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4.4 out of 5 stars
Ice Station Zebra
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
At times a taut and effective thriller that seems the pattern for much of Tom Clancy's books, "Ice Station Zebra" has a fairly simple plot: a space capsule with top secret photographs crashes, prompting a race between the Soviets and Americans to recover it from the polar icecap. Yet, the tension is kept reasonably high, even as much of the movie is spent aboard the U.S. submarine carrying the recovery team. Rock Hudson is, well, rock solid as the submarine captain--cool, thoughtful, and easy-going, he plays well against the skulking but ironic British spy (a teriffic Patrick MacGoohan, essentially playing the same part he always does in the way only he seems able to) that may or may not be a saboteur. Viewers will recognize other familiar faces--Jim Brown and Ernest Borgnine among them--that root the film in the 60s, and the whole production--including the cinematography, special effects, and score by Maurice Jarre--are topnotch. The only real weaknesses to the film are the mystery of who is the double agent and an action ending that seems almost anticlimactic when compared to the genuine tension in the rest of the story. Still, it's a better espionage thriller than most of those found in theaters today.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
One of the better cold war dramas produced during the 60's, "Ice Station Zebra" isn't exactly an action adventure; it's more of an action drama. Most of the "action" is the dramatic conflict between Commander Ferraday (Rock Hudson) and his guests Boris Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine)a former Russian spy who now works for British Intelligence, MI-6 secret agent "David Jones" (the wonderful Patrick McGoohan) and Marine Captain Anders (Jim Brown). A nasty ice storm brews at the North Pole. When Ice Station Zebra calls for help the Tigerfish is sent north to break through the ice to save the men stationed there. That's the cover story. The reality is that a satellite has crashed in the arctic tundra and must be recovered before a Russian expeditition gets to it.

The image quality is stellar on this first time release from Warner Brothers. There's hardly any analog or digital artifacts. While there's no commentary track we do get the original promotional featurette on the movie "The Man Who Makes a Difference" and it's actually pretty good at providing behind-the-scenes footage about the shooting of a real Navy submarine to be integrated with visual effects into the movie. The big attraction here is a wonderful 5.1 remix of the original soundtrack. While it's not as active as, say, a brand new movie, it sounds pretty darn good with better depth and expanded sound than any previous incarnation of the movie on home video.

This was originally shot in SuperPanavision and, atlhough this is a widescreen presentation much like "2001: A Space Odyssey". It's a huge improvement on the previously cropped versions that have floated around. The original Overture from the roadshow edition of the movie has been restored to this version with Michel Legrand's marvelous score. The intermission is also included, hence the 2 hour and 30 minute running time.

Patrick McGoohan took time away from shooting his series "The Prisoner" to make "Ice Station Zebra". Ironically he plays another secret agent. "David Jones" doesn't stray too far from John Drake the character he played in "Secret Agent Man" (aka "Danger Man in the UK)but McGoohan's clipped sarcastic delivery and unpredictabllity make him a stand out in the cast. Hudson's relaxed performance as the Commander provides a nice counter balance to McGoohan's intense one and provides a nice counter point to Borgnine's cagey Vaslov. The first half of the film is marvelous and, although it sags during the second half (for a lot of reasons) and the conclusion doesn't have the cinematic style of John Sturges' previous films ("The Great Escape" and "The Magnificent Seven")but, all in all, "Ice Station Zebra" still provides marvelous entertainment. The footage of the real submarine surfacing and going under the water looks marvelous.

Nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Cinematography and Best Special Visual Effects), "Ice Station Zebra" lost in both categories to "Romeo and Juliet" and "2001: A Space Odyssey". The visual effects that open the movie are still exceptionally good and wouldn't look out of place in Kubrick's film of the same year. That's ironic since MGM pulled "2001" from some theaters to premiere "Ice Station Zebra".
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Ice Station Zebra is one of my favorite flims next Where Eagles Dare, The Green Berets, and The Great Escape. I.S.Z. begins when Navy submarine commander James Farraday (Rock Hudson) is asked to take a British agent (Patrick McGoohan) to a remote outpost known as Ice Station Zebra to find a downed Russian satilite that contain top secret photos of Western missile installations. Tagging along with Farraday is a tough no-nonsense Marine captain, brilliantly acted by Jim Brown, fresh from his role as a prisoner turned soldier in Dirty Dozen. Also tagging along is a defecting Russian played by Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine. And starring in a cameo in this picture is war movie veteran Lloyd Nolan who plays a U.S. admiral. This movie should have been nominated for Best Special Effects, Best Picture, Best Cinematgraphy, and for Best Sound Effects. I hope that this "lost" gem of a movie is released on DVD format. I wish they would release it in DVD. If you love action movies about the cold war, give this movie a try, I recemend it.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Released in 1968, "Ice Station Zebra" remains an engrossing, suspenseful thriller, well directed by John Sturges. With films like "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Great Escape" to his credit, you know that any movie directed by Mr. Sturges is going to hold your attention, even if--in this case--it clocks in at over two and a half hours.

The titular station is a weather outpost located close to the North Pole. Something has gone terribly wrong there, and an American nuclear submarine is sent on an urgent rescue mission. Nasty Arctic weather--and the polar ice cap--will not allow any other means of transport to reach "Zebra". Of course, there is a more sinister agenda here than trying to save the lives of a few stranded scientists. This is why the submarine has two espionage "experts" on board--one British and one Russian--as well as a platoon of marines.

Rock Hudson stars as the sub captain. While this role does not challenge Mr. Hudson's acting abilities, he is appropriately fearless and stalwart in the face of danger. Ernest Borgnine is our Russian secret service agent, working for the "West" as a "good Russian"--or is he ? Mr. Borgnine is a good actor, and after the first few scenes, I found myself accepting him in this role. Jim Brown is the tough-as-nails marine leader. I would never call him a great actor, but Mr. Brown is certainly convincing as someone nobody wants to annoy ! Real acting honours in this movie go to Patrick McGoohan as the British "agent". Fondly remembered for his sixties TV series "Danger Man" ( aka Secret Agent ) and "The Prisoner", it will always be a mystery to me why Mr. McGoohan did not choose to make a greater number of films and become a huge star. Frankly, for me at least, he steals the film.

The colour, widescreen picture is excellent, as is the sound for a 36-year old film. While some of the arctic action clearly takes place in the studio, I was impressed with the submarine footage, and once you are under the ice cap, you can really feel the tension. Yes--it's a submarine film--things do indeed "go wrong" !

Ladies--while my wife did enjoy "Ice Station Zebra", she did confirm that this is a "guy movie" ! In fact, there are no women in the cast at all. If you are looking for romance, this is not the place !

It is not clear to me why Howard Hughes would want to watch this film hundreds of times, but is it a coincidence that this DVD starts with a trailer for "The Aviator" ? I don't think so.
The disc includes a few other trailers, and an interesting short on one of "Zebra's" cameramen who helped to pioneer action film photography--fascinating.

I suppose the West vs. Soviet "cold war" scenario is dated--in 2005, international tensions are much more complicated--but "Ice Station Zebra" still delivers a tense, exciting story, and this DVD was worth the wait. Recommended.

A very sad footnote, dated 15 January 2009--Mr. Patrick McGoohan has passed away--another fine actor has left us.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is a good cold war drama. After a Soviet spy satellite comes down in the wrong place, the race is on to recapture the film. As was pointed out in the film, the Soviets used their German scientists to launch the satellite containing the camera stolen from England's German scientists using a special film developed by the US's German scientists. The film has the location of both side's missile installations and both sides want it. Neither side will give an inch.

The chase takes place with a US nuclear sub, overcrowded by marines and spies. The problem is that there is a double agent on board who will give up his own life to sabotage the mission. The twists and turns don't stop and neither does the excitement. The film is dated but still a good show. The photography especially is spectacular, especially for that day and age.

Rock Hudson leads an all star cast which does a great job across the board.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Here we have, in Cinerama, an epic submarine-spy-thriller-meets-action-adventure. What more could you ask for from a movie?

You get Patrick McGoohan as a debonair spy. You get Rock Hudson as submarine captain. You get Ernest Bourgnine doing a Russian accent (okay, that's laughable). You get decent-for-the-era special effects. You get a soundtrack of glorious movie music.

There are some thin parts and bits that are now somewhat dated, but mostly this thriller still thrills, justifying the long running time. The DVD is long overdue, as this is a, if not *the* classic Cold War movie. (well, maybe Dr. Strangelove probably takes that prize...)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I liked this movie so much that after seeing it, I bought the Alistair MacLean book of the same title -- and couldn't make heads or tails of it: It sure was totally different from the movie; about the only thing that was the same was the sub, and the polar ice station.
The two reasons I wouldn't give this one the full five stars are (1) the polar scenes were sort of unrealistic; one could envision the set carpenters cutting, glueing, and spray-painting the pieces of plywood to form snow-covered ice boulders, and (2) Jim Brown hadn't learned to act; he was stiff as a poker -- although, in all fairness, his role was by and large a rather thankless one.
The rest of it held up from start to finish; nerve-racking suspense; great undersea scenes and special effects with the sub threatened after someone aboard sabotaged it. A superb, magnificent score (I can't think of enough great adjectives for that) by Michel LeGrand.
McGoohan is perfect -- totally believable in his role as a British agent; Borgnine overacts, sometimes irritatingly so, but part of that is the character he plays (even the commander found him irritating occasionally), and Rock Hudson is Mr. Cool -- just the kind of guy you'd want commanding such a mission. Although how his six foot five inches could fit into the confines of a crowded submarine, I don't know. But one willingly suspends disbelief. Hudson is such a much better actor that he was given credit for being during his lifetime -- I'd willingly sit and watch him read the phonebook. Hard to believe that any one man could be that impossibly good-looking. But he was.
Memorable lines: When the young Marine lieutenant, obviously a bit nervous about being in such close proximity with a bunch of torpedos stacked next to the bunks, asks Hudson if the torpedos have nuclear warheads, Hudson reassures him that they don't; they're merely Torpex, he says, and each torpedo has no more destructive power than about 400 pounds of TNT. When the lieutenant tells Hudson that neither he nor his men have ever been on board a submarine before, Hudson's response is, "Rest easy; I have." And the viewer believes him.
This one's a don't miss on many levels: the plot, the climax, and definitely the STAR.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2009
Format: DVD
About the only thing I had in common with Howard Hughes is that we both loved this movie. Hughes allegedly watched it 17 times one weekend. I saw it at its original reserved-seat run at the Cinerama theater on Broadway in New York and have watched it numerous times since then (although not as much as Hughes.)
The name Alistair MacLean is not that well-remembered today. However he was the king of action novelists during the 1950s and '60s. Many of his books were made into films, the most famous being "The Guns of Navarone" and its sequel "Force 10 from Navarone," "Where Eagles Dare," "Breakheart Pass" and this film. This film was supposed to re-unite his Navarone stars, Gregory Pack and David Niven. However when shooting started, they were no longer available. Instead we got Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine and Patrick McGoohan. Hudson and Borgnine are fine but it is McGoohan who steals the film as a British secret agent named "Jones" who is very similar to his John Drake "Secret Agent" TV persona. There are no female members of the cast.
The first half of the film involves the U.S. submarine's voyage under the polar ice pack to get to Zebra. It includes a terrifically suspenseful scene of a saboteur's attempt to flood the submarine while under the pack. The second half involves the locating of Zebra culminating in the U.S./Russian confrontation at the detroyed station for the secret of Ice Station Zebra.
Directed by the great John Sturges, (The Great Escape, Magnificent 7, etc.) this is an exciting and suspenseful film. It features a great score by Michel Legrand and fine special effects of the submarine journeying under the polar ice pack (great on the big screen.)It lost the special effects Oscar to 2001. The DVD features the overture, intermission music and music for exiting the theater.
Unfortunately the DVD only includes some vintage short subjects from the time the film was made. It would have been very nice for a retrospective on this fine film. While Hudson and Sturges are long-gone, McGoohan was alive until recently and Borgnine, Jim Brown (who basically stands around looking angry the entire film,) and Tony Bill are still alive.
This is a classic cold-war suspense thriller that has stood the test of time, I would love to see its eventual release on Blu-ray.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Actual submarine footage enhances this cold war drama. Excellent acting and a great cast give credibility as well. Adaptation of Mc Clean`s novel wasvery well done. This movie was one of Howard Hughes favorites.There is humor as well as plenty of surprises. I give it 5 stars!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2006
Format: DVD
Okay, Let's get the warts out of the way first:

For a 1968 film the special effects are a throwback to the Fifties, the pro-nuclear comments by Borgnine sound absurd in today's light, there are some story points that require a certain degree of suspension of disbelief, and the acting is pure Hollywood for a film of it's time.

That said, this is a terrific film and entertaining from start to finish - a real popcorn movie with an wonderful intro theme. intermission, and lots of grand shots of the submarine in the ocean.

It watches like an extended episode of Secret Agent ( I'm a great fan of Patrick McGoohan so call me biased!) and he doesn't disappoint. He brings all the low-key, sly elements of John Drake to this character and they may as well be one and the same (after all, you never do learn his real name in this film!).

The plot is marvelous Cold War skullduggery with a boy-scout-ish quality that I truly miss in modern action films.

It is my understanding that Howard Hughes had this film screened in his home repeated during his years of mental breakdown. Was he merely amused or involved in a similar event (he did make Project Jennifer a reality - the potential raising of a Soviet nuclear submarine)? Who knows, but it does make for some fascinating trivia!

Overall, for the asking price this is a heck of a lot of entertainment with little blood, no swearing, great suspense and magnificient shots - a film truly made for the wide-screen, and one the whole family can watch.

**********UPDATE 8/1/09 ************
I've recently had the pleasure of watching the PBS 'Nova' program "AstroSpies" which re-introduces the Corona satellite program, declassified in 1992 - something I wasn't aware of.
Wikipedia states:
"The 1963 thriller novel 'Ice Station Zebra' and its 1968 film adaptation were inspired, in part, by news accounts from April 17, 1959, about a missing experimental Corona satellite capsule (Discoverer II) that inadvertently landed near Spitsbergen on April 13 and was believed to have been recovered by Soviet agents."
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