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  Iceman Sleep Freeze
Year: 1984
Director: Fred Schepisi
Stars: Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse, John Lone, Josef Sommer, David Strathairn, Philip Akin, Danny Glover, Amelia Hall, Richard Monette, James Tolkan, Stephen E. Miller, David Peterson, Judith Berlin, Paul Batten, Lovie Eli
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the Arctic, there has been a fascinating discovery by the research scientists investigating the landscape there: in one of the glaciers is a frozen body. A helicopter transports the block of ice that encases it, and delivers it to the nearest research station where Dr Stanley Shephard (Timothy Hutton) is called to examine the find. A high powered laser cuts away the ice until features on the body are able to be defined, and then the scientists come to a realisation: this preserved man is not one hundred years old, not one thousand years old... but forty thousand years old: a Neanderthal.

You could view Iceman as an alien abduction story from some angles, only this time the aliens are modern humans and the abductee is a man from hundreds of centuries ago. In its early stages, the script by John Drimmer and Chip Proser likes to blind the viewer with science to make its hard to swallow revelation that a Neanderthal could be revived after all acceptable - the amount of plausible-sounding jargon the actors spout is quite overwhelming. After they have removed him from the ice, they find that he is in near-perfect condition, and set about waking him from his slumber.

The manner in which the Iceman, or Charlie as he is prosaically named, is revived is cleverly handled as it appears as if we have suddenly gone back to his days before the big freeze as he hunts and survives by a rocky waterfall. But after a while, director Fred Schepisi reveals that is in a laboratory (an impressive set) rendered to look like an actual part of the landscape, and Charlie is essentially trapped like a creature under a microscope. Only Shephard is willing to connect with him on a more human level, even to communicate with him.

This is pretty much a serious minded, non-trashy version of Trog, only without the stern tones of Joan Crawford to guide the living relic. But the same rules apply, as the scientists and authorities want the Iceman experimented on like a lab rat, and there's a solitary voice demanding he be treated with dignity and understanding. As Charlie, John Lone goes the whole hog in Neanderthal method acting, grunting, covered in makeup courtesy of Michael Westmore (best known for his alien foreheads on the latter Star Trek series), and generally behaving like a loveable animal who happens to be the missing link.

Where it goes wrong is that the filmmakers don't seem to be sure of where to take their story, and inevitably resort to cliché. Not that Charlie could have settled down in the suburbs after the experiments were over, but it would be nice to see this kind of film that didn't end with the creature going on the rampage and proving to be too out of place to survive. There's a religious element to Charlie's personal journey, summed up by the helicopter he sees as a messenger of the Gods, yet instead of adding profundity, it simply contributes to the pretentiousness of the affair. At the end, as at the start, Charlie is moving from one world to another by dangling off that helicopter; overall, Iceman is well-meaning but daft, and the scene where Charlie and Shephard sing Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" has to be up there with the silliest serious scenes of all time, reminding one of "Putting on the Ritz" from Young Frankenstein. Music by Bruce Smeaton.

[Arrow's Region 2 DVD has no extras, but it is a nice widescreen print.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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