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Ice Station Zebra (1968)

aka Ice Station Zebra

Directed By: 
Details: 148 mins · English · G (USA)


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A satellite reenters the atmosphere and ejects a capsule which parachutes to the Arctic, coordinates 85N 21W (approx 320 miles WNW of Nord, Greenland, in the Arctic Ocean ice pack). During an ice storm, a figure soon approaches, guided by a homing beacon, while a second individual secretly watches from nearby.

The scene shifts to Commander James Ferraday (Rock Hudson), captain of the U.S. nuclear attack submarine USS Tigerfish (SSN-509), stationed at Holy Loch, Scotland. He is ordered by Admiral Garvey (Lloyd Nolan) to rescue the personnel of Drift Ice Station Zebra, a British civilian scientific weather station moving with the ice pack. However, the mission is actually a cover for a highly classified assignment.

Ferraday welcomes aboard British intelligence agent Mr. "Jones" (Patrick McGoohan) and a Marine platoon. While underway, a SH-2 Sea Sprite helicopter delivers combat commander Captain Anders (Jim Brown), who takes command of the Marines, and Boris Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine), an amiable Russian defector and spy, who is a trusted colleague of Jones.

The Tigerfish makes its way under the ice to Zebra’s last known position. Ferraday decides to use a torpedo to blast an opening in the thick ice. However, the crewmen suddenly find the torpedo tube is open at both ends, killing torpedo officer Lt. Mills as seawater floods in, plunging the sub toward its rated crush depth. Jones helps to close the tube but even so, Ferraday and his crew are barely able to save themselves. During the investigation of the torpedo tube, Ferraday quickly determines that this malfunction should be impossible but Jones describes how someone could intentionally rig the tube to malfunction. Both Jones and Ferraday conclude that there is a saboteur aboard. Ferraday suspects Vaslov, while Jones suspects Anders, who is the least known member of the rescue team to Jones, Ferraday and Vaslov, and universally disliked for his harsh methods. Jones demands Ferraday complete the mission regardless of the risk, and Ferraday refuses, unless he knows the purpose of the mission first. At that moment, an area of thin ice is located, and Ferraday surfaces the Tigerfish. (Intermission.)

Ferraday, Vaslov, Jones, and a rescue party set out for the weather station in zero visibility. They reach Zebra to find its buildings burned and the scientists nearly dead from exposure. Jones and Vaslov begin questioning the survivors. It becomes obvious that the two spies are looking for something.

Ferraday reveals to Jones that he knows more about the mission than he is supposed to, saying "We don't believe in going on a mission totally blindfolded". Jones reveals to Ferraday that an advanced experimental British camera was stolen by the Soviets, along with an enhanced film emulsion developed by the Americans. The Soviets sent it into orbit to photograph the locations of all the American missile silos. However, the camera malfunctioned and continued to record Soviet missile sites as well. A second malfunction forced re-entry in the Arctic, close to Ice Station Zebra. Soon after, undercover Soviet and British agents arrived to recover the film capsule, and the civilian scientists at Zebra were caught in the crossfire between them.

As the weather clears, Ferraday sets his crew to searching for the capsule. Jones eventually finds a hidden tracking device. He is blind-sided and knocked unconscious by Vaslov, who is a Soviet agent and presumably the saboteur they have been looking for. But before Vaslov can make off with his prize, he is confronted by Anders. As the two men fight, a dazed Jones shoots and kills Captain Anders due to Vaslov's manipulation of the scenario.

Tigerfish's radar picks up Soviet aircraft heading toward Zebra. Ferraday remains suspicious of Vaslov, but allows him to use the tracker to locate the capsule, buried in the ice. As Ferraday's crew extracts the capsule, Russian paratroopers land at the scene. Their commander, Colonel Ostrovsky (Alf Kjellin), demands the capsule. Believing that the Americans have already secured the canister, the Russian commander threatens to activate the self-destruct mechanism with his transmitter. Ferraday stalls while Vaslov defuses the booby-trapped capsule and takes out the film. Ferraday hands over the empty container, but the deception is revealed and a brief firefight breaks out. In the confusion, Vaslov makes a break with the film canister. Jones stops Vaslov, mortally wounds him, and retrieves the film.

Ferraday orders Jones to hand the film over to the Soviets. However, Ferraday had earlier found a device identical to Ostrovsky's. The Russians send the canister aloft by balloon for recovery by an approaching jet fighter. Lieutenant Walker makes a desperate attempt to get Ostrovsky's detonator, but fails and is wounded. Commander Ferraday then activates his detonator, destroying the film.

Ostrovsky concedes that "the incident is closed" and leaves, allowing the Tigerfish to complete the rescue of the civilians. A dissolving segue shows a teletype machine churning out a news story hailing the success of the "humanitarian" mission as an example of cooperation between the West and the Soviet Union.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2005-01-11