Wednesday 21 November 2018

Ice Station Zebra 1968

Nominated for an Academy award for special effects in 1968.

The nuclear submarine miniature is modeled on a "Skate" class submarine, whereas surface shots used a Guppy 1A and IIA diesel electric submarines.
The submarine miniature shots are very effective with the ice sheet quite convincing. The model Russian Mig aircraft shots towards the end of the movie are less successful because the aircraft are too rigidly mounted with respect to each other and the camera.
What is interesting is that the backgrounds which look front projected are also reflected on the shiny silver finish of the miniature aircraft on all sides which suggests some special surrounding projection rig was employed. The detail on the aircraft miniatures is very good and some of the shots get close enough to see the miniature pilot.

There was apparently sufficient work to credit three visual effects supervisors, J. McMillan Johnson, Carroll L. Shepphird and Clarence Slifer.



  1. The minatures footage from this film was re-used in the 1982 film Firefox combined with a full scale reconstruction of a conning tower (Which does not match the one in the stock footage.) which is used for the scene where the aircraft is refueled on an iceflow.

  2. Are there any BTS photos of the special effects work available?

    1. I have not come across any in my searches.

  3. Out of topic but I've this to comment.
    When the movie came to town for screening, the cinema folks displayed a scale diorama of the .model sub re-enacting the scene of the sub emerging through the ice. Through the resin cut-away section of the sub, we could see the water below the ice and the ice above the surface with miniature Russian soldiers and the American was such a realistic sight to behold. I wished so much that I was able to keep it after the movie had run its screening. Child's wishful thinking. I often wondered whatever happened to that display


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