Wednesday, March 11, 2009

MOVIES: #21 Ice Station Zebra

One of my favourite books of all time is the Frank Herbert book, Dragon of the Sea aka Under Pressure. I actually have a first edition of the book. It was written before I was born but has resonance in today's geo-political situation. It deals with a future time where oil is tough to find and both the west (the good guys) and the east (the bad guys) have taken to using subs to steal oil from each other. More the west from the east. A sub is sent out on another secretive oil run, after a series of disasters on preceding attempts. One of the four men in the sub is a spook, a spy from the Psych department. One of the other three is a traitor, a plant from the other side. The tension is seeing if the sub can retrieve the oil and whether the traitor can be exposed before he blows up the sub. It's gripping. I read this book in 1968, the same year Ice Station Zebra hit the big screen.

Ice Station Zebra only mimics that book in so far as the east-west tension goes. It's actually based on another book, one written by Alistair MacLean. It's about a race between the Americans and the Russians to get access to a downed satellite that's come down in the arctic. Both sides want it and are willing to stroll perilously close to World War III to get it. And one of the four key Americans in their team on a mission is a traitor. (I KNEW there was another parallel!!).

This movie is strictly a testosterone fest. Not a babe in sight. Rock Hudson was the big star, but was ably abetted by Patrick McGoohan, Ernie Borgnine and Jim Brown. Hudson knew one of the three was bad and had to figure out who, while maintaining his on-going race with the Russians, led by an also superb Alf Kjellin.

The special effects in this movie would be laughed at today. So much of the ground skirmish in the arctic was so obviously shot on a set, that a kid with a Mac and some time on his hands could probably do better, now. But back then, on the big screen, this worked for me. Lots of snow. And lots of submarine stuff leading to the showdown at the Pole. Yet another parallel with the Herbert book.

With relations between the U.S. and Russia getting frosty again, there's lots of reason to check out this movie.

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