team this hilarious went 2-14 last season.