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The very first film Rock Hudson did after finishing his contractual
obligations at Universal Studios was no cheapie. Ice Station Zebra was
spared no expense by MGM in bringing the Alistair McLean Cold War novel
to the screen. Unfortunately this and some other ill conceived projects
are what brought MGM to bankruptcy in the next decade.
Though it got only so-so reviews and didn't have the box office that MGM wanted and needed, Ice Station Zebra has stood up well and is really best seen on the big screen. Even a letter boxed version doesn't do the vast polar landscapes justice nor the underwater shots neither. The film was nominated for special effects and color cinematography.
Watching Rock Hudson in command of the U.S.S. Tigerfish was like watching James T. Kirk in charge of the Enterprise. I wouldn't be surprised if Hudson took a few cues from William Shatner in his performance.
Hudson has an Enterprise like mission and later on leads an away team on a polar icecap where a Russian spy satellite has been busy photographing all of the U.S. missile launching sites. The film is wanted by both sides and both sides send teams to get it.
It's a curious bunch that Hudson has to deal with on his team. A Russian defector scientist Ernest Borgnine, British agent Patrick McGoohan (wasn't that ever natural casting) and spit and polish Marine captain Jim Brown. They've all got varying agendas and one in his crew is a double agent.
The highlight of the film is the standoff with Hudson and Russian colonel Alf Kjellin. They are an evenly matched pair, I would not like to be playing poker with.
Ice Station Zebra is far better than the reviews it got at the time. Even with the Cold War over, it's still an exciting and suspense filled film.
This movie is a FAR better and more believable story than any of the
cold-war James Bond pictures of the same period. All of the actors
here are at the top of their game, especially Rock Hudson, who portrays a
nuclear submarine captain as if he was born to it.
A very believable story, well acted, with lots of action sequences interspersed with tightly-delivered dialog. Ice Station Zebra moves along at a crisp pace, and builds to a gripping climax.
This movie is NOT to be missed if you like nuclear submarines, cold-war epics, or just well-acted and written movies in general.
"Ice Station Zebra" was one of the films made during the 1960's that
depicted the tensions that existed in the Cold War era. The Soviet
Union has launched a satellite containing a camera that is taking
pictures of United States defense bases, etc. That satellite, upon
reentry, takes a mysterious trajectory that causes it to crash land at
a British weather station located at the top of the world, Ice Station
Zebra by name. The United States sends a submarine on the mission to
find the satellite, a passenger from British secret service goes along
to provide expert knowledge, and along the way, a non-communist Russian
is added to the passenger list. This makes for some rather tense
moments on the voyage, there is a possible sabotage effort aboard the
sub, and all folks involved are wondering of the possibilities of a spy
aboard the submarine. Finally, the American vessel makes it to the
weather station, and even more of a disaster has occurred there; a fire
has broken out, there are survivors, but they are in no shape to go
satellite hunting. And, to make matters worse, the Russians have sent
an air force strike to Zebra in order to lay claim to this camera and
its film contents. The conditions at Ice Station Zebra could definitely
heat up, as US Marines and Russian paratroops confront each other.
The cast is top-notch; Rock Hudson plays Capt. Farraday, in charge of the submarine and its crew, and plays the role to the hilt. One may almost close eyes and see Hudson in charge of the boat as it embarks on its mission. Patrick McGoohan is in rare form as the British agent Jones, and Ernest Borgnine is able to play a rather convincing Russian who feels that freedom/democracy is better than communism. Jim Brown, the former NFL running back, has the role of the leader of the Marines that will be asked to confront the Russian troops at Zebra.
Just this month, a DVD version of this film has been made available to the public, and the wait has been well worth it. 9/10, and a nice add to a person's collection.
Big-budget, all-star, action-packed adventure about an American submarine
sent to the North Pole to retrieve a downed satellite which contains a roll
of film. The Russians want it as badly as the Americans because the film
contains high-orbit pictures of BOTH country's missile
Rock Hudson is the sub commander, Patrick McGoohan is the cynical secret agent with a dry wit (a roll he made famous in two famous British TV shows, `The Secret Agent' and `The Prisoner'), Jim Brown is a hard-nosed Marine captain, and Earnest Borgnine is a Russian defector working with McGoohan and the Americans to retrieve the valuable film.
The special effects of the Russian jets could have been much better, even in 1968. But the fantastic exterior arctic sets create a stylized North Pole as appealing as the sets of Altair 4 in `Forbidden Planet'. Sure they don't look `real' -- but that's doesn't mean they don't look good. And brother, they sure look BIG. Furthermore, these sets don't just sit there, they actually DO neat stuff: hugh blocks of ice converge and threaten to crush the sub's conning tower, and the conning tower raises and lowers through cracks in the ice!
Dynamite score by Michel LeGrand. Sterling screenplay by Douglas Heyes, riddled with sharp dialogue that the fine cast delivers perfectly (I love it when McGoohan tells Hudson that the film invented by America's German scientists was put into the camera invented by Britain's German scientists and sent up in the satellite invented by the Russian's German scientists. Funny.
Based on Alistair MacLean's best-selling novel. A genuine techno-thriller that predated Tom Clancy's work. And it was originally released at Cinerama theaters! Gotta love it . . .
Oh sorry - did I say "splendid" twice?? Well, that sums up what I feel
about this film. Particularly "splendid" in my humble opinion was the
portrayal of David Jones by the wonderful Patrick McGoohan, who is my
favourite actor, so OK I'm a little biased here - but he really stood
out for me. I love the way he seemed genuinely shaken after the
"sabotage" act on the sub - drinking whisky-laden coffee with trembling
hands. And of course Number 6's dry sense of humour, and heroic deeds.
And everyone else was pretty good too :) I know some of the scenery was obviously fake, but the sense of space across the ice flow, and the scenes of the sub trying to emerge from the ice were pretty impressive.
Anyway, I bought this yesterday on DVD and it was £16 well spent.
This film is very underrated on this site. It is in a genre that is not
really made very often any more--action adventure that is plausible
both in plot and technology. And the action adventure plays equal
footing to the actual acting and dialog. It is closer to an World War
II action film than to, say, one of Arnold Schwartzeneger's action
As an artistic piece of work, the lack of women (and any romantic story) keeps this cold war picture completely focused on the primary story, and makes the actors work all that much harder to keep the viewer engaged.
There is also a good bit of spectacular on-location filming that still takes your breath away with its beauty. The actual polar icecap scenes (with actors) where the focal point of the movie's action takes place is a set. And it is a glorious one. No CGI imagery here! I bought this DVD for this film in a bargain bin. If you get the chance snap one up, or rent it and watch it on a decent TV. Great transfer.
Good score as well.
Commander James Ferraday (Rock Hudson), the captain of the nuclear submarine USS Tigerfish, receives the assignment to get three persons to North Pole: the civilian David Jones (Patrick McGoohan), the Russian deserter Boris Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine) and the marine Capt. Leslie Anders (Jim Brown). Their secret mission is to recover an American film from an English camera in a Russian spy satellite, which felt close to the Ice Station Zebra. The persons who work in the station are not responding to the radio call and nobody knows what might have happened with them. Along the voyage of USS Tigerfish, there is some sabotage on board meaning that probably one of the new passengers is a Russian spy. A tense and cynical end finishes a long but attractive story. Although the cold war is gone in the present days, this movie is still a good film. Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan have a great performance. My vote is seven.
I've seen my share of movies, and Patrick McGoohan's performance in this one is my favorite of all time. Rock Hudson-led American sub ventures to remote arctic weather station on what is thought to be a rescue mission. Innocent trip develops into search and struggle for film that threatens the survival of the free world. Hudson's characteristic bluster fits sub captain role to a "T", and we finally get to see McGoohan in action as a British spy in a full-length film. McGoohan's chilling explanation to Hudson of the true purpose of the mission, which comes well into the film, is the crowning moment of the cold-war/spy movie genre ("and that is when the lights began to burn in the Kremlin...."). McGoohan is awesome throughout, although Hudson nearly upstages him in the finale if such a thing is possible. Good supporting cast includes the always-welcome Jim Brown. Deserves a DVD!! 10 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If this film were not remarkable for anything else, it would be for the
complete absence of the fair sex. Mr. McGoohan made this movie in the
middle of his creative 'burn' that created 'The Prisoner'. It has been
suggested he only made this "Hollywood" movie in order to obtain a fat
fee that could fund his personal TV project.
Whatever the motivations, this was a superb performance by McGoohan. He bent his 'John Drake' persona into a more cynical 'Secret Agent', prefiguring the 'Smileys People' generation. David Jones still retained that sense of duty and honour that 'Danger Man' had possessed but suggested the slippery slope that McGoohan would later expose in the character of 'Nelson Brenner' in 'Columbo's' "Identity Crisis".
Escaping from the apostrophes, this reviewer was also impressed by the restraint of Rock Hudson. Perhaps he enjoyed the break from playing the romantic hero! Ernest Borgnine played the treacherous Russian, but at least his character was permitted to retain the dignity of being a liar-with-a-cause.
All in all, an excellent movie, dense with dialogue at times, but none the worse for that. Some of the special effects look like 'Thunderbirds' nowadays but it really doesn't matter as they are only window-dressing for the characterisations of the actors.
I first saw this film when it was released in 1968 at the Summit Cinerama theater in Detroit, and it was a fantastic movie going experience. I think the first thing that draws you into this film is the rousing score by Michel Legrand and the marvelous cinematography. The engrossing story moves along at a good pace aided by some very intelligent and witty dialogue. A superb cast of seasoned professionals including Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown and especially a very suave and droll Patrick MacGoohan create fully realized characters that act and react in very real human emotions to some extremely tense and suspenseful situations. The next time you see this film in the TV listings, be sure to check it out and I think you will find it superior to many films of the same genre that have been made since. One thing I find puzzling is the fact that this classic has not been released on DVD, and I only hope it is very soon.
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