Ice Station Zebra (1968)
Based on one of Alistair MacLean's many post-war political spy-thrillers, Ice Station Zebra seemingly has all the ingredients necessary for a tight, suspenseful and relevant thriller. The plot is clever and aptly layered, the submarine and arctic setting provide a perfect backdrop for a cold war stalemate, and the three leads make up an interesting and balanced trio. And it starts off well, albeit slowly, with the film retaining a good deal of tension while we get to know the crew and conditions on the USS Tigerfish. However, as we move out of the water, things start to falter. Firstly, the badly constructed "arctic" studio, complete with unimpressive theatrical snow and ice bergs, does little to enhance the illusion, and appears in stern contrast to the fine underwater miniature effects. And secondly, John Sturges' direction becomes muddy, he loses command over the plot, which is presented in a scattered manner and not without vapid simplifications. In retrospect, these negatives make the film look more dated and less relevant then it should have, much unlike another MacLean adaptation of the same year, Where Eagles Dare.