Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968). Director: John Sturges.

Commander James Ferreday (Rock Hudson) is called in when there is an accident at a research station in the North Pole. He is to take a nuclear sub with a full crew on a rescue mission, only he is told by Admiral Garvey (Lloyd Nolan) that the men at the station aren't the real reason for the trip -- he is to take aboard an enigmatic gentleman named Jones (Patrick McGoohan) who knows what's really going on but won't say. It all winds up with a confrontation with Americans and Russians over a major prize hidden at the station. One has to wonder if Alistair MacLean, who wrote the novel upon which this was based, was a fan of the old TV show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, as this plays like an extended episode of that show with one of their typical plot lines. The film looks good and has some exciting scenes -- an escape from a rapidly closing fissure, for instance, as well as a bit when a sabotaged torpedo tube lets in ice-cold sea water -- but it runs much too long and doesn't sustain suspense or tension. Rock Hudson gives what can charitably be described as a low-energy performance, but other cast members, such as McGoohan and Ernest Borgnine [as a Russian!] are better. The movie resists all attempts at pathos even when heroic or sympathetic characters are killed. Alf Kjellin is vivid as Colonel Ostrovsky. [Although Kjellin had a lot of acting credits, he is perhaps better known as a frequent director of such shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.] Released in Cinerama and Super Panavision.

Verdict: Has possibilities but tries too hard to be a "big" movie when it isn't. **1/2.

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