Color, 1981, 110m.
Directed by Ernest Day
Starring Ryan O'Neal, Anne Archer, Omar Sharif, Domingo Ambriz, John Larroquette, Michael Sheard, Philip Stone
(DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Elephant (France R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Carlton (UK R2 PAL)

Green Ice

Few films were more ideally designed to air on HBO in the middle of the afternoon during the '80s than Green Ice, a glossy, Green Icefeatherweight heist thriller made near the end of Ryan O'Neal's tenure as a major star. This was the first of only two directorial efforts for Ernest Day, a camera operator on some of the biggest British productions of the '60s and '70s, while the plot was adapted from a novel by jewel-obsessed thriller writer Gerald A. Browne (11 Harrowhouse).

Here O'Neal is appropriately cast as Joseph Wiley, a down-and-out New York electronics engineer who heads to Mexico where some mountain excavators have just been murdered after uncovered a cache of uncut emeralds. There he becomes smitten with an American women, Lillian Holbrook (Archer), who's about to get married to wealthy emerald magnate Meno Argenti (Sharif) -- who loves to show off his hi-tech jewel vault to newcomers. As it turns out, the death of Lillian's sister in those mountains might have been Argenti's handiwork as part of a vicious smuggling operation, and Joseph is soon entangled in an elaborate plot involving hot air balloons and holograms to break into Argenti's high-security stronghold.

Early '80s pop culture fanatics will find a lot to enjoy here, with O'Neal in his trademark mellow crime mode a la The Thief Who Came to Dinner. Sharif does usual baddie routine from the period, there's enough mayhem to keep the PG-rated antics engaging, and former Rolling Stones Green Icemember Bill Wyman contributes an endearingly pop-styled score (arranged and conducted by Ken Thorne) three years before he worked on Dario Argento's Phenomena. Not enough? You also get gloriously gauzy opening credits by James Bond specialist Maurice Binder, two ridiculous songs performed by jazz-blues veteran Maria Muldaur (one of which, "Floating," inexplicably makes a cameo in The Evil That Men Do), sleek cinematography by Gilbert Taylor (who had recently worked on Flash Gordon, Escape to Athena and The Omen), and a Green Icebizarre supporting cast including John Larroquette (in between The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and TV's Night Court) and Philip Stone, better known as Grady from The Shining. In other words, a perfect time capsule.

Despite its frequent TV airings in the '80s, Green Ice has had a very spotty history on home video. A laserdisc was released from ITC through J2, but for many years viewers had to settle for a mediocre full frame UK DVD from Carlton issued in 2000, very early in the format's history. A French release popped up under the title Operation Green Ice in 2005, but few even knew it existed; at least it was anamorphic though for those who tried to hunt it down. Sporting the action-packed original poster art, the 2014 DVD from Scorpion makes for a fine way to make the film's acquaintance (or revisit it again) with the anamorphic transfer about on par with ITC's other catalog titles. The colors pop nicely (especially the emerald greens of course), the gritty on-location visuals haven't been tampered with to give them a modern slickness, and the black levels look nicely rich and moody. In addition to the standard stereo track, there's also an isolated music and effects track so anyone who doesn't have the scarce vinyl soundtrack can get pretty much the same effect here. There's no trailer for the main feature, but you do get bonus previews for Firepower, Blood Feud, Killer Fish, The Girl in a Swing, Quest for Love, Paper Mask, The Octagon, Paper Tiger, and Force: Five.

Reviewed on August 2, 2014.