(director: Fred Schepisi; screenwriters: Chip Proser/John Drummer/story by John Drimmer; cinematographer: Ian Baker; editor: Billy Weber; music: Bruce Smeaton; cast: Timothy Hutton (Dr. Stanley Shephard), John Lone (Charlie), Lindsay Crouse (Dr. Diane Brady), Josef Sommer (Whitman), David Strathairn (Dr. Singe), Philip Akin (Dr. Vermeil), Danny Glover (Loomis); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Norman Jewison/Patrick Palmer; Universal Pictures; 1984)
“The heady film has its moments when it thaws out.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The screenplay by Chip Proser and John Drimmer studies a primitive man found frozen in the Arctic. Aussie filmmaker Fred Schepisi(“The Devil’s Playground”/”Empire Falls”/”Barbarosa”) tries to connect science with everyday life but seems confused about what to make of the science discovery.
John Lone is a caveman, rescued by a team of American scientists in the Arctic, after being trapped in the ice for 40,000 thousand years. The Neanderthal man is revived by stimuli and high-powered laser cuttings and is studied by the scientists at their base research center. Scientist Lindsay Crouse wants to study him to advance our knowledge of cryogenics. Anthropologist Timothy Hutton wants to study him to further our knowledge of human nature. Hutton names the savage Charlie and he is placed under a dome in an artificial environment. The anthropologist tries to connect with Charlie in a student-mentor relationship, as they both sing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold. Other scientist want to destroy the savage by dissecting him for experiments to find the chemicals that made him a survivor.
When a hovering helicopter disturbs Charlie, he escapes and runs wildly in fear over the research center. The scientists talk to the local Eskimos to learn more about primitive life, which tells us more about modern man. It leads to a surprise ending and a lecture on how mankind is screwing up civilization.
The heady film has its moments when it thaws out, butthe ambitious film might have great ideas but falls flat as entertainment.. But Lone’s sensitive performance is something to behold, even if the lead scientists seem to be miscast.
REVIEWED ON 9/11/2015 GRADE: B-