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Ice Station Zebra (1968) Poster

Trivia

In the era before VCRs, Howard Hughes would call the Las Vegas TV station he owned and demanded them to run this particular movie. Hughes so loved this film, it aired on his Las Vegas station over 100 times.
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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. This achievement was encapsulated in an accompanying MGM short promo film The Man Who Makes the Difference (1968) which is available on the DVD for this movie.
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In one scene Patrick McGoohan was supposed to dive into the flooded torpedo room of the nuclear sub to rescue a trapped naval officer. Being a strong swimmer, he insisted on doing the scene himself rather than use a stuntman. A change was made to the script so allowing Olympic swimming champion Murray Rose, who'd been cast in another role, to do the scene with him in case anything happened. It was only after the scene was completed that Rose revealed that whilst he and McGoohan were standing up to their necks in the rising water just before the cameras rolled, Pat had whispered to him "Now I've done it, my foot's stuck". Rose dived down and freed his foot which had become wedged tight in the torpedo rack.
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Rock Hudson said this was his personal favourite film.
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Patrick McGoohan was in the midst filming his iconic TV series The Prisoner (1967) at the time he appeared in this movie. In order to allow him to take time off from his TV series, the episode, The Prisoner (1967) was inserted. It's a hastily re-written "Danger Man" (1964)_ episode, in which McGoohan's character, Number Six, has his mind transferred into the body of another man. Another episode, _"The Prisoner" (1967) The Girl Who Was Death (#1.14)}_ was also an altered episode of Secret Agent (Danger Man), which enabled Pat to finish up on Zebra', as Nº. 6 wore a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat, moustache, and pipe, so his double, Frank Maher could film most of the scenes.
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The movie's plot has similarities with the real life 1962 CIA Project COLDFEET aka Operation Coldfeet. Conducted in May and June of that year, the assignment purpose was to gather intelligence from an abandoned Soviet arctic research ice station. Two agents parachuted from a B-17 Flying Fortress and searched the facility and were collected three days later via the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system.
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The submarine used in this movie was the USS Ronquil (SS-396). Her hull number was repainted to 509. The first nuclear powered United States Submarine was the USS Nautilus (SSN-571).
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This film was originally shown in Cinerama venues. In order to put it into these theatres, MGM pulled 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) whilst it was still having a successful run.
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Actors Gregory Peck, David Niven, Edmond O'Brien and George Segal were originally attached to this picture but none ended up appearing in it. Peck and Niven had starred in the earlier successful Alistair MacLean adaptation The Guns of Navarone (1961).
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Charlton Heston was originally offered the role of Ferraday but turned it down, saying there was no characterization in the script. Gregory Peck was then offered the part and early adverts in Variety magazine carried mention of Peck's casting, together with Laurence Harvey as Jones.
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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 (1979) is set.
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The character of Marine Captain Leslie Anders (played by Jim Brown) does not appear in Alistair MacLean source novel of the same name.
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Miniature footage and film sets from this picture were re-used in the tele-movie Assault on the Wayne (1971) which also co-starred two members of this movie's cast, Ron Masak and Lloyd Haynes. Footage from the movie, particularly the Tigerfish submarine model, was also re-used for the films Firefox (1982), Gray Lady Down (1978) and Never Say Never Again (1983).
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Only three women appear in the film: One is a barmaid at the far end of the bar when Rock Hudson receives a phone call; another is in one of the booths in the bar; the third is seen walking with a companion arm-in-arm outside the second pub Rock Hudson enters.
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The word "Zebra" in the film and source novel's title is derivative of the letter "Z" in the phonetic alphabet of the Army and Navy. The word "Zebra" though is no longer used in the modern NATO phonetic alphabet for navigation and aviation, "Zebra" being replaced by the word "Zulu".
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Producer Martin Ransohoff bought the film rights to Alistair MacLean's 'Ice Station Zebra' novel in 1964, a year after the book had been first published. Ransohoff had intended to cash in on the earlier MacLean adaptation The Guns of Navarone (1961) and had originally cast two leads from that movie, David Niven and Gregory Peck.
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Filmed mainly in the studio.
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Principal photography was originally slated for April 1965. However, the United States Department of Defense objected to some of the depiction of navy life on the submarine in the script by Paddy Chayefsky. As such, this and scheduling conflicts delayed the production of this movie, and the screenplay had to be re-written.
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In real life, there was no "Ice Station Zebra", but there was an "Ice Station Alpha" which was situated in the Arctic's Ice Island T-3, "Alpha" being derivative of the letter "A" in the phonetic alphabet of the Army and Navy. In the International Geophysical Year (IGY), "Ice Station Alpha" was visited by the USS Skate in August 1958.
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One of two filmed Alistair MacLean adaptations directed by John Sturges. The other was The Satan Bug (1965) made and released about three years earlier.
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A number of characters who appear in this movie were not in the Alistair MacLean source novel, of the same name. Included were; First Lieutenant Russell Walker (played by Tony Bill; Soviet agent and defector Boris Vaslov (played by Ernest Borgnine).
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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 (with the vessel number of SSN-509) and the names of two characters: Submarine Commander Swanson became Commander Ferraday (played by Rock Hudson) and spy Dr. Carpenter became David Jones (played by Patrick McGoohan).
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One of two Alistair MacLean filmed adaptations released in 1968, the other was Where Eagles Dare (1968).
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When a new screenplay was written for this movie, the original cast could not do the film anymore due to scheduling conflicts, so they were replaced with a new lead cast.
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The production shoot for this picture went for nineteen weeks, from Spring 1967 until October 1967.
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Major league baseball pitcher Bob Sebra was nicknamed "Ice Station Sebra" by sports commentator Chris Berman.
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Ernest Borgnine served in US Navy in from 1935 to 1945. Rock Hudson & Gerald O'Laughlin served in the US Navy & Marine Corps, respectively, during WWII.
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Rock Hudson was on Variety's list of Top Ten Overpriced Stars of 1968. The box office success of this kept him off the list the following year.
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Laurence Harvey was originally cast in Patrick McGoohan's role and early adverts in Variety magazine even listed him in the part.
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The production began with shooting the film in Ultra Panavision(2.76), but soon switched to Super Panavision(2.21). This can be seen in the shots of the Lear jet near the start of the film. The engine intakes which are round have a slight oval shape. This is because the Ultra Panavision was scaled down horizontally to match the Super Panavision aspect ratio.
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This movie was made and released about five years after its source novel of the same name by Alistair MacLean was first published in 1963. "Ice Station Zebra" was MacLean's tenth novel and this movie was the fourth filmed adaptation of one of MacLean's stories. This film was also released in the same year (1968) that MacLean's novel "Force 10 From Navarone" was first published as well as another MacLean filmed adaptation, Where Eagles Dare (1968). The "Ice Station Zebra" novel was the last of 'Maclean's novels to be written in the first-person narrative. Author Alistair MacLean took a sabbatical from writing for three years after he finished penning the novel "Ice Station Zebra" in 1963. MacLean's next book after "Ice Station Zebra" would be "When Eight Bells Toll", first published in 1966.
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This 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 (1979) about eleven years later.
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Ron Masak's film debut.
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In Breaking Bad (2008), Walter White gives his wife, Skyler, a check of llaundered money to pay their brother-in-law's medical bills. Upon receiving the check, Skyler sarcastically says the front-company responsible for the check's listed as "Ice Station Zebra Associates."
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In early casting news for Ice Station Zebra (1968), Peck was announced to be the submarine Commander James Ferraday (played by Rock Hudson), whilst Niven was going to be the British spy David Jones (played by Patrick McGoohan).
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As the sub's going down after the torpedo room floods, one of the crewmen on the bridge begins reciting a prayer aloud, but is silenced by Ferraday, who says; "Do you mind, son, we're trying to think." The prayer's a Catholic one called an Act of Contrition, and usually, expresses sorrow for sins, but may also be used in connection with an examination of conscience.
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Ice Station Zebra was photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Daniel L. Fapp. The nuclear-powered Tigerfish (SSN-509) was portrayed in the movie by the diesel-electric Guppy IIA submarine USS Ronquil (SS-396) when seen on the surface. For submerging and surfacing scenes, the diesel-electric Guppy IA USS Blackfin (SS-322) was used, near Pearl Harbor. The underwater scenes used a model of a Skate class nuclear submarine.

Second unit cameraman John M. Stephens developed an innovative underwater camera system that successfully filmed the first continuous dive of a submarine, which became the subject of the documentary featurette The Man Who Makes a Difference.
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James Mason was offered the Patrick McGoohan part.
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The year before this movie was released, Ernest Borgnine & James Brown had worked on another military movie film, entitled; The Dirty Dozen (1967), although they had no scenes together.
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Aussie Olympic swimming champion Murray Rose, who portrays Lt. George Mills, had won 3 gold medals less than 10 years prior, in 1956.
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Patrick McGoohan was born in Queens, NY.
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The Russian satellite tracking hardware is just the American hardware with paper labels in Cyrillic stuck on.
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The band 'Silkworm' named a song "Ice Station Zebra" which is featured on their 1997 album "Developer".
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Ring Lardner was originally hired to pen the screenplay in 1964.
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In 2011, Warner Brothers announced a remake to be directed by David Gordon Green, but nothing has come of it yet. (2018)
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Ballantine's Scotch is what Mr. Jones drinks in his coffee after the incident in the torpedo room. This is considered to be a therapeutically medicinal relaxant.
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In Alistair MacLean's source book (of the same name), upon which the film's based, the specialist Arctic combat US Marines platoon did not feature in the book.
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Howard Hughes was totally mad about the movie. he watched it more than 48 times.
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In an interview, given in 1990 to french student Michael Laborie, director John Sturges said that he did not like Michel Legrand's music for this movie.
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At the world premiere several hecklers chanted the word "faggot" upon Rock Hudson's arrival,given his long rumored sexual preferences. Apparently,the ordeal embarrassed Hudson so much he never again attended another premiere.
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