Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Like THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, another John Wayne aviation drama made the following year, ISLAND IN THE SKY languished in the vaults at Batjac for many years despite much pleading from fans for its release on DVD. It finally appeared a couple of years ago backed up by some nice extras and an introduction by Leonard Maltin. Considering that the plot concerns civilian airman working for the USAF during WW2 who crash land in the frozen north of Canada and have to fight for survival against the elements while their comrades fly search missions to rescue them, I, perhaps chose the wrong time to watch it as a blizzard raged outside and snow piled up at the door. It's a gripping film which, like THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, was based on a novel by writer/aviator Ernest Gann. Wayne is excellent as the experienced pilot trying to keep his panicky younger crew focused on survival and the film is packed with casting goodies for the film fan. This is almost certainly the only film where rotund Andy Divine appears in a pair of swimming shorts and makes a very creditable dive into a pool - surely worth the price of the DVD for that alone. There are also excellent performances from Lloyd Nolan, a very young James Arness, Harry Carey Jr, Walter Abel, Carl Switzer, Paul Fix, Bob Steele, Dwayne Hickman, Sean McClory, Mike Connors and an uncredired Fess Parker. Tensely directed with some excellent flying scenes by William Wellman. Rating ****

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

I've spent most of my life avoiding John Wayne movies because I was convinced he sucked. Also my mother's extreme hatred for the man had some influence, I'm sure. But in the last less-than-a-decade, my views have turned around and I've actually become quite a fan after seeing things like STAGECOACH, THE SEARCHERS, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, DONOVAN'S REEF (I love that one), THW QUIET MAN, FORT APACHE.... However, that means that I still haven't seen A LOT of The Duke's movies. And this is one of dose. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY as well. AIn't it nice when you still have a lot of unseen films to look forward to. That's what being a film fanatic is all about!