The Iceman Cometh (1973)

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Released 24-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Interview With Edie Landau (Executive In Charge Of AFT)
Featurette-Interview With Richard Pena (Director Of NYFF)
Trailer-American Film Theatre Collection
Theatrical Trailer
Notes-AFT Cinebill For The Iceman Cometh
Notes-A Letter From Ely Landau
Notes-The American Film Theatre-A Short History
Notes-Article: "Eugene O'Neill And The Iceman Cometh"
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 170:45 (Case: 239)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (105:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Frankenheimer
Madman Entertainment
Starring Lee Marvin
Fredric March
Robert Ryan
Jeff Bridges
Bradford Dillman
Sorrell Booke
Hildy Brooks
Juno Dawson
Evans Evans
Martyn Green
Moses Gunn
Clifton James
John McLiam
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    New York in the summer of 1912. A group of drunks and failures wait in a seedy bar for the arrival of Hickey, a salesman who every six months comes to Harry Hope's saloon to spend his money on drink for himself and whatever booze hounds happen to be around. But this time, Hickey has something to sell to his compatriots, something unpalatable: face up to your pipe dreams.

    That's a pretty short summary of what was originally a four-hour play. Written by Eugene O'Neill in the mid-1940s, it recalls a period in his life when he lived the life of a barfly in New York, drinking at establishments not unlike the one depicted here. It contains an array of character who surely must have been based on real people he knew.

    Harry Hope (Fredric March) is the owner of the saloon. About to turn 60, he looks years older, and has spent the last twenty years indoors since the death of his wife, drinking and turning a blind eye (or, more accurately, a deaf ear) to the world. Larry (Robert Ryan) is a former member of The Movement, a group of anarchists determined to change the world. The son of a former girlfriend, Parritt (Jeff Bridges), turns up unexpectedly, after the rest of the movement including his mother have been betrayed to the police by a stool pigeon. Rocky (Tom Pedi) is the bartender who, like his colleague Chuck, runs some whores on the side. Hugo (Sorrell Booke) is an old member of the movement who spends most of the play asleep, or pretending to be so. Willie (Bradford Dillman) is the son of an embezzler, and has long ago lost his job with the DA due to his drinking. There are assorted whores, a couple of Boer War veterans and other drunks.

    But the central character, or at least the central catalyst, is the smooth-talking Hickey (Lee Marvin). He wants to force the group to stop lying to themselves and stop putting things off until tomorrow, to shatter the pipe dreams that Larry says is the only thing holding them together.

    This is a long but engrossing drama which has several meaty roles for actors, so in bringing the film to the screen for the American Film Theatre John Frankenheimer enlisted a powerhouse cast of veteran actors, with the up-and-coming Bridges as well. He is effective without being brilliant, as is Marvin. Something about the latter's performance does not quite convince. A 1960 television production which is available on DVD in Region 1 features Jason Robards in the role, and it is possible to imagine that he would have been a better choice for this movie as well. No such problems with the rest of the cast. Fredric March is excellent in his last movie performance, and even better is Robert Ryan as the embittered Larry, who has chosen to look upon human affairs with detachment, with the only thing he now wants being death. Poignantly, Ryan was already suffering from terminal cancer when this was filmed and he would die later in the year, some months before the film was released. Both Pedi and Booke reprise their roles from the 1960 television version, and both are definitive in their respective parts, Pedi especially.

    When originally released, this film ran 239 minutes. For later television release it was trimmed of more than an hour, and it is that version which we get on this DVD despite the cover listing the running time as 239 minutes.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not too distant from the original 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is sharp but not ideally so. There is sufficient detail for undistracted viewing but it is by no means finely detailed. Contrast levels are adequate but the transfer suffers from loss of detail in dark scenes, and shadow detail is poor. The colour is very much skewed towards brown hues, and flesh tones can often seem too dark. Otherwise colour is acceptable but unremarkable. There are no genuine blacks displayed, with considerable low level noise in evidence.

    Apart from the low level noise, there are no significant film to video artefacts. There are a lot of white flecks and occasional scratches, but no other film artefacts. The transfer is a little grainy at times.

    There are no subtitles. The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at 105:44 and slightly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is quite clear, but I had to increase the volume for all of it to be intelligible, as some of it is either recorded poorly or spoken softly. The sound is quite flat and uninvolving, but adequate for the presentation of a play. There is some slight distortion at times and faint hiss, more noticeable when the volume is turned up.

    There is no music score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Introduction

    As usual with this series, there is a short introduction with some projection equipment and footage from the film.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The main menu has some footage from the film, plus the generic series theme as audio accompaniment.

Featurette-Interview With Edie Landau (Executive In Charge Of AFT) (22:26)

    The same interview that appears on several of the discs in this series, in which Landau talks generally about the series and its genesis.

Featurette-Interview With Richard Peņa (Director Of NYFF) (20:42)

    Again, this interview has appeared on previous discs in this series. Peņa talks about the series in general, and this interview does not discuss this film specifically in any detail.

Trailer-American Film Theatre Collection (4:51)

    A trailer for the AFT series of DVDs.

Theatrical Trailer (2:37)

    An original trailer for the film.

Notes-AFT Cinebill For The Iceman Cometh

    Four articles from the programme notes for the original screenings. The first deals with O'Neill's life and career, and the second with attempts to film his plays. Dudley Nichols and Brooks Atkinson provide views of the play, plus there is a brief look at Robert Ryan, which has his year of birth incorrectly stated as 1920 (it was 1909).


    Several production stills, some of which feature the director.


    A single poster for the film.

Notes-A Letter From Ely Landau

    A promotional letter from the series producer to potential subscribers.

Notes-The American Film Theatre-A Short History

    A text history of the AFT.

Notes-Article: "Eugene O'Neill And The Iceman Cometh"

    Another article by Michael Feingold, which covers the history of the play as well as some of O'Neill's life.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The UK Region 2 release seems to be identical to the Region 4.

    The US Region 1 disc comes from Kino. It contains the following extras not on the Region 4:

    In comparison to the Region 4, the Region 1 misses out on

    All the anecdotal evidence I have been able to find says that the Region 1 has the full running time of 239 minutes. However, the film and all of the extras are contained on a single disc. Therefore I cannot recommend it in preference to the Region 4, as it either must have some significant compression artefacts or else the version on the disc is really the truncated one.


    A fine adaptation of this classic play by America's greatest playwright.

    The video quality is problematic but acceptable.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    Some repeated extras from previous issues in this series.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
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R1 Version - Solent