"Coming Out of the Ice" may be coming out obscurity.
It is the little-known story of Victor Herman, an American who was caught in the Soviet Union during the Stalin purges and sent from Siberian labor camp to another. Forty-five years later, after being declared innocent of any counterrevolutionary crimes and then detained by bureaucratic red tape, he was finally allowed to leave Russia.
Herman's remarkable tale, which he recorded upon his return to the United States in 1976 and called "Coming Out of the Ice," was published in 1979 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Tomorrow night (on Channel 9 at 8) it airs as a CBS movie by the same title and Herman hopes prime-time television will be able to accomplish what his 367 page book could not. Namely, spread the word.
Like some ancient mariner who's seen death in life, Herman, now 67, seems to have a cathartic--and evangelistic--need to recount his experience for all those willing to listen. "My mission," he says now, speaking in a very quiet, very tired voice by phone from New York, where he is promoting the project, "is to tell Americans that they should cherish their freedom and realize the real danger that lies behind communism."
The movie easily could be viewed as highly patriotic--to the delight of Herman, who is pleased with the results and says, "Yes, it's definitely a patriotic movie. And that's the way it should be." However, the program, produced by Frank Konigsberg, may move its audience, politically or humanistically, it benefits from scenery filmed in Finland and England, Kafkaesque direction and a notable cast.
John Savage plays Herman with gusto; Francesca Annis is his Russian wife, Galina; Willie Nelson is Red Loon, the feisty American Herman befriends in a labor camp; annd Ben Cross, who played the Jewish athlete in "Chariots of Fire," appears ironically, as a Communist Party official who takes an interest in young Herman's athletic career.
Frank Windsor portrays Herman's father, a Jewish refugee from czarist Russia, as an almost-foolish idealist who was anxious to return to his native country after the revolution. Herman says he is satisfied with Windsor's portrait father, andd that both Savage and Annis bear a striking resemblance to him and Galina when they were younger. The movie ends in 1953 before he was cleared, and Herman says he hopes for a sequel.
Despite his extraordinary experience, Herman says he has been generally ignored by the national media and that not enough people in high places have paid attention. For six years he's been trying to meet the president, so far in vain. He says he's "surprised" Ronald Reagan hasn't contacted him. "I've tried but I can't get through to him...My knowledge doesn't seem to interest them at all," he says. "I mingled with many political prisoners and got a very good political education there. I have a Russian line--I can understand the Soviets." Lecturing and a new book, "Realities: Might and Paradox in the Soviet Union," which Herman plans to publish himself in the next few weeks, take up most of his time now. He lives with his wife in Southfield, Mich. His daughters, one 25 and the other 30, live nearby. His sister still lives in Gorky, where she works as a physician.
The CBS movie does an aadmirable job of presenting Herman's memoirs, a story of courage, survival and hope.