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Ice Station Zebra Review

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A US submarine crew, including a British Civilian, a friendly Russian, and a platoon of marines, are given sudden orders to head to the Arctic circle and rescue the crew of the weather station Zebra. But danger and betrayal will await Commander Ferraday in the frozen wastes.

★★★★★

Yet another spin on one of Alistair MacLane’s military potboilers, here taking a decidedly literal fix on the perilous tipping points of the Cold War, with a muddle of a plot, second rate performances and tons of fake snow. MacClane’s stories tend to rest on preposterously complex set-ups, just take the ball of wool that unravels into Where Eagles Dare.

To draw pleasure from his indecipherable ruses, the action needs be spectacular and the actors able to knit some heroic charge out of old rope. Neither of which happens in this lumpen, cheesy plod through twisty-turny anti-commie dramatics. The Americans are racing the Russians to the remote, frozen outpost, but it feels about as cold as Somerset. Excuse us, but shouldn’t there be clouds of breath coming out of the actors’ mouths?

There’s certainly plenty of surface, with the icy desert of the North Pole, the gleaming steel hides of the submarine, to the impermeable plains of Rock Hudson’s handsome veneer. The film couldn’t be more inert, as it desperately tries to drum up some shivery Cold War brinkmanship.

The plot, or at least the surface of the plot, has the two superpowers duel over some secret satellite footage, but it increasingly doesn’t seem to be about having a storyline rather than an intense mood. There’s much in the way of wooden speechifying, especially by Patrick McGoohan, as a British spy, with the idea of giving it an intelligent thrust, but in the end, like most of MacClane’s one-dimensional fiction, it’s really just a hunt for the red Octoberists amongst the named cast.

Overlong, it'll most likely try the patience of audiences now accustomed to a bit more bang for their buck, but it's a great deal of fun for those with a penchant for old-style action.