[Originally published in Movietone News 26, October 1973]
Tom Gries has at least one unpretentiously good film to his credit in Will Penny; if reports of Lady Ice‘s production troubles are accurate, then Gries, as the third director assigned the project, cannot be held entirely responsible for the myriad failures of this sloppily assembled pastiche of dubious leftovers from the slushfund of slick caper-cum-competitive-couple movies. Reverse the Dunaway-McQueen roles in the disastrous The Thomas Crown Affair so that Donald Sutherland gets to play insurance investigator to Jennifer O’Neill’s rich (and therefore) risk-hungry diamond thief, throw in an off-the-wall Bullitt-style car chase, and leaven the whole lumpen mess with some pathetically phony allusions to the trials and tribulations of an intelligent, emancipated female surrounded by dopey male chauvinists—and you’ve got the less than appetizing recipe for Lady Ice. Jennifer O’Neill rates only contemptuous yoks as she lays claim to superior feminine sensibilities while coming on like the original tanned plastic Barbie Doll ever ready with vapid visage and mindless giggling. One hopes in vain for Sutherland, who’s turned in some madly fey performances in his time, to contribute some subversively ironic distance from the ongoing embarrassments of Lady Ice, but he manfully pretends to be titillated by O’Neill’s nonexistent challenges and lopes gracelessly through his assigned paces as a Columbo of the insurance circuit.
Lady Ice is an ugly film, both in the kind of amoral environment it attempts to create and exploit and in its muddled and slipshod construction. The opening scenes follow an obscenely obese “ice” smuggler as he sweats and wallows his way from airport to hotel. There he is thwarted from further gluttony by the appearance of Sutherland, hot on the scent of stolen diamonds. The latter, the epitome of skinny cool, orders the perspiring tub of lard to strip, and we are treated to an absolutely gratuitous display of slackly fallen flesh. Even this sort of coldly cruel and jaundiced treatment of the denizens of Lady Ice‘s underworld falls far short of coherence, so that the film never rises above the level of half-baked nastiness on which it begins.
Direction: Tom Gries. Screenplay: Alan Trustman and Harold Clemens, after a story by Trustman. Cinematography: Lucien Ballard. Music: Perry Botkin Jr. Production: Harrison Starr.
The Players: Donald Sutherland, Jennifer O’Neill, John Cypher, Patrick Magee, Eric Braeden, Robert Duvall, Perry Lopez, Buffy Dee.
Copyright © 1973 Kathleen Murphy