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"That new ice cream dude is pretty freaky."
on March 4, 2005
I first saw Ice Cream Man (1995) about ten years ago at the Vic Theater in Chicago. The theater often hosts musical groups, but they also do what's called a `Brew and View', showing films and serving alcohol. This particular night was a special one, as the Vic was hosting a mini Clint Howard film festival, showing three of his films including Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), Evilspeak (1981), and closed the night out with the world premiere of Ice Cream Man. It was a blast as Clint was there to present each of the films, and the audience was comprised of only fans (soon to be drunken fans). And to top it off, we all got little, plastic promotional ice cream scoopers.
Directed by Paul Norman aka Norman Apstein, better known for `adult' features such as Edward Penishands, The Erotic Adventures of the Three Musketeers, and Intercourse with the Vampire, the film, which contains no nekkidness, stars that lovable mutant Clint Howard, younger brother to famous director Ron Howard, better known to most of us as Lil' Opie Cunningham. It's not unusual to see Clint appear in his older brothers films, like Splash, Cocoon, and Apollo 13, but don't think he relies on nepotism to get work as the bulk of his credits, films like Infested, Carnosaur, The Waterboy, to name a meager few, had little or no involvement from the elder Howard. Also appearing from the `where are they now' files (better known as the `what the hell happened to my career' files) is Sandahl Bergman (Conan the Barbarian), Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet, Black Christmas), David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London), Jan-Michael Vincent (Damnation Alley), David Warner (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), ex-baseball great Steve Garvey, Doug Llewelyn (from the 80's TV show The People's Court...' When you get mad, don't take the law into your own hands ... take 'em to court!') and appearing from the `I never had a film career, but I'm related to someone famous' file is Lee Majors II, son of the Six Million Dollar Man himself.
The story begins with the brutal drive-by slaying of an ice cream man, witnessed by a young boy, who is subsequently admitted to an asylum. After many years the boy, named Gregory, grows into a man (played by Howard), and returns to his neighborhood, taking up the mantle of ice cream man. He serves the regular treats, push-ups, bomb pops, etc., but his specialty is hard packed ice cream served on cones. What makes his ice cream so special? I'm not sure, but cleanliness isn't a factor as his truck (which bares the message on the back `watch out for children' with the `for' painted over) is littered with roaches, mice, worms, and parts of corpses...yep, the ice cream man is a bit on the psychotic side (the marshmallows in the rocky road are actually the whites of eyeballs...ewww). After the disappearance of a few locals, the neighborhood children begin to suspect, but it's the age old story of the adults not believing, being wrapped up in their own, sordid affairs. Will the children be able to convince everyone the ice cream man is a little `off'? Or will they end up hard pack `specialties'?
As I said, I saw this at a Brew and View, and it was the third film in a triple feature, so we were all pretty soused by the time it came on, and after watching it last night, I discovered a heaping dose of alcohol made it whole lot better (take film with a six pack and call me in the morning). The story, acting, and dialog are all lousy, but the feel is that it is intentional, especially with Clint hamming it up terribly. The plot is pretty loosey goosey and predictable, which I wouldn't mind with a film like this, but it was just so darn slow at times. The script was exceptionally lame, but it did contain a number of in-jokes (watch for Doug Llewelyn's appearance as a grocery store manager...he ends his final scene with one of better lines) It was fun to see all the recognizable actors, but at the same time I felt a little sorry for a few of them. Olivia Hussey is still as hot as ever, and she seemed to have a promising career in the late 70's, but took a wrong turn somewhere. The same could be said of Jan-Michael Vincent (except maybe for the `hotness' part, but here he seemed like a real @ss, and from what I heard he is a real @ss, so maybe this is his comeuppance. The direction and editing veer slightly towards the shoddy, but that's no surprise. The film is listed as a horror, but that's only partly true. Horror is defined as `An intense, painful feeling of repugnance and fear'...the repugnance part is appropriate, as the movie is litter with gross out gags like the ice cream man manipulating two severed heads, mounted on ice cream scoops, using the lever to move their mouths and having them have conversations. There are no scary elements, just stupid, sometimes funny scenarios (funny if you have a slightly skewed, sick sense of humor). By the way, if it seems like there's a lot of gratuitous shots of Chuck Taylor's All Star sneakers, that's because Converse, the company that makes said shoes, provided some of the dough.
The picture, presented in full screen format (I'm unsure of the original aspect ratio), looks quite good except, as another mentioned, there seems to have been a problem in the transfer in that every once in awhile a line does appear, sort of like a tracking glitch on a VHS tape...slightly annoying, indicating a possible loss in signal, but each occurrence is very short, less than a second, but still noticeable. The audio is acceptable in Dolby Digital 2.0. Not much in terms of special features except for some lame Ardustry trailers.