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Ice Station Zebra (1968) Poster

Goofs

Revealing mistakes 

In the climactic confrontation scene, the wind is heard howling, yet the snow, actors' hair, fur parkas are absolutely motionless.
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Audio/visual unsynchronised 

As the satellite begins re-entry, the time on the Russian console reads 04:29:55 (and clicks over to 04:29:56 as the scene continues), but the Russian controller speaks a different set of numbers: "Null chetyre dva devyat' chetyre dva sem," or "zero four two nine four two seven." He gives three numbers (4-2-7) for the final pair on the screen, neither of which is the Russian for either five (pyat') or six (shest').
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Boom mic visible 

When Patrick McGoohan and Rock Hudson are in the lab, discussing the satellite, as Rock Hudson moves from right to left the shadow of the boom mike moves across the wall above him.
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Character error 

Submarines are always referred to as boats. Rock Hudson and other members of the cast frequently refer to their sub as a ship, but a true submariner would never do this.
When Jones was startled awake, the officer says he was in his "bunk". No one in the navy uses that word. "Rack" would be the correct nautical term.
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When Jim Brown first enters the Submarine he is wearing his cover (his cap) U.S. Marines never wear their covers indoors.
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Continuity 

When the Russian fighters that are dispatched to the ice station are first seen they are MiG-21s. In subsequent effects shots they are also MiG-21s. When footage of the fighters flying overhead is shown they are obviously F-4 Phantoms, an American fighter plane.
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When the MiG's are seen close up, you can count 5, but seen from the ground only 4 planes are visible.
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Not only was file footage of a US F4 Phantom used instead of a USSR MIG-21, the clip used was obviously of an aircraft on short final as the landing gear and flaps were in the landing position. Even if the type of air snatch represented could be done with an F4 or a MIG there would be a deployed hook visible, not lowered landing gear.
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The shots of the submarine when it is surfaced (during the start) and submerged (later) indicate two different submarines. When the submarine is surfaced you can see holes at the front hull from which water rushes out.. yet these holes are missing in the close-up shot underwater.
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After the sub spends several minutes at an impossible angle, the dishes in the wardroom are neatly on the shelves.
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When the sub surfaces through the ice at Zebra, the periscope is extended. Subsequent shots do not have the periscope, although an antenna is raised.
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From the front, the Russian MIGs are in route (vee) formation, but from underneath they are in echelon formation.
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When Ferraday is first given Jones' orders by Admiral Garvey, the letter sized papers are folded in half in both directions. When Ferraday reads those same papers later to Jones aboard the submarine, they are folded accordion style in three, with no visible creases of the previous fold style.
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When the Russian planes are flying towards the ice station there are five aircraft flying in a delta pattern two off each wing of the lead plane. When they are shown flying over the station there are only four flying a diagonal pattern with three planes to the right of the leader.
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Mr. Jones shines a light down into the fuel tank of the ice tractor whilst he is talking with Commander Ferraday, and yet sees nothing. Later, after everyone has searched the building and found nothing, Mr. Jones discovers the cut up weather balloon and decides to check the fuel tank, then easily finding the radio locator where he had previously looked with the flashlight.
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When the sub surfaces at Zebra, the periscope is rapidly raising; in the next shot it is retracted again.
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Errors in geography 

The officer on duty in the conning tower tells the captain the planes are approaching from the West. Since they are at the North Pole, the only direction the planes could be approaching from is from the South.
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Factual errors 

When the torpedo room floods, they pump air into the room to push out the water. After the water is mostly out, they open the bulkhead to get the men out. The air pressure in the torpedo room would have made it impossible to open the bulkhead door.
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Whilst there have been procedures established for the extraction and/or retrieval by aircraft of a high value package (material and/or personnel) without requiring the aircraft to land, they all require an aircraft that can reel-in and secure the package (i.e., transport, cargo). The use of a tactical (fighter, attack) aircraft that does not allow for bringing the package inside the aircraft whilst aloft creates an excessive risk of damage to, or the loss of, said high value package.
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If the torpedo room floods from the tube, the amount of water that would come through the tube would make it impossible for the crew to stop it. For this reason, there is a mechanical interlock whose key is held by the captain, to prevent opening both breech and muzzle doors at the same time.
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When Rock and Patrick are talking about what happened to the satellite, Patrick says the rockets misdirected the satellite into a polar orbit and that made it impossible to cause it to land in Siberia. That's nonsense. The earth will rotate under the the orbit of the Satellite and probably several times a day considering the east - west size of Siberia.
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In the bar at the beginning of the film, supposedly in Scotland, there is an American payphone.
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Just after Cdr Ferraday orders Agent Jones to surrender the film canister to the Soviets, we hear the young USMC Lt cock the hammer on his M-16. Semi-automatic shoulder weapons of the period did not have an exposed manually armed hammer.
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Russian Paratroopers are seen equipped with the Swedish Carl Gustav M45 submachine gun rather than the AKS-47 they should have.
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Mr. Jones describes to Commander Ferraday how the satellite changed to a polar orbit. He indicates that it no longer passed over the Soviet Union. In fact, a polar orbit stays oriented the same in relation to the Sun regardless of what it passes over below. All the Soviets would have had to do is merely wait until the Soviet Union was within the landing footprint of the satellite before bringing it down.
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The Russian jets are shown to be flying at a very low altitude when, in fact, this greatly shortens the range of fighter jets which are notorious for having high fuel consumption anyway. Jet engines burn much more fuel at low altitudes than they do at high altitudes.
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Several times in the beginning of the film they refer to the sub being in Holy Loch, Scotland. Whilst boarding the boat, it is shown alongside a dock and warehouse. Holy Loch does not, and never did, have this sort of facility on the shore. American boats were serviced off a Navy Tender anchored in the center of the Loch.
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Not only did Jim Brown's retention of his cover on his head violate military (not just USMC) protocol, exiting the H2 Seasprite or any helicopter with his cover in place is a serious safety of flight violation, especially that close to the surface. Had the cover been sucked into an engine the helo would have been lost and the submarine seriously damaged.
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The Soviet Union never developed a Fulton style ground to air recovery system. The Fulton ground to air system was used by the United States and Great Britain until 1996. The availability of long range and mid-air refueling for helicopters lead to the Air Force to cease maintaining the capability to deploy this system. And lastly, the system would never have been used with a fighter aircraft as seen in this film. It would not have the room for the equipment to first catch and then reel in the package. That system requires a large and complex winch system to work.
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The USS Tigerfish (a fictional nuclear attack submarine, hull number SS 506) was portrayed by the USS Ronquil (SS-396), a diesel electric boat. However, the Tigerfish was supposed to be based on the same class boat as the USS Nautilus SSN-571, the first nuclear submarine ever commissioned. During the torpedo room flooding incident, the boat sank to a depth of over 1200ft before managing to pump enough water back out to resurface. The USS Ronquil's official test depth is listed at 400 ft., which by US Navy standards was 2/3 of her calculated collapse (or crush) depth, being 600ft. The greatest depth achieved, reported by the crew of the USS Nautilus, was 700+ feet. Assuming that this was 100 ft. deeper than the Nautilus' test depth of 600 ft., means that her collapse depth should have been around 900 ft. and the boat should have been crushed like a tin can somewhere around the 1000 foot mark. The pressure on the hull at 1000 ft is approximately 433PSI, whilst the pressure at the quoted 1230 ft depth would have been 533PSI. The strain on the hull and bulkheads at that pressure should have caused buckling and popped rivets all over the ship, yet not one squeal is heard from the ship beyond the noise of the water flooding the torpedo room and the hatches being closed.
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When Russian aircraft are detected approaching Ice Station Zebra they are reportedly traveling at 650 knots. Once they overpass the station a new aircraft track traveling at 360 knots is detected and will be arriving in 4 minutes. How is it possible those planes were not detected before the jet fighters? Given the timing of the approaching aircraft, those fighter jets would have flown past those slower aircraft. It just does not fit.
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On the occasions when the submarine was to be surfaced or brought to periscope depth, the order was given to shut the vents. Main vents are always shut immediately after diving, otherwise they are useless if an emergency blow is conducted. Yes, the main vents would be shut, but the order would not be given just before surfacing.
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In the U.K. what North Americans call the second floor, is to them the first floor. In one of the first scenes, Ferraday climbs the pub stairs to meet Admiral Garvey. He passes a door marked "201". Should be "101"
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Patrick McGoohan mistranslates the Russian "dah svi-dahn-ee-ya" into English as "Until we meet again," when it actually means, simply, "Goodbye." "Until we meet again" is actually "dah fstr-yeh-chee".
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Assuming the films takes place in 1968 the year the film was produced only the United States Army used the the M-16. The standard United States Marine Corps rifle was the M-14. The M-16 was not accepted into service with the USMC until 1983.
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The submachine guns used by the Russians are the Madsen M-50 submachine gun, not the Carl Gustav M45 as another poster has claimed. This is easily seen because the body is flat-sided rather than tubular, it has no barrel shroud, and the barrel nut is conical rather than cylindrical.
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Miscellaneous 

From the minute the oncoming Soviet fighters are detected on radar they are said to be approaching at 620 mph. That speed is called out several times. And yet as they pass over head a sonic boom is heard. The speed of sound is dependent on temperature, and the temperature would have to be below -82ºC (the record for the Arctic is -68C) for the speed of sound to be that low. As low as the jets were flying; they would devour fuel. Low level super sonic flight uses much larger amounts of fuel than above 10,000 feet.
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Revealing mistakes 

Although the scenes take place in sub-zero temperatures, none of the actors breath is visible.
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When the submarine dives for the first time, the last man to clear the bridge descends the ladder wearing brown shoes. By naval regulation, surface navy must wear black shoes; brown shoes are restricted to aviation personnel. This privilege is jealously guarded by the Brown Shoe Navy (Aviation), so much so that when Admiral Zumwalt's decision to remove brown shoes from the navy was implemented in 1976, it took nine years of infighting for the aviators to get them back.
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When the Russian paratroopers are landing the same three bright-red supply boxes, and the paratroopers behind them, land twice.
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When the torpedo room floods, the sub interior is shown pitched forward. But the actors are seen standing perpendicular to the floor, not standing vertically. To maintain balance people will stand vertically regardless of the angle of the surface they are standing on. It's obvious the scene was shot on a level set and the camera was rolled to give the illusion the sub was pitched forward.
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After the Rolls Royce leaves the airfield early in the movie, it is seen driving on a mountain road. In different shots the car is shown driving on both the right and left sides of the road, probably because some of the film was reversed during editing.
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In some underwater scenes, the sub is labeled "Porpoise" on the front of the sail; in others, "Tiger Shark." Also, the shape of the bow changes between early underwater scenes, which show a slanted, tapering WWII-style bow, and later scenes, which show a straight vertical bow apparently lifted from USS Nautilus.
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After Ferraday says, "Give it another shot!" to break through the ice, the next exterior shot of the Tigerfish is reversed; its hull number is backwards.
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Just before the Tigerfish surfaces for the first time, the instruments indicate that they are under thin ice, no more than 2 to 3 feet thick. Yet, when the submarine surfaces, it appears to surface in a pressure ridge with ice appearing at least 10 feet thick.
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After the incident where the submarine narrowly sinks after nosediving to over 1000 ft and is miraculously saved, a soaking wet and cold Agent Jones rushes into a kitchen area in order to steady his nerves with the 1/4 bottle of whisky he has with him.

When he arrives in this area we see two or three cups and saucers sitting on the table. After such a drastic nosedive surely all the crockery not locked away would have ended up on the floor.
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The sunlight shadows cast at the Ice Station are too short for the arctic.
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The wind is quite constant at the North Pole. A few times we actually hear a wind machine on the sound track. Yet none of the hairs on the actors heads are shown to move.
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Some of the civilians at the 'Scottish' town at the beginning of the film appear to have Irish not Scottish accents.
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