December 11, 2013

Good Wednesday. Dark here and about zero. Oh, what’s the use?

We watched a very silly movie last weekend, “Ice Palace” (1960), supposedly about life in Alaska. If you haven’t seen this film, it’s so bad it’s camp and filled with laughs. Richard Burton with his native Welsh accented English plays a fish processing plant supervisor from Seattle, back from World War I to find he can’t get hired back because the boss doesn’t want him around his daughter, Dorothy. You know how that works out. So Zeb or Neb, I forget the name, heads for SE Alaska to apply for jobs there. No one wants him because he doesn’t take direction well, socks supervisors, etc. so in a roundabout way he meets Thor Storm, a preacher’s son (like me!) who runs a fishing boat. Thor takes on Zeb or Neb and pays him fairly, which amazes Zeb.

But Zeb has bigger ideas and wants to start his own processing plant. Meanwhile, Thor puts Zeb up at his log cabin, where Zeb encounters Thor’s fiancée Bridie (yes, I know—btw she later played Morticia in The Addams Family!). They have a chaste first impression of lasting love (this is 1920 or maybe 1960). Then Zeb heads for Seattle to get bankrolled. He returns to build a processing plant and puts up fish traps to catch more salmon. (His foreman is played by Jim Backus, the voice of Mr. Magoo.) Thor goes bankrupt because Zeb gets all the fish. Bridie tells Thor she’s in love with Zeb or Neb. They fight. Thor heads off on a dog sled to work out his frustration.

Meanwhile, Zeb has married, you guessed it, Dorothy, and brought her back to the Country (sorry, Bridie). He’s a workaholic, she’s bored, they grow to hate each other, they have a daughter. Years pass. Daughter falls in love with son of Thor and a pretty Alaska Native woman (don’t ask) and they elope on a dog sled! Pretty great, and it works out really well until the groom fights a bear. Well, you can see how this develops. Thor and Zeb are at each other’s throat all through the film, Dorothy and Bridie don’t hit it off very well, and daughters always do what they want despite their father’s plans for them.

The film moves on toward statehood, with Thor as territorial representative to Congress. Meanwhile Zeb grows fabulously wealthy, builds an office building dubbed the ice palace (represented by a close-up shot of the then new and still extremely ugly Northward building in Fairbanks) and becomes increasingly bitter because, it seems, money can’t buy happiness. Various things happen that will keep you in stitches for approximately two hours, with occasional scenes of late 1950s Fairbanks and the inside of a movie set. Well worth watching. Even kids will enjoy it. Well, maybe not. Amazon reviewers think it’s “a great movie” except for the guy who complained, “It would not play past the FBI warning.” I’d put it somewhere in between.


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