Ice Station Zebra on DVD
It was only the biggest and best theaters of the day that could
show Cinerama films in their native format, and it was generally only the
biggest and most awe inspiring films (such as 2001: a
space odyssey) that could fill such screens.
Which kind of makes us wonder why Ice Station Zebra fit that bill.
Oh, sure, its a neat telling of an Alistair MacLean story, with an all
star cast and a larger than life story, but despite its many good points it
seems just a tad small for Cinerama.
It works great in the home theater, though, despite the fact that
the high resolution of the DVD format lets you see clearly that its arctic
locations are obviously done on soundstages.
Ice Station Zebra is a cold war adventure telling the tale of a US
Submarine crew sent to rescue a crew of civilians trapped at the title
location. Rock Hudson is the sub commander, and hes joined by Patrick
McGoohan as a rather obnoxious British spy, Ernest Borgnine as a defected
Russian now working for the US, and Jim Brown as a tough as nails US Marine
officer sent to command a gaggle of Marines sent to support the mission.
It all makes for a very crowded submarine. Its a pretty
nifty submarine story, too, where we get an interesting glimpse at the apparent
workings of a US Navy nuclear sub. They also managed to build the interior sets
on tiltable bases so that when the sub dives, the actors are clearly performing
on angled decks rather than the director merely tilting the camera for effect
and the actors pretending to walk on an angle.
The first half of the movie recounts the subs journey to
the arctic and under the ice, and during that time theres a sabotage
attempt that threatens to destroy the sub and all in it a suicide
mission before the days of zealots strapping explosives to themselves.
Ah, but who was the perpetrator?
As it turns out, the bad guy is the most logical suspect, but
there are enough red herrings in the script to keep you wondering.
The second half is set mostly on the ice and in Ice Station Zebra
itself and if youre tired of things naval theres a nice collection
of model Soviet aircraft to keep you happy and an on-ice confrontation between
the two superpowers of the day that ends in a status quo situation that we
found a tad unsatisfying.
Still, its a good yarn overall and though its slow in
places theres enough action and intrigue to keep fans of the cold war
The special effects are pretty good, though its easy to tell
whats an effect and whats real (including, as mentioned, the
locations). And Michel Legrands score is glorious and has been remastered
into multichannel audio that sounds better than it has any right to considering
the movies age.
The DVD itself is very good. Presented in anamorphic widescreen,
16x9 TV compatible, its 2.20:1 aspect ratio nearly fills the 16x9 TV with a
beautifully crisp and sharp image that has excellent color as well.
Audio has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, though
theres little evidence of surround. Still, the front three channels sound
great for a 1968 movie, especially the music. Some of the dialogue comes across a
bit hollow, but for the most part its fine.
For extras, you get a selection of trailers as well as a
promotional documentary featurette "The Man Who Makes the Difference."
Ice Station Zebra, from Warner Home Entertainment
anamorphic widescreen (2.20:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, Jim
Written by , directed by John Sturges
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