Ice Station Zebra [DVD] [1968]

John Sturges' Ice Station Zebra (1968) was an extremely long movie -- but not the longest he ever did; it just seemed that way. The movie was so long, in fact, that it used to get shown over two nights when it was broadcast on network television, which proved disastrous because the second half, set at the polar ice cap, barely allowed one to see the stars that mattered to the network audience, and also moved at a leaden pace (evidently not even the presence of Ferris Webster as editor could save this movie's pacing). As a DVD, it's a long session, complete with the entrance music and intermission music and 40 chapter markers. It looks good, letterboxed to 2.35:1 or thereabouts (it was shot in Super-Panavision and marketed as single-lens Cinerama), and sounds okay, but it's still a long haul, especially the second half. The bonus features include a selection of trailers from what are generally better movies, including Sturges' best picture, Bad Day at Black Rock -- all letterboxed, of course -- and the featurette "The Man Who Makes a Difference," which is about the making of the movie but really deals with the work and career of John Stephens, the movie's second unit director. In all, it's a decent and reasonably diverting if unambitious presentation of a flawed but interesting movie, no more and no less, though it does look great on big-screen monitors, and anyone who's suffered through it cropped on television will find the letterboxing a revelation.
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Rating 4.8 out of 5 stars.
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Special Features

  • Vintage making-of featurette "The Man Who Makes the Difference"
  • Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Trailer gallery
  • Closed Captioned


Ice Station Zebra
A top-secret Soviet spy satellite -- using stolen Western technology -- malfunctions and then goes into a descent that lands it near an isolated Arctic research encampment called Ice Station Zebra, belonging to the British, which starts sending out distress signals before falling silent. The atomic submarine Tigerfish, commanded by Cmdr. James Ferraday (Rock Hudson), is dispatched with orders to get to Ice Station Zebra carrying three passengers, a Englishman going by the name of David Jones (Patrick McGoohan), a Soviet turncoat named Boris Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine), and an American Marine officer, Captain Anders (Jim Brown), who is supposed to command the Marine unit assigned to the mission. Jones is problem enough, as he is in command of the mission and he prefers to withhold as much information as it's possible to do from Ferraday, even at the risk of the Tigerfish's safety. Add to that the fact that Anders is suspicious of Vaslov, and Vaslov seems much too inquisitive and is telling even less of what he knows about the mission, and Ferraday has his hands full trying to get these men to the polar ice -- 600 miles of dangerous travel -- in just two days. When an attempt to break through the ice -- coupled with some timely sabotage -- kills one man and nearly destroys the boat, the men surrounding these contending parties start to understand just how high the stakes are for everyone. It turns out that the Soviets want what was aboard that satellite as much as the West does; indeed, both sides are frantic to get it, and, just as much, to keep the other side from getting it -- and they're prepared to take it by brute force. Once Ferraday and his men arrive at Zebra, they find a disaster and still more mystery, with most of the men dead and the object that Mr. Jones is supposed to secure nowhere in evidence, and he and his two fellow men of mystery suddenly showing their killing instincts quite freely. And with the storm clearing from the Soviet side first, their planes and their paratroops are closing in on Ferraday, and his relative handful of men. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Rock Hudson
    Rock Hudson - Cmdr. James Ferraday
  • Ernest Borgnine
    Ernest Borgnine - Boris Vaslov
  • Patrick McGoohan
    Patrick McGoohan - David Jones
  • Jim Brown
    Jim Brown - Capt. Leslie Anders
  • Tony Bill
    Tony Bill - Lt. Russell Walker

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