Rock Hudson as James “Jim” Ferraday, U.S. Navy Commander and nuclear submarine captain
The North Pole, Spring 1968
Film: Ice Station Zebra
Release Date: October 23, 1968
Director: John Sturges
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Despite its lukewarm critical reception at its release, Ice Station Zebra was not only among star Rock Hudson’s favorites of his own films, but it also includes among its fans director John Carpenter (who admits it’s somewhat of a guilty pleasure) and Howard Hughes. During the reclusive tycoon’s years hidden away in his penthouse at the Desert Inn hotel, Hughes would supposedly demand that the local Las Vegas TV station that he owned play the movie on loop, eventually owning a private print that he reportedly watched around 150 times on a continuous loop. “We all knew when Hughes was in town,” wrote Paul Anka in his autobiography My Way. “You’d get back to your room, turn on the TV at 2 a.m., and the movie Ice Station Zebra would be playing. At 5 a.m., it would start all over again. It was on almost every night. Hughes loved that movie.”
The object of Hughes’ obsession was based on a 1963 novel by Alistair MacLean, the Scottish author also behind classic military adventures like The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare that were also adapted into movies during the ’60s. Inspired by a few real-life Cold War incidents, the novel was adapted into a screenplay by MacLean as well as Douglas Heyes, Harry Julian Fink, and W.R. Burnett, with a few diversions from and additions to MacLean’s source novel, including the renaming of the leading character from Commander Swanson to Commander Ferraday.
Robert Mitchum as Harry Kilmer, tough former detective
Tokyo, Spring 1974
Film: The Yakuza
Release Date: December 28, 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The unique neo-noir Japanese gangster movie The Yakuza was conceptualized by brothers Paul and Leonard Schrader based on Leonard’s letters to Paul while living in Japan, particularly about the yakuza and the screen presence of Ken Takakura. While Takakura was almost always guaranteed to play a role, the crucial positions of the director and the lead actor—who would portray an aging former detective sent to Japan in service to an old friend—were still in transition.
Early in the pre-production stages, it looked like Robert Aldrich would direct with Lee Marvin in the lead role, until Marvin’s clash with Warner Brothers led to Robert Mitchum taking the role. Continue reading