Grade: B-
Entire family: No (but just about)
Sci-fi drama
1983, 100 min., Color
Kino Lorber
Rated PG (for some violence)
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 2.0
Bonus features: C+
Trailer unavailable
Amazon link

Like many kids these days, my son was really into dinosaurs. At age four he could identify most of the prehistoric creatures and even recite many of their scientific names.

Together we played with his dinosaur figures and watched all-things-prehistoric on TV and film, whether it was Disney’s Dinosaur, speculative documentaries like Walking with Dinosaurs and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, the Jurassic Park films, or animated adventures like The Land Before Time series. And if Kino Lorber had released Iceman on Blu-ray when my son was in his last few years of elementary school or junior high, I think he would have watched and enjoyed this 1983 drama as well.

Notice I didn’t say action-drama, because there’s not much in the way of action. Iceman is speculative storytelling for the junior scientist crowd and people who enjoy asking, “What if…?”

If dinosaurs could be cloned from DNA in Jurassic Park, and if whole preserved woolly mammoths can be found in Siberian permafrost with the hair still perfect as can be, what if a cave man was likewise discovered in a block of ice? And what if there was a miraculously plausible reason for his being not only well preserved, but also in what amounted to a state of suspended animation? What if he could actually be brought back to life after 40,000 years?

That’s the premise of Iceman, which stars Timothy Hutton as a scruffily bearded anthropologist who’s summoned to an arctic base after a research team discovers the body of a prehistoric man. They were going to dissect him and learn from him, but that plan changed when one of the scientists behind the surgical mask noticed brain activity. Before you know it they’re applying the paddles and bringing this Neanderthal back to life. Conveniently, this elaborate research station has a large biodome intended for studying bears, but when they revive the cave man they move those bears to cages and transfer the iceman to this controlled habitat.

Dr. Shephard (Hutton) gets free reign to study the cave man, and most of the film revolves around his attempts to communicate, to understand the man, and to interact with him. Lindsay Crouse plays the other main character, Dr. Diane Brady, while Danny Glover turns up as one of the crew and David Strathairn is among the doctors. Structurally, Iceman resembles Anne Sullivan’s attempts to get through to a wild and unfocused Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.

For the most part it’s a two-person show, and you have to like those person-on-person films or else be a fan of science and scientific observation, or Iceman will seem a little slow and thinly plotted. But there are plenty of small breakthroughs to spark the imagination of budding young scientists. And for dinosaur lovers, it’s something related but brand new. In addition to the usual scientific theme of “should we or shouldn’t we,” morally speaking, there are verbalized implications as to what such a discovery might mean for the future.

Filmed in Manitoba and British Columbia, Iceman features the light touch of Fred Schepisi (Roxanne, I.Q.), and this Kino Lorber release of an old Universal film features a director’s commentary by Schepisi, as well as a second audio commentary by film historian and critic Peter Tonguette.

Language: If you count “Jesus” as a swear word, that’s about it

Sex: The interactions with the iceman include some touching to explore and confirm, but there’s nothing more than that

Violence: Without getting into spoilers, there are several implied deaths in this film, but no blood

Adult situations: Nothing more than that very limited violence and sex

Takeaway: Iceman still holds up as a small drama involving scientific speculation, and there’s nothing here that today’s science-minded youngsters can’t see