Ice Station Zebra (1968)

G | 152 mins | Drama | 24 October 1968

Director:

John Sturges

Writer:

Douglas Heyes

Cinematographer:

Daniel L. Fapp

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designers:

George W. Davis, Addison Hehr

Production Company:

Filmways, Inc.
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HISTORY

In spring 1964, producer Martin Ransohoff optioned film rights to Alistair MacLean’s 1963 novel, Ice Station Zebra, an item in the 10 Apr 1964 DV reported. No distribution deal was set at that time, although Ransohoff’s Filmways, Inc. was said to have existing deals with both Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Columbia Pictures. Filming was scheduled to begin in late spring 1965, with location shooting to be done in the Arctic Circle. On 12 Nov 1964, a DV news brief announced that Ring Lardner, Jr. would write the screenplay. Several months later, however, the 26 Mar 1965 DV stated that Paddy Chayefsky had recently completed the script, and confirmed that MGM would act as distributor.
       Gregory Peck was signed to star in the film, according to a 5 Apr 1965 DV brief. Following Peck’s casting, co-stars George Segal, Karl Malden, and David Niven were brought on, as noted in DV items published between 20 Apr 1965 and 2 Aug 1965. The 15 Jun 1965 DV named John Sturges as director, and reported that production would begin in Nov 1965. Filming was delayed until Jan 1967 due to David Niven and George Segal’s scheduling conflicts, according to the 28 Feb 1966 DV.
       The project was further postponed, and on 25 Jan 1967, LAT listed it as part of MGM’s upcoming fourteen-picture, $40-million slate. The 6 Feb 1967 LAT announced that Rock Hudson now had the starring role, and credited Harry Julian Fink, Jr. as the screenwriter. Hudson revealed in an interview in the 21 Sep 1967 LAT that ... More Less

In spring 1964, producer Martin Ransohoff optioned film rights to Alistair MacLean’s 1963 novel, Ice Station Zebra, an item in the 10 Apr 1964 DV reported. No distribution deal was set at that time, although Ransohoff’s Filmways, Inc. was said to have existing deals with both Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Columbia Pictures. Filming was scheduled to begin in late spring 1965, with location shooting to be done in the Arctic Circle. On 12 Nov 1964, a DV news brief announced that Ring Lardner, Jr. would write the screenplay. Several months later, however, the 26 Mar 1965 DV stated that Paddy Chayefsky had recently completed the script, and confirmed that MGM would act as distributor.
       Gregory Peck was signed to star in the film, according to a 5 Apr 1965 DV brief. Following Peck’s casting, co-stars George Segal, Karl Malden, and David Niven were brought on, as noted in DV items published between 20 Apr 1965 and 2 Aug 1965. The 15 Jun 1965 DV named John Sturges as director, and reported that production would begin in Nov 1965. Filming was delayed until Jan 1967 due to David Niven and George Segal’s scheduling conflicts, according to the 28 Feb 1966 DV.
       The project was further postponed, and on 25 Jan 1967, LAT listed it as part of MGM’s upcoming fourteen-picture, $40-million slate. The 6 Feb 1967 LAT announced that Rock Hudson now had the starring role, and credited Harry Julian Fink, Jr. as the screenwriter. Hudson revealed in an interview in the 21 Sep 1967 LAT that he had sought out the script on his own and lobbied Ransohoff for the role of “Comdr. James Ferraday.”
       According to a 21 Apr 1967 DV production chart, principal photography was scheduled to begin on 1 Jun 1967. However, the 6 Jun 1967 DV stated that the start of production was pushed to 20 Jun 1967, and noted that Hudson was currently preparing for the shoot on an atomic submarine based off the coast of Florida. The final screenplay was scheduled to be completed by mid-Jun 1967, at which time the filmmakers planned to send it to the U.S. Navy for approval.
       An article in the 17 Jul 1967 LAT stated that the production would cost between $7 and $8 million, an estimated $2 million of which was spent on sets. Shooting occurred on the MGM studio lot in Culver City, CA, on Stages 3, 5, 12, 14, and 30. The fictional “U.S.S. Tigerfish,” modeled after the U.S.S. Skate and the interior of the U.S.S. Thresher, was an estimated 300 feet long and five stories high, including the sail. Divided into three sections among three soundstages, and partly submersible, the submarine’s thirds were said to be “mounted over tanks for tipping, dunking, and surfacing.” Stage 14 held the section containing the torpedo room and an engine room, while Stage 30 contained the sixteen-foot sail surrounded by fake slabs of ice made of urethane foam. Officers’ quarters and the control room were shot on Stage 12, and a meteorological laboratory was erected on Stage 5. A 3,000 square-foot exterior set, modeled after pictures of the North Pole taken by crewmembers of the U.S.S. Skate, was built on Stage 3, against “an immense starry night and glacier backdrop.” Some submarine parts used in the U.S.S. Tigerfish were said to be obtained at marine salvage yards.
       The picture was filmed in the 70mm, Cinerama processes of Ultra Panavision and Super Panavision, according to items in the 2 Sep 1968 LAT and 23 Oct 1968 Var.
       Ted Bonnet was listed as the unit publicist in the 2 May 1967 DV. Laurence Harvey and Paul Lukather were named as a cast members in the 6 Jun 1967 and 30 Jun 1967 issues of DV, and although Shep Saunders was originally cast, the 11 Jul 1967 DV announced that he had to drop out due to a broken ankle from a motorcycle accident. According to the 23 Oct 1968 Var review, Lloyd Nolan’s character was added during post-production, necessitating re-shoots that were scheduled to take place in late Feb or early Mar 1968 at MGM, as reported in the 21 Feb 1968 DV.
       MGM arranged a reserved-seat, “roadshow” release of the picture, preceded by a mid-Jun 1968 sneak preview at Minneapolis, MN’s Cooper Theatre, less than a month after the U.S.S. Scorpion, a nuclear submarine, had gone missing, prompting rumors about a possible Soviet attack. The 18 Jun 1968 DV noted the “accidental and coincidental” similarities between the Ice Station Zebra plot and speculations about the U.S.S. Scorpion’s disappearance, which was said to have spooked some audience members at the preview.
       On 23 Oct 1968, the film had its world premiere at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, CA. The theater had been closed for three days in advance, so that the screen could be opened up to “full Cinerama dimensions,” as stated in the 22 Oct 1968 DV. The event was scheduled to be broadcast on the local KCOP-TV station, as noted in the 15 Oct 1968 DV, and was attended by celebrities and U.S. Navy personnel. The 23 Oct 1968 LAT reported that the Long Beach Navy Band and Long Beach Junior Council Band provided entertainment prior to the screening. The picture was advertised outside the Cinerama Dome by a display measuring twenty-by-twelve feet, which entailed a model submarine crashing through fake polar ice against a “cyclorama of Russian planes and paratroops,” according to a 30 Sep 1968 LAT item.
       Reserved-seat screenings began at the Cinerama Dome the day after the premiere, on 24 Oct 1968. While the New York City opening was initially scheduled to take place in early 1969, an item in the 30 Oct 1968 DV noted that the release date had been moved up to 20 Dec 1968 due to a shift in the distribution schedule of another MGM roadshow attraction, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, see entry).
       Following mixed reviews, the picture grossed a cumulative $4,640,598 in domestic film rentals, according to a 21 May 1992 DV chart of feature-length films shot and released in 70mm processes. Director of photography Daniel L. Fapp received an Academy Award nomination for Cinematography, while H. E. Millar, Sr. and J. McMillan Johnson were nominated for Special Visual Effects. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1965
p. 16.
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1965
p. 11.
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
12 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Aug 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
2 May 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
6 Jun 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Jun 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1967
p. 11.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1967
p. 12.
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1967
p. 4.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Oct 1968
p. 10.
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Oct 1968
p. 6.
Daily Variety
21 May 1992
p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jan 1967
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1967
Section D, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1967
Section C, p. 1, 19.
Los Angeles Times
6 Sep 1967
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 1967
p. 1, 15.
Los Angeles Times
28 Sep 1967
Section D, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jan 1968
Section D, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
31 May 1968
p. 1, 15.
Los Angeles Times
2 Sep 1968.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Sep 1968
Section F, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
30 Sep 1968
Section C, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
4 Oct 1968
Section H, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1968
Section C, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
23 Oct 1968
Section G, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1968
Section G, p. 1, 18.
New York Times
21 Dec 1968
p. 49.
Variety
23 Oct 1968
p. 6.
Variety
9 Jul 1969
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Martin Ransohoff Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl arctic photog
Addl arctic photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Opt eff
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Dial coach
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean (London, 1963).
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 October 1968
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 23 October 1968 at the Cinerama Dome
Los Angeles opening: 24 October 1968
New York opening: 20 December 1968 at Cinerama Theatre
Production Date:
began 20 June 1967
Copyright Claimant:
Filmways, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 July 1968
Copyright Number:
LP36295
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
gauge
35 & 70
Widescreen/ratio
Ultra Panavision; Super Panavision
Duration(in mins):
152
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
21655
SYNOPSIS

U. S. Navy Commander James Ferraday, stationed in Scotland, receives orders from Admiral Garvey to take his nuclear submarine to a British North Pole weather station called Ice Station Zebra. Ferraday's mission, which he does not yet know, is to recover a capsule from a grounded Russian space satellite containing reconnaissance photographs of all U. S. and Russian missile sites. Also aboard the sub are two British agents, David Jones and Boris Vaslov, the latter a communist defector, and two U. S. Marine officers, Lieutenant Russell Walker and Captain Leslie Anders. En route, the vessel is sabotaged and almost exceeds its implosion depth before the crew can repair the damage and regain normal depth. Ferraday's suspicions that Vaslov is responsible are rejected by Jones, who vouches for his associate's loyalty and, instead, accuses Anders of sabotage. Once the sub reaches Ice Station Zebra, a search party finds only fire-gutted buildings and the frozen corpses of the base personnel. As the search for the capsule begins, Ferraday learns from the sub's radar that Russian aircraft are approaching. Jones is knocked unconscious and recovers to find Anders and Vaslov fighting; assuming that Anders is the spy, Jones kills him. Later, as the capsule is recovered, Russian paratroops under the command of Colonel Ostrovsky land in the area. Vaslov now reveals his traitorous nature by attempting to hand the capsule over to the Russians, but Jones hurls Vaslov against an iceblock and strangles him. Though Ferraday is obliged to give up the capsule, he destroys it as the Russians are lifting it by recovery aircraft. With the photographs lost to both sides, Ferraday and Ostrovsky agree that the incident shall be publicized ... +


U. S. Navy Commander James Ferraday, stationed in Scotland, receives orders from Admiral Garvey to take his nuclear submarine to a British North Pole weather station called Ice Station Zebra. Ferraday's mission, which he does not yet know, is to recover a capsule from a grounded Russian space satellite containing reconnaissance photographs of all U. S. and Russian missile sites. Also aboard the sub are two British agents, David Jones and Boris Vaslov, the latter a communist defector, and two U. S. Marine officers, Lieutenant Russell Walker and Captain Leslie Anders. En route, the vessel is sabotaged and almost exceeds its implosion depth before the crew can repair the damage and regain normal depth. Ferraday's suspicions that Vaslov is responsible are rejected by Jones, who vouches for his associate's loyalty and, instead, accuses Anders of sabotage. Once the sub reaches Ice Station Zebra, a search party finds only fire-gutted buildings and the frozen corpses of the base personnel. As the search for the capsule begins, Ferraday learns from the sub's radar that Russian aircraft are approaching. Jones is knocked unconscious and recovers to find Anders and Vaslov fighting; assuming that Anders is the spy, Jones kills him. Later, as the capsule is recovered, Russian paratroops under the command of Colonel Ostrovsky land in the area. Vaslov now reveals his traitorous nature by attempting to hand the capsule over to the Russians, but Jones hurls Vaslov against an iceblock and strangles him. Though Ferraday is obliged to give up the capsule, he destroys it as the Russians are lifting it by recovery aircraft. With the photographs lost to both sides, Ferraday and Ostrovsky agree that the incident shall be publicized as an example of the friendly cooperation between two great nations. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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