Ice Station Zebra (1968): John Sturges Oscar-Nominated Adventure, Starring Rock Hudson

Based on Alistair MacLean’s popular novel, Ice Station Zebra is an uncharacteristically weak and diffuse picture from the otherwise gifted director, John Sturges.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

A secret Soviet spy satellite, using stolen Western technology, malfunctions and then lands in an isolated Arctic research encampment called Ice Station Zebra, which belongs to the British. After sending some signals, it shuts down.

The atomic submarine Tigerfish, commanded by James Ferraday (Hudson), is dispatched. He’s ordered to get to Ice Station Zebra, which carries three passengers, a Englishman named 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 prefers to withhold information from Ferraday, even at the risk of the Tigerfish’s safety. For his part, Anders is suspicious of Vaslov, and Vaslov is too inquisitive. But Ferraday is determined to get these men to the polar ice, which includes 600 miles of dangerous travel, in two days. When an attempt to break through the ice kills one man and nearly destroys the boat, the men begin to understand the high stakes involved.

We learn that the Soviets, just like the West, want what was aboard the satellite; both sides are aggressively frantic to get it, or at least, keep the other side from getting it.

When Ferraday and his men arrive at Zebra, they find out that most of the men are dead. Jones and his fellows suddenly show their killing instincts. Soon, their planes and their paratroops are closing in on Ferraday and his men.

Oscar Nominations: 2
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Special Visual Effects: Hall Millar and J. McMillan Johnson

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:
The winner of the Cinematography Oscar was Pasqualino de Santis for “Romeo and Juliet.”

The Special effects Award was won by Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”


Running time: 128 Minutes.
Directed by John Sturges
Written by Douglas Heyes
Released: October 23, 1968.