Ice Station Zebra (1968) Poster

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"My First Name Is Captain"
bkoganbing9 May 2007
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.
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Great Adventure Film
elgrego4 February 2007
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 films.

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.
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A US submarine is entrusted with taking a British espionage agent to the top of the world, on a mission that is vital to the free world.
Mickey-25 February 2005
"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.
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Big buget, top cast, great music, super-wide screen - Wow!
Bruce Cook4 March 2002
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 sites.

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 . . .
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A Ripping Good Cold War Yarn
danaluke11 December 1999
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 involved 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.
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A splendid film with a splendid cast
carolv_brady9 May 2005
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.

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McGoohan kicks Cold War butt
RNMorton17 November 2004
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
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What? No Women?
Moor-Larkin14 November 2005
Warning: 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.
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Thrilling and rousing film in which Rock Hudson is dispatched to a dangerous mission to rescue a spy artifact
ma-cortes8 July 2012
Spectacular film about Cold War filmed mostly in study that won two Academy Award nominations : Cinematography and special visual effects. Captain James Ferraday (this was Rock Hudson's favourite film of his own, and also of Howard Hughes ; Charlton Heston was originally offered the role but turned it down, saying there was no characterization in the script) , Commander of the nuclear submarine called USS Tigershark, is assigned to the polar ice region on a rescue mission when an emergency signal is heard from a research station, Ice Station Zebra (in real life, there was no "Ice Station Zebra", but there was an "Ice Station Alpha" which was situated in a Arctic's Ice Island). On board there is a civilian and possibly a spy named David Jones (Laurence Harvey was originally cast in Patrick McGoohan's role) , whose orders are dark . Ferraday doesn't like being kept in the secret but Jones is strongly secretive and doesn't give much away . Along the way, they collect two additional passengers, a Russian veteran named Boris Vaslov (the recently deceased Ernest Borgnine) , likely also a spy, and an African-American Marine Captain (Jim Brown) . Based on the novel (1963) by Alistair MacLean, Scottish author of Best-seller novels such as "The Guns of Navarone" . It's one of two Alistair MacLean filmed adaptations released in 1968, the other was ¨Where Eagles Dare¨. Changes made from the Alistair MacLean source novel of the same name for this film included the name of the nuclear submarine, the Dolphin, which was re-named the USS Tigerfish and the names of two characters: Submarine Commander Swanson became Commander Ferraday and spy Dr. Carpenter became David Jones .

It is one of the most thrilling and exciting films set on the years of the Cold War. Great superproduction with all-star-cast , impressive scenes , shimmer photography and a vibrant sound , the time has increased its documentary value. The acting of the interesting characters is believable and convincing, especially by Patrick McGoohan and the Russian Colonel well played by Alf Kjellin . Special appearance by Lloyd Nolan and film debut for Ron Masak .The film's story has similarities with the real life events, reported in the media in April 1959, of the Discoverer II experimental Corona satellite capsule that went missing and was recovered by Soviet intelligence agents after it crashed near Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean ; Spitsbergen is in Norway's Svalbard archipelago of islands which is where both Alistair MacLean 's novel and the film of Bear Island is set. The screenplay has eloquent dialogue, continuous tension and surprising twists that keep the viewer's attention .The soundtrack by singer and French composer Michel Legrand -"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"- , is full of vibrant sound , brings a solemn score, cutting edge, played by an orchestra of wind . Colorful cinematography in glimmer color by Daniel Fapp. Unique and innovative underwater camera equipment was developed for this movie by 2nd unit cameraman and cinematographer 'John M Stephens', a former U.S.A. Navy diver, who is billed in the credits for additional arctic photography , the camera system enabled the first ever filming of a continuous submarine dive and this technical innovation produced some outstanding photography for the picture.

The visual effects, despite its quality, not 'see that snow is artificial, that the landscape of the polar station is mounted on set ; his picture is the first of two movies based on an Alistair MacLean novel set in rugged icy and snowy terrain , the second would be Bear Island about eleven years later. John Sturges' filmmaking is absorbent and entertaining , a good job , It's one of two filmed Alistair MacLean adaptations directed by Sturges , the other was ¨The Satan Bug¨ made and released about three years earlier . The production shoot for ¨Ice Station Zebra¨ went for nineteen weeks, from Spring 1967 until October 1967. Rating : Very good , wholesome seeing .
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The Cold War Is Gone, But This Movie Is Still Good
Claudio Carvalho13 November 2003
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.
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Melted Ice Station
JasparLamarCrabb10 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Considering it's length, it's shocking how little action there is in this supposed adventure yarn. Rock Hudson, looking bored, is a submarine captain leading a secret mission to the North Pole to help British spy Patrick McGoohan uncover some stolen film. Nearly devoid of any real suspense or excitement, this is a major misstep for the great director John Sturges. The effects are not very special and the miniatures (of which there are many) are extremely obvious. In addition to Hudson and McGoohan, the large cast includes Ernest Borgnine as a Russian double agent, Jim Brown as a hot-headed soldier and Tony Bill, in a nearly silent role as one of Brown's subordinates. Borgnine is hammy while McGoohan keeps his cool and is saddled with a really dumb scene in which he explains the plot to Hudson (and the audience). Presumably the Alistair MacLean novel on which this is based is more thrilling. Adapter Douglas Hayes, whose dubious credits include KITTEN WITH A WHIP as well as the William Castle film DRUMS OF TAHITI, infuses his script with absolutely nothing of interest. The rousing music score is by Michel Legrand and is wasted on this inert movie.
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Well-written thinking man's spy film
qwingedserpent19 January 2004
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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For Cold War fans: Much better than these User Ratings Suggest!
tippy-629 December 2006
Don't be fooled by the few naysayers who rated this movie poorly, for those votes are undeserved. I'm telling you as a fan of Cold War espionage flicks, and also submarine movies, this one is a definite home run. Its full of action and suspense, and the special effects are better than I had expected. For the most part, the presentation of life on a submarine and of naval personnel and parlance is technically accurate; having served in the U.S. Navy, with some time aboard a sub, I feel somewhat qualified to attest to this. Despite a few "impossibilities" in the maneuvering of submarines visually through ice floes, its quite realistic.

The acting is sufficiently good, and although I would have loved to see Gregory Peck in the leading role, Rock Hudson does a fine job. I thought Jim Brown's character was a bit out of place, but he did an excellent job nonetheless. The pace of the story was good, with few slow spots, and the score was outstanding.

I highly recommend this movie for military/Cold War movie buffs like me. You won't be disappointed.
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A Cold War story that just gets worse and worse.
LydiaOLydia24 December 2007
Ice Station Zebra is an adaptation of an Alistair MacLean book. Spies! Submarines! Suspense! Well, not really suspense. The very first scene shows a satellite dropping a payload into the arctic that is obviously of some importance. Then, the next two thirds of the movie involves our fearless captain tasked with taking a British agent to the scene of the drop. Could it be that the agent has something to do with this capsule? Gee, I wonder? Our brave captain doesn't know, but of course we do, since the director bizarrely lets us in on this little secret, ruining about an hour and a half of suspense.

The actual bits of the movie inside the submarine are well done. The crew is professional and the technical jargon they use impressive. While some may find this boring, I found it nice to watch a believable captain command a believable ship.

And then, they make their way to the ice, and it all falls apart. Plot holes big enough to drive a submarine through. MiG 21s that magically turn into F4s through lazy use of stock film, greatly confusing the viewer. Spies that do things so illogical you'll just be shaking your head in disbelief. Acting so wooden and arbitrary you'll have trouble differentiating the corpses.

And of course, the fakeness. There is something so artificial in this movie that it just hurts. No, I'm not talking about the fact that the last third was obviously filmed in a sound studio with Styrofoam ice. Rather, it's Ernest Borgnine (you know, the captain from McHale's navy TV shows) trying to fake a Russian accent. Really and truly painful.

Ultimately, the bad accents, wooden acting, and Styrofoam ice would be forgivable if the plot made sense. Alas, it does not. It's as if the good scriptwriter was fired or took to drink halfway through. Unfortunately, the unsatisfactory feeling that results is enough for me to confidently give you a recommendation of "don't bother."
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Slick, old-fashioned sub adventure with Hudson in charge of the seamen.
Poseidon-311 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Perfect for those who like their adventures clean, crisp and workmanlike, this lengthy arctic excursion may leave modern viewers cold. Hudson plays the commander of a nuclear submarine who is forced to undertake a mission to the North Pole, ostensibly to rescue some survivors at the title location after an explosion, but also in order to complete a different task, one he isn't even privy to! McGoohan is placed in his care and he is to escort him to Ice Station Zebra without the benefit of knowing exactly why. Part of the way there, he is instructed to take on both Borgnine, a defected Russian, and Brown, a Marine commander (having already started with Bill and his young troop of Marines on board, an unusual situation in itself.) Before they can reach their destination, the sub is nearly sunk entirely and a crewmember is killed due to sabotage. Finally, McGoohan entrusts Hudson with his true purpose as they converge on the ravaged ice station while a team of Russians do the same (the Cold War was still active.) A face off between the US and Soviet forces takes place, but not before the saboteur gets in another lick or two. Hudson is a heroic and suitable leader and is given a few enjoyably sarcastic exchanges with McGoohan. However, McGoohan is given a far meatier role and proceeds to act rings around his co-star. Taking things to the other extreme is Borgnine who affects a questionable Russian accent and tends to ham it up with this ethnic characterization. Brown is appallingly wasted in a smallish role with next to no dialogue and not a lot of screen time. He and Bill provide contrasting ideas of what it takes to be a Marine commander. Nolan, receiving prestige billing, pops up at the start in order to give Hudson his mission information. Among the crewmen are "The Rookies'" O'Loughlin, game show and "Murder She Wrote" staple Masak and 70's soap star Allen. This is a big movie with all the hallmarks of a major production including an exciting score by Michel Legrand (complete with Overture, Intermission and Ent'racte.) George Seaton seems to have taken a page from this film's opening titles when he made "Airport" a year or two later with it's snowy opening credits in a similar font and with driving Alfred Newman music. Special effects are fairly typical of the day and, as many films were, were rendered less amazing after "2001: A Space Odyssey" was released just prior. In spite of the somewhat plodding nature of the film, there are a few high points. One is when the sub is almost flooded by an open torpedo tube. Another comes when a man falls through some snow into a beautiful, but deadly, ice cavern and he and a couple of others are threatened with being crushed to death. There's an austere quality to the film that is practically absent from today's blockbusters and this atmosphere will likely either appeal to viewers who are tired of all the kinetic, bombastic effects that are now prevalent or bore those who miss the pyrotechnics and CGI. Something about the film certainly appealed to mentally disturbed recluse Howard Hughes who watched it tirelessly. Fans of Hudson should enjoy seeing him lead the way and trying to outwit the enemy. Particularly, fans of McGoohan should check this out in order to enjoy his unique, colorful acting.
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Ice-cold chiller
ADAM-5318 August 2000
Really a great movie. Like Sturges's other famed "action" films, "The Magnificent 7" and "Bad Day at Black Rock", absolutely nothing happens for most of the picture but, when it finally does, it is like a sharp shock. The submarine sinking and the fight at the end are two good examples (compare them with one-armed Spencer Tracey beating up Ernest Borgnine in "Bad Day..."). The suspense is created by the characters and the plot, rather than dreadfully tacky "fight" sequences. In all, the film is a huge improvement on the Alistair MacLean novel it claims to be based on, which was just a lame Agatha Christie plot set at sea. As well as master handling from director Sturges, the actors give power-house performances, particularly the principals Hudson, McGoohan, Brown and Borgnine. The real star for me, though, is the compelling soundtrack by Michael Legrand. In all, perfect entertainment for those hot summer nights. One final note. Anyone who can't work out how Faraday got hold of the detonator in the finale really shouldn't bother watching thrillers with twists in the plot. The answer is so simple that it's beneath me to give it away!
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This is a very cool movie!
Tapestry627 December 2006
My favorite line is Patrick MacGoohan saying: "so they took the film invented by our German scientists, put in the camera invented by your German scientists and then beamed pictures to their satellite invented by their German scientists." This movie was really riveting and even had an intermission. Rock Huson, Jim Brown, Frank Sinatra Jr and the rest of the cast just did a great job. It was all about the Cold War and how everyone just used to stare everyone down and side step issues.. which was in some cases easier to deal with than what we are going through now! No CGI's what a concept! great cast! Just go watch it and enjoy!!
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Classic Cold War Thriller!
hiphoper3327 September 2003
Classic Cold War Thriller that has very good all around production and good acting as well.Very good Cinematography.Displays the deadly games the U.S.A.,U.K. and the U.S.S.R. play and the rattling effects it has on the men who play these games. The pace sort of slows down during the North Pole scenes but still manages to keep the Cold War fans thrilled. Only for Cold War Thriller fans and big fans of the lead actors........
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Prelude to The Prisoner
captnemo26 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
No real Spoilers, but seeing the film would help. While not nearly as good as "Guns of Navarone" or "Where Eagles Dare", this is still a very good flick. Why? Easy. Patrick McGoohan as "David Jones." He plays Jones just like he did John Drake of "Secret Agent" fame AND just like Number Six, the hero of "The Prisoner." My view of this film has always been that it's a story that sits chronologically between the two series. In fact, I like to look at it as Drake's last mission before he resigns and begins the Prisoner. With a little imagination and tongue in cheek, I'm sure you'll see my point. Jones talks like Drake and #6. In fact, at the end of "Zebra," Jones says "Do svidAniya," which can be taken as "Be Seeing You," the signature phrase of The Prisoner. He has the same amazing array of knowledge, like how to sink a sub, that the other two have. He is also very much a born survivor. A lesser actor would have died 4-5 times. McGoohan makes this film much more fun than it has any right to be. Without him, it would be very rough going for 2.5 hours until the rather flat ending. To those who are up to speed on "Secret Agent" and "The Prisoner", give this a look. You'll be very pleased to see an old friend at his best. McGoohan actually took time off from filming "The Prisoner" to make this and it shows. He was in Prisoner-mode the whole time, and for that I would recommend this film. RATING: 7 out of 10.
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A Cold War yarn that still holds up
cadfile16 July 1999
During the height of the Cold War, in the 1960's, Hollywood produced movies that not only portrayed the USSR as the bad guys but also gave hope for a thaw in the war. Ice Station Zebra was such a movie.

The combination rescue mission and spy story makes for a good mix and Rock Hudson looks dashing as the commander of the sub sent to get to Zebra. Jim Brown is seen as a military figure like we saw in the Dirty Dozen, this time he is a Captain.

Although the plot is a bit predictable, and the Station a bit fake, the story still holds up to the end and makes the 2 1/2 hour plus movie into a "page turner".
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not enough thrills
SnoopyStyle23 April 2016
A satellite capsule parachutes onto the frozen Arctic. American submarine captain Commander James Ferraday (Rock Hudson) of the USS Tigerfish is ordered up north for a secret mission under the cover of rescuing a British civilian weather station, Ice Station Zebra. He is joined by British agent Mr. Jones, Soviet defector Boris Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine), and Captain Anders (Jim Brown) and his marines.

The dialog, the acting, and the camera work are all very static and stiff. There may be a couple of interesting technical aspects. The submarine diving and surfacing looks good. The underwater stuff looks good for a model. It has the rolling submarine deck. On the other hand, the Arctic exterior looks too fake. The movie lacks tension or energy. The first exciting action is breaking through the ice at the end of the first half. There is simply not enough exciting stuff going on.
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The Freezing Cold War
ShadeGrenade20 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Like his earlier 'The Satan Bug' ( 1964 ), John Sturges' 'Ice Station Zebra' is based on a novel by Alistair Maclean. Rock Hudson is 'Ferraday', commander of U.S.S. submarine Tigerfish, assigned to go to Drift Ice Station Zebra, a British weather station at the North Pole. Something has gone wrong; distress messages are being sent, but no-one knows why. Air rescue is impossible due to the severity of the weather. But there is more to the mission than simply rescuing people - there is another reason, one which could have terrible repercussions for the entire world. Ferraday is given an passenger - mysterious British secret agent 'David Jones' ( Patrick McGoohan ). Jones is an arrogant character who sleeps with a gun under his pillow and won't tell the Captain what is really going on. After picking up Russian defector 'Boris Vaslov' ( Ernest Borgnine ) and 'Captain Anders ) things start to go wrong. The submarine is almost sunk when one of the torpedo tubes is opened. Sabotage? Jones suspects Anders...

It all sounds typically Maclean - a dangerous mission endangered by a traitor. Douglas Heyes and Harry Julian Fink's script adds a new element - superpower confrontation. The film opens with radar dishes tracking a Russian spy satellite as it comes down near the North Pole ( it was supposed to have landed in Siberia, but one of the retro rockets failed ). The camera it contains took more pictures than it should have, not only of American missile bases but Russian ones too.

The main problem with this is that it promises more adventure than it delivers. The first ten or so minutes give the impression it is going to be fantastic. Shot in Cinerama and Super Panavision, with bombastic Michel Legrand music, it looks and sounds sensational. Then the sub sets off from Scotland, and the pace grinds to a halt. Nothing much happens until the aforementioned sabotage attempt. What keeps the picture from descending into total boredom is Patrick McGoohan. He acts everyone - Hudson in particular - off the screen. It is surprising he did not become a major star on the back of this. The resemblance between 'Jones' and 'John Drake' from 'Danger Man' is as strong as the one between 'Drake' and 'Number Six'. He used the alias 'Smith' in 'The Prisoner', so why not Jones? It is not difficult to see 'Zebra' as the missing link between the two shows. After leaving Japan at the end of 'Shinda Shima', Drake is given a new identity and sent to the North Pole. Failing to correctly identify the traitor, he is ashamed of himself, goes back to London, and resigns. Its a plausible theory.

There is some action towards the end, but is over all too quickly and the film does not warrant its two-hour plus running time. I never saw it in a cinema alas. B.B.C.-1 premiered it on Christmas Eve in 1973. The snowy scenes made it seem perfect festive viewing.
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Does no justice to the novel
A S6 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The novel "Ice Station Zebra" by Alistair McLean is one of my all time favorites. I was looking forward to watch the movie. But it fails terribly. Two of the major points that I did not like are: 1) The movie shows that Dolphin (Tigerfish rather) is carrying force of "marines" in addition to the other characters which was totally unwanted, and finally wasn't very useful in the plot either. In fact, it gave kind of a comic effect to what was a very tense situation in the novel, and would probably have been here too. We actually were laughing aloud when the 4 people got off the submarine to search for the Drift Ice station, and were accompanied by a few dozen marines carrying guns in the Arctic! 2) They made the character of Dr.Carpenter (David Jones in the movie) to look like a dumb agent who only talked things that made no sense! The novel projects him as a person talking "senselessly" too, but at the end, everything ties up just perfectly. The evident sharpness of his character was totally missing in the movie; and the fact that it was the captain who ultimately figured things out made his character in the movie even unnecessary! I have watched several movies which I liked the book better, yet liked the movie (eg. Jurassic Park, Congo). Usually it is hard for movies to live up to the expectations of books, but this movie fails terribly! I could tolerate the first half of the movie, but the events after they finally reached the Drift station, showing the Russian aircraft and the marines... it just went too far! McLean's subtle but powerful plot of cold war (I am trying not to give away too much here) was taken to a ridiculous level! I am a big fan of war movies, but in my opinion, this does not qualify as one either. Maybe the whole movie just seemed more weird as I had read the novel. So, if you have read the novel and liked it, and want to watch the movie version of it, you may have to be prepared for disappointment. As someone pointed out, it is a more believable cold-war themed movie than Bond movies, which maybe true; but Bond movies are not meant to be believable, and the credit for this movie being more believable probably goes to Alistair McLean who writes quite believable espionage stories that a "hollywoodized" screenplay could not tamper it totally!
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Why oh why?
ovemunk24 November 2008
Why is it that Hollywood have such a problem with scripts? What is the horror of making a movie that actually has the same story as the book it took it's title from? This MIGHT be a good movie provided that you haven't read the book but if you have, -don't bother.

The really good plot from the book that makes it impossible to put down the book until you have finished it is here transformed into a sad action caper with actors playing stereotypes.

Sorry but i really don't like this movie. The only DECENT McLean film is "Where Eagles Dare", probably because he wrote the book AFTER the script for the movie.
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If you want to understand how to run a submarine .....
merklekranz28 June 2016
Then this is your movie. The entire first half seems like nothing more than technical blabber about the workings of the sub. The real mystery is not to be revealed until after intermission. However by then the audience suffering in the dark will be totally indifferent. The final confrontation is confusing and absolutely anticlimactic. I like Patrick McGoohan, but even his presence cannot save this 150 minute clunker. To top things off, the Arctic scenes look more like the set for a high school play than the frigid outdoors. In summary, "Ice Station Zebra", despite a respectable cast, is a total waste of a considerable amount of time. - MERK
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