I wanted an escapist viewing experience for a change. Something I very rarely indulge in doing. I also had a certain nostalgia for the days when there was a more clear-cut global realpolitik. The West vs. the Soviet bloc in a technological race. The good guys were the USA and the bad guys wore the red star…and not the Texaco star. Unquestionably, I was in the mood for an epic length, flashy melodrama. *Ice Station Zebra* filled the bill exactly.
As a kid, I regarded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR, as a dark, mysterious place. I really wanted to visit Moscow and Leningrad, but I certainly didn’t want to live there. I thought that if I ever travelled to the USSR, I might get mugged or captured, my passport and other papers confiscated, then I’d be imprisoned in some Gulag in Upper Siberia. Heady stuff for anyone, especially a teen.
That was the mindset I placed myself into as I slipped the Norfolk public library’s copy of the DVD into the player. I tried to remember the first and only time I’d viewed *Ice Station Zebra*. I think it was in the early 1970s as it aired on NBC Wednesday Night At The Movies, or maybe Thursday. I do know the first part of the film aired one night with the second part airing a week later. Yes, an epic length movie complete with an intermission.
It also had an overture. A very good one, too. It would have played while viewers filed into a walk-in theatre. It was also background music for many of the underwater shots of the USS Tigerfish III nuclear submarine.
While I’m not a big fan of war flicks, I have enjoyed viewing movies that feature a submarine as the main prop for the story. In that regard, I really enjoyed *Das Boot*, too. But this American submarine was pure 1960s high tech. Even to the point of black and white closed circuit teevee monitors. This fact was pointed out during one of the scenes when the sub traverses underneath the north polar icecap.
The film is rather rewarding in that the viewer is held in suspense as to the exact nature of the mission and as to the identity of the saboteur. Is it the character played by Patrick McGoohan, or Ernest borgnine, or Jim Brown, or someone else?
The good-guy character is established right away in the picture. Commander Faraday, played by Rock Hudson is the level-headed, pragmatic, intuitive hero. The movie has a James Bond-007 quality to it, but better.
Better, because the plot, story and settings are not the stuff of make-believe like those of 007. *Ice Station Zebra* was released in the midst of the cold war when tensions often arose between the USA and the USSR.
The overall acting by the cast is three-dimensional and realistic, yet the emotional backdrop of the actors doesn’t interfere with the emotional tension of the storyline and action.
If you’re looking for an authentic cold-war era movie that will readily transport you back to the 1960s, *Ice Station Zebra* is perfect. Just set aside two and a half hours of your time. You can even break it in half with the intermission as a natural stop in play.
The film stars: Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown and Tony Bill. (I couldn’t get away from the sensation that Bornine is the skipper from *McHale’s Navy*.) The picture was directed by John Sturgis and produced by Martin Ransohoff.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says if you enjoyed this review, please click on some stars, below this post. Thank you.