In 1912, Rocky's somewhat aging bar is the last refuge of a group of disillusioned drunks who see little sense in life. One of the few joys is the upcoming birthday of Harry, the former owner of the bar, which is also attended by Hickey, the sales representative who is a drinking buddy and always gives the guests a big booze-up. But this time, everything is different. Hickey appears, but the drunkard has become a teetotaler, who now tries to lead his former drinking buddies back on the right track. His efforts fail and rob the alcoholics of their last joy in life. When it turns out that Hickey has murdered his wife to tear her from her dream world, he is called crazy by everyone. The people find the alcohol appealing again, but Larry Slade, Hickey's biggest critic, begins to doubt it all.
The Iceman Cometh was Ely Landau's first production for the American Film Theatre, where stage plays were adapted for the film medium. It was followed by other productions like Rhinoceros or Luther. With a budget of $800.000 US it was a relatively cheap production because many participants like Lee Marvin were satisfied with a much lower fee. Under the direction of John Frankenheimer, a film with a runtime of almost three or four hours was created, depending on whether you watch the theatrical version or the director's cut, in which the action takes place completely in a bar. It's important to understand that we're not dealing with a classic film adaptation, but rather with a play captured on celluloid with strong actors. The dialogues and characters are the center of attention. There is no action and the tension is only created by the dialogues. Especially theater lovers should take a look at this movie.
In addition to the almost three-hour theatrical version, there is also a Director's Cut that is about one hour longer. The Director's Cut is probably identical to the TV version of the movie. The additional hour offers a deeper look at various characters of the film. Don tells us more about his mother and her enthusiasm for the movement. Rocky doesn't see himself as a pimp, but rather as a businessman who earns something on the side, which leads to some disagreements between him and his wives. The relationship between Chuck and Cora, who plan and carry out their wedding and finally fail because of it, is also depicted a bit more detailed in the Director's Cut. The Director's Cut is clearly the better version of the movie, because especially the scenes with Don and Larry are important to better understand Don's suicide at the end.
Kino Lorber released a two Blu-ray set in the US with both cuts. The first Blu-ray contains the theatrical version, while the second contains the Director's Cut. The extended scenes of the Director's Cut are qualitatively a little bit weaker than the rest of the movie, because apparently there was no adequate master of the Director's Cut available. They tried to keep the jump cuts as rare as possible. Those who are interested in the film can buy it without hesitation.
Theatrical: 178:11 min.
The theatrical version was compared to the Director's Cut. Both are included on the US Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.
Larry wakes up the sleeping Hugo, so that he agrees with him. Rocky thinks that he should have been left alone, but then Hugo already complains that he was woken. He acts up a little, but then falls back into a deep sleep. Rocky thinks it's good that nobody takes him seriously, otherwise he would have ended up in hospital a lot. He also didn't like the fact that Hugo thinks he's a pimp. He explains to Larry that this is just a sideline of his.
DC: 1:43 min.
Rocky thinks the drunks make this place look like a dump. Willie starts calling out for his father in his dreams. The bartender tells him that Willie's father has been arrested by the police and Willie even had to sell his clothes and now has nothing left.
DC: 50 sec.
Harry accuses Rocky that he and Chuck are thieves and he'd like to fire them.
DC: 20 sec.
Don asks Larry what kind of dump this is. Larry thinks that this is a last port of call and that no one is worried about the next day, except for a few who are chasing a pipe dream. Don tells how he came ashore and hurried around and never knew if he was safe. Larry says it's as safe and harmless here as in a cemetery. Don is glad that he is here and has found Larry who understands him.
DC: 1:26 min.
Don tells Larry that he found him by reading his mother's old letters. Larry wonders why she kept the letters and that he hasn't written to her for two years. Don thinks she's forgiven him. Larry doesn't believe that.
DC: 55 sec.
Don says that he remembers the fight between Larry and his mother before he left. Larry says he told her at the time that the move was just a pipe dream. Don says he remembers it differently. Larry tells him to blame it on his imagination and forget about it.
DC: 28 sec.
Larry asks Don if he knows anything about his mother, but he hasn't heard from her since she went to prison. He also doesn't think she wants anything from him, as they broke up in a fight and she also suspects that he has lost interest in the movement. Larry asks if this is right and Don agrees. He doesn't believe that the movement and its actions are making a difference and thinks it is a castle in the sky. Don asks Larry if he understands him.
DC: 1:09 min.
Larry's giving Jimmy some courage. Jimmy says to Larry that he is the nicest of them all and has to dress up for the upcoming event. Joe remembers that in those days he was the only black man allowed in the casino. Except for the craps game, where he could apparently control the dice, he was allowed to do everything. He lost a lot of money on that. He planned to open a gambling house himself. He asks Harry if he wanted to send a letter to the police. Harry agrees and thinks he'll even write them that Joe is a white man. Joe tells how he went to the police to announce his plans. The Captain let him open the gambling house and Joe made friends with the cops. Joe says he was very generous then and he certainly spent $50 on drinks. Harry says he won't even see Joe today with 50 cents.
DC: 4:05 min.
Lewis adds that over the years it became pointless to discuss it.
DC: 6 sec.
Lewis apologises to Wetjoen for having to postpone their joint trip to England. Lewis starts singing. Wetjoen says he is also looking forward to home and starts raving about it.
DC: 1:46 min.