The Iceman Cometh

1973, Movie, PG, 239 mins


Though some consider this one of Eugene O'Neill's finest plays, THE ICEMAN COMETH does not translate well to the screen. No matter what Frankenheimer pulled from his bag of directorial tricks, the work remains stagey and talky on celluloid; even the majestic talent of March cannot turn it around.

March runs a saloon peopled by has-beens and drunks. All their lives, including March's, have been lived and lost; only their memories remain, voiced despairingly through bitter nostalgia. The only meager salvation for this bevy of forlorn creatures is the expected arrival of Marvin, a hardware salesman who drops by once a year to regale the customers with his forced humor and tired stories about his wife and the iceman. When Marvin does arrive, it's a letdown, even though this realistic actor tries hard to walk O'Neill's tightrope between nimble-witted charm and blunt hectoring. March is superb in his last film, and Bridges is good as the despondent young man wanting more than promises out of life. Dillman delivers his cynical wisecracks with aplomb, but Booke's role is delivered with such lunacy that the intended fear is replaced with black humor. The scene-stealer is Robert Ryan, one of cinema's forgotten great actors. He delivers a superlative performance as the radical with dark reason and fearful purpose, bringing a new, almost heroic dimension to the character. leave a comment

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