Starring the legendary John Wayne, better known as "The Duke," "Island in the Sky," comes to DVD for the first time and is loaded with special features. This rare classic has been meticulously restored and remastered. A r... more »iveting tale of bravery, hope and survival of the human spirit, "Island in the Sky" finds former army pilot Dooley (Wayne) and his men stranded in uncharted sub-arctic terrain when he is forced to crash-land his plane.« less
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 11/26/2015...
Watching this rare jewel of a film makes for an absolutely wonderful movie night! The great acting along with the mystical and beautiful scenery make you forget this is a black and white movie! Plenty of extras tell about making this movie as well.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
It's about time for this one as well (& High and the Mighty)
TangoMike | Chicago, IL | 05/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A little corny (this was 1953), but Andy Devine changing the settings on his radios and using his authentic DC-2/3 cigarette holder, are worth the price of admission on this movie. The High and the Mighty, which is also being released Aug 2, was made a year later, by the same writer and director, and quite a few of the actors. The rest of the actors included pretty much every male actor working in Hollywood at that time. Even Fess Parker hung up his coonskin cap to be in the movie, and yes, that is Alfalfa. The story is basically about Wayne and his crew being lost after a forced landing in cold reaches of Labrador somewhere, and all their buddies band together in their aircraft to search for them. Ernest Gann fans should note that this movie and The High and the Mighty, were the only novels of his he helped make into movies. A later excellent autobiographical book of his, "Fate is the Hunter", was also made into a movie, but was Hollywoodized. Gann, it is said, did not like the result. Read the book."
One to Watch for Aviation Fans
Lonnie E. Holder | Columbus, Indiana, United States | 07/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A viewer can watch this movie in several ways. As cinematic entertainment it is somewhat weak as the movie sometimes has a semi-documentary feel. There are moments of philosophizing that slow the pace of the movie down, but sometimes people react to desperate situations by philosophizing, which may be that person's way of helping themselves. However, there are wonderful scenes of DC-3s flying in formation and at various altitudes, including what appears to be very low level flying. Also, the methodology used by John Wayne's men to survive after they crash remains as solid today as when this movie was made in 1953.
Captain Dooley (John Wayne) is flying over Canada when his DC-3 transport develops problems. He lands during the winter in an open area surrounded by trees. Unfortunately for Dooley much of Canada is white with open areas surrounded by trees, and the technology that we take for granted today is decades into the future. Thus, Dooley can only give minimal information about what he sees and where he thought he was.
The movie spends time switching between Dooley and his men and the men searching for Dooley in the air, led by Stutz (Lloyd Nolan) and a cadre of actors. This movie includes a host of famous actors including James Arness (McMullen -just a couple of years away from his first appearance in "Gunsmoke"), Andy Devine (Moon), Hunt (Harry Carey, Jr. - who just had a role in the 2005 movie "Comanche Stallion"), Gainer (Mike Connors, billed as Touch Connors, who would star in "Mannix" in another decade), Miller (Paul Fix, a veteran of nearly 250 movie and tv appearances), Fess Parker as a co-pilot (who would soon make Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone famous all over again), and others too numerous to mention. This movie is worth watching for fans of classic movie stars.
Dooley allows his men little time to ponder their situation. He rapidly marshals the men to make a shelter and focus on the business of surviving. He also followed the number one rule of survival, staying at the crash site. Very likely the survivors were rescued because they remained with their downed plane. The men also were careful how they used their remaining power to try and help their rescuers locate them.
There are numerous excellent scenes of the rescuers trying to decide when and how to go find their downed friends, and even better scenes of them flying through clouds into uncertain terrain, with navigation equipment and knowledge of the area that we would consider primitive today. For fans of the DC-3/C-47 this movie is a treasure trove. There are numerous interior and exterior shots of the plane, and the reality of operating the plane in sub-arctic weather is well-documented as the men face iced windows and wings and the frigid temperatures of the interior of the plane.
The search for the men on the ground is the highlight of the movie, and though the narration by director William A. Wellman, whose landmark movie "Wings" is famous for winning the first Academy Award, is sometimes intrusive, Wellman directed the film well.
Critics often lampoon John Wayne for his macho characters, but in this movie he does an excellent job as a real person in a bad situation, reacting in a way more like an average person might react. I find the character of Dooley well-acted and believable. However, look for another Wayne aerial movie, "The High and the Mighty," which is even better and received a number of Academy Award nominations.
This movie was restored prior to its release, and the black and white images are outstanding. While I am reluctant to recommend this film for entertainment value, fans of aviation movies, airplanes, the DC-3/C-47, John Wayne, character actors in general, and survival movies will find this movie at least interesting and hopefully enjoyable, as I did. "
"Maybe I'm drinking the wrong kind of liquor but them mounta
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 08/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Of all the things the DVD format has brought with it, possibly the element I appreciate most is the release of relatively rarely seen films such as this one titled Island in the Sky (1953). According to the AMC channel, which played the film prior to the DVD release, it was the first time in 30 years it's been shown anywhere...respected film critic (pbffft) Leonard Maltin states in the introduction that the film has `languished in the vaults'...you really have to admire Leonard Maltin's ability to turn a dramatic phrase...I guess that's why he appears in DVD special featurettes, provides commentary tracks, and gets paid the big DVD bucks (how much do you think he got for his work here?)...I suppose it could have been worse...they could have gone with Gene Shalit...written by Ernest K. Gann (The High and the Mighty), the film features the direction of William A. Wellman (The Public Enemy, The Ox-Bow Incident, The High and the Mighty) and stars The Duke himself, John Wayne (he also listed as a co-producer). Appearing with Wayne is Lloyd Nolan (Airport), Walter Abel (Silent Night, Bloody Night), James Arness (The Thing From Another World), and Andy Devine (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). Also appearing is Allyn Joslyn (The Fastest Gun Alive), Jimmy Lydon ("Rocky Jones, Space Ranger"), Harry Carey Jr. (The Exorcist III), Hal Baylor (Evel Knievel), Sean McClory (The Gnome-Mobile), Wally Cassell (Thunderbirds), Regis Toomey (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), and a whole bunch of other people most likely dead by now...including Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer of `The Little Rascals' fame, who died at the ripe old age of about 31 after sustaining a fatal gunshot wound in an argument over fifty bucks...but that is neither here nor there...
The story begins as we see a crew in a plane, the captain being a man named Dooley (Wayne), trying to navigate some especially difficult weather. The aircraft and crew are a part of the Air Transport Command (ATC), a division of the U.S. military whose responsibility it is to deliver materials and men by air to where they're needed most...anyway, the aircraft, flying somewhere near the artic circle, is off course, and running low on fuel. To make matters worse, the wings are icing up and they're losing altitude quickly. The only thing left to do is attempt a landing, which they do, but guess what? They're in uncharted territory, or, as one man states, `A place not even the Eskimos would go'. Supplies are limited, and temperatures, at best, reach a high of about 40 below zero, but word has gotten back to command that `Dooley's down!', which mobilizes the group of highly dedicated pilots and their crews to quickly organize a search mission, knowing that Dooley and his men have precious little time. The task seems insurmountable (the search area is something like 10 thousand square miles), but with some prayers and a little luck, they'll be able to locate Dooley and crew before they turn into human Popsicles (I bet The Duke would make for an especially salty tasting frozen treat).
All right, one thing to keep in mind is this movie was before the days satellite navigation and global positioning systems so if your plane went down, the radio was the best means to get found...that is until the battery goes dead...I really enjoyed this film, and I think it's probably something most any true John Wayne fan would get a kick out of it, specifically because it gives the rare opportunity to see him in a rather uncharacteristic role of not an action hero, but a fairly regular man stuck in an extreme situation, one which he seemed to handle really well. If you're just a fan of his western roles and have no interest in seeing him have to deal with issues that can't be solve with a rifle or six-shooter, then best skip this film, as you'll probably be bored and/or disappointed. I've seen where some have said this movie was corny, dated, and overly sentimental, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that...so it lacked the cynical and pessimistic attitudes so often seen in films nowadays...is it so hard to believe a group of airmen would go to the lengths they did to find one of their own? That's part of it...how many of us have ever belonged to a tightly knit group, one where the welfare of one is tied to the welfare of all? I don't know that I have, other than beside my own family...I'm sure this is something those who risk their lives on a regular basis for people they've never even met (firemen, policemen, servicemen) understand better than anyone, including myself. But I digress...what did I like about the movie? Well, after reading the description, I was expecting something like the film The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), but Island in the Sky was a lot different. The story not only focused on the stranded men, but also on those set out to find them. We get to witness a large and concerted effort put forth, and the sometimes difficult decisions that have to be made during an operation like this...I thought the voice over narrative was an interesting way to communicate Wayne's characters dilemmas in terms of keeping not only his stuff together, but also that of his crew, given the difficulties they faced, especially that of the incessant cold. Have you ever really been cold? Like so cold no matter what you did you could never get warm? The fierce, miserable cold does a lot of things, but one of the most dangerous is its ability to sap ones strength, along with their will to survive, something that came through clearly in this story. One last thing to those who've seen the film...am I the only one who cheered when Dooley smacked the increasingly unstable navigator Murray? Oooh, I wanted to beat on that guy but good with all his annoying babbling on...
The Amazon website displays very well the extent of the copious extras available on this Paramount/Batjac release, so I won't rehash them, but I did really enjoy the featurette titled `Flying for Uncle Sam', which provided a brief history of the ATC and the importance of their contributions to modern, commercial aviation. The picture quality on this DVD is sharp, and the audio comes through very clean. As to why this film has gone unseen so many years, it's because it was more or less an independent film, owned by Batjac, which grew out of John Wayne's production company Wayne-Fellows, and was run by Michael Wayne until his death in 2003...and his wife Gretchen (The Duke's daughter-in-law) assumed control, made a deal with Paramount Home Entertainment, and Viola! Here we are...some other Paramount/Batjac releases to look for... The High and the Mighty (1954), Hondo (1953), McLintock! (1963), Man in the Vault (1956), Plunder of the Sun (1953), Ring of Fear (1954), Seven Men from Now (1956), and Track of the Cat (1954).
By the way, I noticed one person had an issue with the planes at the end not landing...now I'm no pilot, but I think this was due to the fact they weren't equipped with skis on the landing gear, to allow for landing, and taking off again, in the snow, something that would have been impossible with the standard landing gear (taking off again, that is...) "
Island in the Sky
Harvey Schein | 07/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been waitng decades for this film to come out on video. As a child I read all of Ernest Gann's books (High and the Mighty, Fate is the Hunter) and saw these movies on UHF TV, as cable didn't exist). If you want to see a great cast and some down home poignant story telling...this is the movie."
So many wonderful things in this film - ENJOY
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 04/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is quite a good movie that is very much worth seeing because it could not and would not be made today. When this film was made fifty-three years ago, in 1953, heavier than air flight had only been around for fifty years. There was no GPS, no cell phones, none of the incredibly great survival gear we have today, and no beacons. Just some talented and brave guys in some pretty incredible, but rather primitive airplanes.
John Wayne is the pilot Captain Dooley. He is part of air transport wing of the military that moves planes and goods and the shortest route goes through the northern routes (great circles and all). Their plane ices up and has enough problems that they have to find a place to put their DC 3 down and find a frozen lake. They have meager supplies and very little in the way of safety or survival gear - which seems preposterous nowadays, but was very real back then. Their problem is that first they have to go missing and then they have to be found and the bitter weather has them trying to survive in a frozen wilderness at 40 below zero.
Their friends in the other crews have many problems in trying to find them, the bitter and rapidly changing weather only being one of them. How do you see them? They have limited battery life without the engines running, so can they hear them and get them located in time? The backup "coffee grinder" is hard for men without food to keep cranking. The flight crews also have problems with navigation so close to the north pole. The compass system used back them tended to wander as they flew and getting readings from the sun and stars was not trivial with the constantly shifting cloud cover. So, there is plenty of material for dramatic tension in this film.
The film problem, and one that would make it hard to get filmed today is that flyers tend not to move much, nor do men freezing on the ground. There isn't much room in the planes nor in the shelter of men huddling together struggling to stay alive. There are some scenes out in the storms and snow and the flight crews aren't always in the planes. And the personalities of the men making up the flight crews are draw with enough variety and vividness to provide for interesting contrast. Andy Devine's portrayal of Willie Moon is everyone's favorite and justly so - watch the movie to find out why. There are many others including James Arness as the gargantuan and very physical Mac McMullen. Lloyd Nolan also does a wonderful job as Capt. Stutz. And if you look in the seat next to Stutz you can see the grown up Alfalfa (Carl Switzer - who died senselessly and far too young).
This is a very good movie and the black and white actually adds to the power of the story. All the scenes of these planes in the air would have meant much more to audiences in 1953 - almost none of them having ever been in a plane - than they do to us. Although, those of us who enjoy vintage planes love seeing these wonderful machines.
Enjoy this film because there is a lot to enjoy and you will never see a film like this made today - so enjoy it for the unusual things it has to offer the viewer."