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Review - Ice Station Zebra (DVD-2005)
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Ice Station Zebra (DVD-2005)

Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

New on DVD from Warner Home Video is Ice Station Zebra—the cold-war espionage submarine thriller from 1968 starring Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan (of TV’s The Prisoner series) and Jim Brown.

Based on Alistair MacLean’s best-selling novel, it tells the story of a secret mission to the North Pole to rescue the crew at Ice Station Zebra. The Cold War story unfolds with twists, turns and surprises, all amid spectacular underwater special effects footage.

Originally presented in Cinerama, Ice Station Zebra was one of the last films, along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, to be presented in single-lens Cinerama, the successor to the original three-camera, three-projector Cinerama system. The single lens process was essentially Super Panavision 70 mm film projected on a curved screen. In this film, the submarine sequences and ice station vistas benefit the most from the process.

Directed by John Sturges, a director known more for style than substance, (whose films include The Magnificent Seven, Marooned and The Great Escape), Ice Station Zebra, like some other films of the period, holds up better today than it did perhaps then. It is an entertaining thriller, even if it slows down once or twice, and it contains splendid special effects, though 2001, released the same year, would completely dominate all films in that category for another decade.

A vintage making-of featurette is included on the DVD detailing the work of cameraman John Stevens who developed special camera mounting for the arresting submarine sequences and who had previously created the camera rigs on those formula-one race cars for the spectacular racing sequences in the film Grand Prix.

A crisp film transfer and a stirring score by Michel Le Grand augment the water and ice sequences and you’ll want to turn up the furnace or wrap yourself in blankets during the polar scenes. As pure escapist entertainment, Ice Station Zebra is a satisfying release on DVD.

2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski/ Celluloid Dreams

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