Ice Station Zebra Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
I don't usually like military submarine type movies, but I actually enjoyed this one. The special effects are cool, the story is good and understandable, and I loved McGoohan in this movie, he was awesome. I really liked this movie.
Super Reviewer
½ January 6, 2011
Classic adventure based on a novel by Alistair Maclean. A stellar cast, non-stop action and intrigue and marvelous visuals and sets - the star of which is the tilting submarine inards. One bit always annoys me - the stock footage of Phantom jets pretending to be Migs but its a petty gripe about what is one of my favourite films.
Super Reviewer
½ September 12, 2008
A stellar cast, yet the story is oddly spiltted in two episodes who feel a bit disconnected. A shame though because both had potential on their own. Anyway, a good and surprisingly realistic movie.

If you are into classic movies, submarines and cold war this one is for you.
Super Reviewer
December 27, 2007
Great Cold War romp.
June 8, 2011
This is to date the most interesting and well done cold war intrigue film I have seen with a groovy performance by the late Patrick McGoohan.
½ December 26, 2009
Hudson gives the ball to Brown on a simple HB draw and he runs right through Borgnine at the LB position only to get ankle-tackled and shot 3 times in the chest by Patrick McGoohan.
½ November 18, 2008
Great special effects, except for the snow, you really feel like your at the north pole. I really liked McGoohan's character in this movie, too.
January 30, 2008
I remember watching this when I was in grade school. Thought it was kind of boring. Are any of these people still alive?
January 4, 2008
One of the best spy movies ever. Patrick McGoohan is riviting as usual. He dominates the camera even when Rock Hudson is on it with him. Very few men can deliver a line like McGoohan
½ October 19, 2007
This is a star-studded film that sometimes delivers. The cast is exceptional - McGoohan, Hudson, Borgnine are all excellent. The submarine sequences are claustrophobic, which is a good thing. But the story lags every so often, and the exterior scenes (specifically the final confrontation scene) definitely looked like they were filmed on a sound stage. Good, but could definitely been better.
December 5, 2014
Great thriller for the time. Rock Hudson at his best.
July 2, 2014

There are some fantastic set pieces in this opening act which include the submarine trying to find out exactly where Ice Station Zebra might be (since it floats with the ice pack), a disastrous accident that seems to be the result of sabotage, and, right before intermission (this being a roadshow engagement, after all), the sub finally managing to crack through the ice pack to hopefully complete its mission, whatever that might be. But then things begin to go horribly, horribly wrong. We've already been led to believe that there's a spy on board, courtesy of the "accident" which seems anything but. The suspects are really limited to Jones, Anders or Vaslov, and the writing here is not nuanced enough to make the eventual denouement much of a surprise.

More problematic is the film's ridiculously lethargic second act, which sees the bulk of the action playing out on obvious studio sets designed to approximate the frozen Arctic wilderness. Once the real reason for the mission comes to light, many are probably going to be asking in disbelief, "That's it?", and that disbelief isn't just the result of a 21st century cynicism-my hunch is audiences in 1968 were probably just as incredulous. The film devolves into a showdown between those nefarious Russkies and the stalwart Americans, and if there's a bit of political nuance that actually creeps into the screenplay, it's clad in an overall "us vs. them" scenario that undercuts any attempt at shades of gray.

If Ice Station Zebra had simply been judiciously trimmed, it might have been one of the biggest blockbusters of the late sixties. As it stands, it seems to be one of the best examples of the major studios attempting-in vain-to recapture the glory days of old with big budget epics that simply didn't have the intrinsic elements to support the gargantuan productions. There's really nothing inherently horrible about Ice Station Zebra and the first half of the film is a surprisingly brisk and exciting entertainment. There's an old adage in the legitimate theater about "second act problems" and that's pretty much exactly what the issue with Ice Station Zebra is. The problem is when a film reaches its conclusion, it's that second act that's most vividly in the audience's mind, while the first act is already beginning to fade into the cold Arctic mist.

McGoohan is interesting and Rock Hudson makes for a congenial captain, but the rest of the casting doesn't pay off very well. Ernest Borgnine never impresses as the friendly Russian spy, simply because he's too familiar. Jim Brown gives it his best, but he's just not actor enough to make his tough Marine character work. Tony Bill's young officer has too predictable a fate; in fact, all three of them are trapped in cornball plot twists that aren't particularly enjoyable.

The disappointing second half of Ice Station Zebra wouldn't be so bad if the physical production were better. As soon as the armed soldiers leave the Tigerfish they step into truly phony stage-bound sets. The ice floe is a uniformly white and blue expanse dotted with conveniently uniform little outcroppings of ice. Fake blown snow and superimposed optical snow add to the artificiality. Visibility remains excellent, nobody has frost on their breath and everything is lit as if this were a Doris Day movie. Likewise, the arrival of Russian jets is covered by some supremely fake angles of static models locked in front of dizzying views of arctic scenery speeding by. In other words, the visual end of the movie falls on its face.

This isn't a film for fans of deep, intricate, nuanced acting. Everyone in the film has one, and only one, note to play. Patrick McGoohan's note is "hair-trigger." He succumbs to a bit of overacting at times; I doubt a real spy would be as jumpy as a chihuahua. Borgnine kinda sorta looks Russian, a little bit-but that's where the similarity ends. He's more convincing as Mermaid Man on SpongeBob Squarepants. Jim Brown has so little to do that I'm not entirely sure I didn't imagine him. Only Hudson escapes relatively unscathed.

The one thing that is good about Ice Station Zebra is casting Patrick McGoohan as a British secret agent similar to his character in the show Danger Man or Secret Agent
April 17, 2013
Most submarine movies are pretty heavy on jargon, and "Ice Station Zebra" is especially so. The first half hour is almost excruciatingly slow-paced and technical, but there are two good reasons for that decision. One reason is narrative: when the action finally begins it comes as a jolt, and the suddenness of the transition creates the atmosphere of tension and unpredictability that is required for the second act. The other reason has to do with the film's production. The studio borrowed a real submarine from the Navy, allowing director John Sturges to stage difficult underwater scenes without relying on unrealistic miniatures or grainy stock footage. Shots of the submarine gliding beneath vast icebergs are eerily beautiful, and they justify the amount of time the script spends getting the characters from point A to point B. The espionage plot may be nothing special, but it is at least evocative of the late 1960s. Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, and Patrick McGoohan deliver in strongly-characterized roles.
½ April 14, 2013
Ice Station Zebra is a fantastic film. It is about a top-secret Soviet spy satellite that malfunctions and that went into a descent that landed in the Arctic. Rock Hudson and Ernest Borgnine give excellent performances. The screenplay is well written about cold war tensions. John Sturges did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this motion picture because of the action and drama. Ice Station Zebra is a must see.
½ February 12, 2013
A top-notch political/military/spy thriller from the 1960's. I saw it in 1968, when I was just a teenager. Nothing like it had been seen back then. It's a great adventure, and some scenes had me literally on the edge of my seat. I've watched it at least once a year since it came out, and it holds up well. The acting is solid, the direction is good, the score by Michel Legrand is wonderful, and the Panavision "Cinerama" photography is astounding. However, I only gave it 4-1/2 stars, because of some low-budget special effects. One last thing... In my humble opinion, people shouldn't listen to disproportionately negative negative reviews of the film seen the eyes of today. Just get yourself some hot popcorn, snuggle into your couch, and enjoy the show.
½ July 5, 2007
Slow moving, but had a cool atmosphere to it.
½ November 15, 2012
One of my favorite movies. The pacing isn't to everyone's liking, but I find that it lets the movie develop right.
September 3, 2012
I saw the movie, and i have read the book also and i can safely say that it is pretty much disappointing on that front. The movie does not remain faithful to the book, had it done it would have been a compelling watch. Not only the ending is flat but the buildup to the climax is also slow & i had moments where i was dozing.... for a mystery movie geek like me this was uncommon. I would advise not viewing the movie for someone who has read the book, others can have one look and one look only.
July 28, 2012
A movie known more for it's title than the actual movie itself. If you want to ramp up the suspense, artificial or not, two easy ways to do that are by confining the space and remoteness so a submarine in the arctic qualifies for both. Add in the cold-war, espionage, and treason and this should be a no-brainer but that is not always the case.
The cast is solid with Hudson leading the way and doing a good job in a dramatic role, Borgnine's accent seemed to go in and out.
There is always a problem with submarine sabotage just in the logistics of it and sorry when the sub is that deep and that close to the arctic the water temp would of caused hypothermia making this scene unrealistic.
Granted this is the late 60's but some of the special effects seemed odd, especially anything to do with ice.
Still the story and for the most part the acting keep this at a steady stream of suspense to make it watchable.
June 26, 2012
According to people that I know who have read his books, Alistair MacLean novels have a tendency to be pretty formula and talky. I am not sure if that was the case with "Ice Station Zebra," but that may have been reason why this movie is a near disaster. A Soviet satellite crashes into the Arctic Ocean, of which a submarine sent with a quite a few individuals, including head Rock Hudson and Russian Ernest Borgnine. What could have been a fascinating, intense epic turned in 152 minute ordeal to watch, with nothing happening for virtually the whole film and an awful insignificant conclusion. There is not one ounce of suspense, nor interesting performance, and has so much talk that is enough send anyone into dreamland...hopefully for a better movie the next time around. Cast and everything else used are wasted. Ranks among the most boring high profile films from the 1960's.
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