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The Iceman Cometh

Overview

John Frankenheimer's screen adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh is an unexpectedly good film of a play that should have been impossible to bring to the big screen intact. The movie holds up across 239 minutes of screen time, although only those who saw The Iceman Cometh in its original theatrical run -- which was booked by advance subscription -- are likely ever to have seen it in that form, as opposed to the standard broadcast version, cut by 60 to 100 minutes. This DVD not only restores the movie ...
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Overview

John Frankenheimer's screen adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh is an unexpectedly good film of a play that should have been impossible to bring to the big screen intact. The movie holds up across 239 minutes of screen time, although only those who saw The Iceman Cometh in its original theatrical run -- which was booked by advance subscription -- are likely ever to have seen it in that form, as opposed to the standard broadcast version, cut by 60 to 100 minutes. This DVD not only restores the movie (and it is a movie, not a filmed play) to full-length -- which, for various technical reasons, looks better than any theatrical showing is ever again likely to -- but comes with a pretty hefty body of supplementary material as well. The movie is transferred in its original non-anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which frames it perfectly, as shot and intended to be seen. The timing and density of the image have been balanced as well as possible, given that several sources had to be used to assemble a complete edition of the movie. (The original negative was cut down to three hours, and alternate sources had to be used for some damaged sections.) The opening, in the darkness of the early morning in a waterfront flophouse, is rather darker than it looked in the theater, but one can easily discern details even in those shots -- besides which, it was 30 years between theatrical showings of the four-hour version of the movie in New York City, so access to that idealized situation is not something on which to depend. There's some speckling here and there, and a few places where the quality is a bit tough to match between sources, but there's also a lot of good consistency. Regardless, Frankenheimer's direction is consistently more beguiling than any transfer flaws are distracting. He never takes the film anywhere that the play doesn't go, but he keeps his actors so intense and fascinating in their work (especially Robert Ryan and Fredric March) and the camera so animated, that one never feels confined or constricted. That may seem like a funny thing to say about any dramatic piece running four hours, but it glides and flows, and doesn't feel remotely like a four-hour movie. The subject matter isn't easy, or particularly pleasant, although there are moments of humor, but it all feels more engrossing and enjoyable than one would think it had a right to be. The film comes complete with the two original programmed intermissions and has been split onto two discs, in a wide box that includes an insert with an essay by theater critic and scholar Michael Feingold on O'Neill and the play. The essay is also repeated onscreen in a frame-by-frame presentation as part of the supplement. Most significant among the extras is an extensive interview with Edie Landau, the co-producer of the American Film Theatre series (of which this was a part) and widow of producer Ely Landau. She delivers a series of reminiscences covering everything from the couple's early history with television productions of this sort to the failure of the subscription service to fulfill the payments and orders for tickets, which could have sunk the series. Her talk is engaging, often funny, occasionally filled with an infectious joy over what they attempted, and also a certain amount of tragedy and frustration. There's also a six-minute promotional film featuring Ely Landau from 1974, at the conclusion of the first season of the series, and trailers devoted to 11 of the AFT releases. There are 28 chapters spread among the two discs, and the menu is easy to maneuver.
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Special Features

Theatrical trailer; "Eugene O'Neill and The Iceman Cometh," an essay by Michael Feingold, Chief Theatre Critic, The Village Voice; The AFT Cinebill for The Iceman Cometh; Stills gallery; An interview with Edie Landau, Executive in Charge, the American Film Theatre; "Ely Landau: In Front of the Camera": AFT promotional reel (1974); The American Film Theatre trailer gallery: Includes a complete list of the AFT films; The American Film Theatre scrapbook; Enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Iceman Cometh is a towering, powerful stage play that inevitably loses some of its impact when transferred to the screen, even in as fine a production as this. Part of the reason is that Eugene O'Neill's beautiful language is theatrical in nature and therefore doesn't come across as well in the more naturalistic milieu of the cinema. But a bigger problem is that Iceman is all about a group of people who are trapped with each other; they are not just individuals, they are also all part of a group that has its own character and personality. On-stage, where the camera cannot cut away and zoom in or out, Iceman gains a great deal of its power from the force that the group exerts upon the proceedings, and from the reactions of each member of the group to what is going on. On screen, this is lost, and the loss is felt, even if only subconsciously. In addition, O'Neill's mammoth script has been of necessity pared down; while this has been done in a very admirable manner, it still has an effect. Finally, in Lee Marvin, Iceman has an exceptional actor whose inner raw power and authority, along with his considerable skill, are tremendous assets; however, Marvin lacks the spellbinding charisma that the part demands, that is crucial to its success, and the absence of which leaves a small hole at the play's center. Fortunately, Iceman also has exemplary performances from Robert Ryan and Fredric March, along with solid support from Tom Pedi, Moses Gunn, Jeff Bridges, and Martyn Green. If The Iceman Cometh is not the triumph that it is on-stage, it is still a powerful and frequently mesmerizing piece.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/1/2003
  • UPC: 738329027629
  • Original Release: 1973
  • Rating:

  • Source: Kino Video
  • Aspect Ratio: Theatre Wide-Screen (1.85.1)
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Language: English
  • Time: 3:59:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 39,358

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lee Marvin Hickey
Robert Ryan Larry Slade
Fredric March Harry Pope
Jeff Bridges Don Parritt
Martyn Green The Capt.
John McLiam Jimmy Tomorrow
George Voskovec Piet Wetjoen
Bradford Dillman Willie Oban
Sorrell Booke Hugo Kalmar
Hildy Brooks Margie
Nancy Juno Dawson Pearl
Evans Evans Cora
Moses Gunn Joe Mott
Clifton James Pat McGloin
Stephen Pearlman Chuck Morello
Tom Pedi Rocky Pioggi
Bart Burns Moran
Don McGovern Lieb
Technical Credits
John Frankenheimer Director
Raphael Bretton Set Decoration/Design
Thomas Quinn Curtiss Screenwriter
Edward Lewis Producer
Dorothy Jeakins Costumes/Costume Designer
Harold Kress Editor
Ely Landau Producer
Leslie Landau Associate Producer
Emile LaVigne Makeup
Kurt Neumann Asst. Director
Eugene O'Neill Screenwriter
Jack Martin Smith Production Designer
Irving Temaner Production Manager
Henry T. Weinstein Producer
Ralph A. Woolsey Cinematographer
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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Disc 1
1. Opening Titles [9:46]
2. Waking the Dead [6:19]
3. A Round on the Kid [13:15]
4. Rogue's Gallery [13:02]
5. "I Was White" [12:14]
6. A Couple of Tears [9:38]
7. Man of the Hour [11:45]
8. Party Politics [12:15]
9. Hickey's Brand of Pity [10:10]
10. The Traitor [9:46]
11. The Guest of Honor [9:58]
12. "The Touch of Death" [4:36]
Side #2 -- Disc 2
1. The Middle of the Morning [9:25]
2. The Newlywed [4:03]
3. "I'm a Gamblin' Man" [11:28]
4. "Deny Everything" [6:52]
5. Killing the Pipe Dreams [4:53]
6. Harry's Long Walk [8:16]
7. Larry's Admission [3:47]
8. Cause of Death [5:11]
9. 1:30 A.M. [10:13]
10. "This Rotten Half-Dead Act" [9:00]
11. Hickey's Confession [6:05]
12. Life With Evelyn [13:50]
13. Defending a Pal [2:49]
14. "Peace at Last" [8:40]
15. A Toast to Old Friends [4:58]
16. A Eulogy [6:14]
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Menu

Side #1 -- Disc 1
   Play
   Scenes
   Special Features
      The Iceman Cometh Theatrical Trailer
      "Eugene O'Neill and The Iceman Cometh" by Michael Feingold, Chief Theatre Critic, The Village Voice
      The AFT Cinebill for The Iceman Cometh
         Love/Hate: O'Neill at the Movies
         "Born in a Hotel Room - and - God Damn It, Died in a Hotel Room!"
         Robert Ryan 1909-1973
      The Iceman Cometh Stills Gallery
      An Interview With Edie Landau, Executive in Charge, the American Film Theatre (26 Min)
         Play Interview
      Ely Landau: In Front of the Camera - AFT Promotional Reel, 1974 (6 Min)
      Trailer Gallery - Includes a Complete List of AFT Films
         Butley: Play
         A Delicate Balance: Play
         The Homecoming: Play
         The Iceman Cometh: Play
         Lost in the Stars: Play
         Luther: Play
         Rhinoceros: Play
         Gaileo: Play
         Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris: Play
         The Maids: Play
         The Man in the Glass Booth: Play
         Play All
      The American Film Theatre Scrapbook - A Collection of Articles and Essays
         A Letter From Ely Landau - Written in 1973, to Potential AFT Subscribers
         "Ely Landau Presents the American Film Theatre" - An Article by Larry Gross
         An Interview With Ely Landau
         Very Nice for Us All by Edward Albee
   About the Master
Side #2 -- Disc 2
   Play
   Scenes
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