Island in the Sky (DVD, 2005, The John Wayne Collection) Reviews
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Island in the Sky (DVD, 2005, The John Wayne Collection)

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Island in the Sky: Nicely Done Airplane Rescue Mission

Jul 15, 2012
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:John Wayne, Story, Supporting Cast, Airplane footage

Cons:Narration a bit overdone

The Bottom Line: A well done airplane lost in the frozen wilderness story with time running out cliffhanger. Will the rescuers find them in time?

Island in the Sky (1953)

This is an older Batjac production that was held off the market for decades and is now available on Paramount DVD.

John Wayne did not always play cowboys as you will see if you explore his works like this one.  Wayne played a civilian airline pilot working for the Army Transport Service transporting C-47 airplanes wherever they were needed. Wayne is piloting one bird with a full crew and his plane is lost up in the icy cold arctic circle on Labrador somewhere, nobody knows just where as the instruments have acted up and the radios are not working so well either, particularly since the batteries are running low and there is no way to charge them.  Wayne is still in charge and all have survived but in the 70 below temperatures with little food and water or other supplies and a limited amount of radio power left everybody knows it will be a miracle if they come back alive.

The crew of Wayne’s bird, nicknamed Corsair, are co-pilot, navigator, radioman, and engineer played by four unknowns or lesser known actors like Andy Devine who was the most famous of the four.  The rest of the picture has plenty of familiar faces in the bit parts, including Fess Parker, Harry Carey, Jr., Bob Steele, Darryl Hickman, Paul Fix, Mike Connors, and "Alfalfa" Switzer of the Our Gang comedies.

There are several other transport pilots who stage a rescue mission flying all over the supposed area where the C-47 was lost.  Walter Abel commands the rescue mission with participating pilots Andy Devine, Lloyd Nolan, and Allyn Joslyn among others. These pilots fly separate routes with coordination by Walter Abel in the command shack 

The story reminded me of the Bermuda Triangle a bit because all the radios and compasses began acting up before the plane got lost and had to land because it was out of fuel.  I was reminded how lonely one can be on an airplane journey across rough territory and these guys actually had to figure out how to survive once the plane went down where I have only had to imagine what I’d do.

Based on the novel by Ernest K Gann of his own experiences as a transport pilot the movie was directed by William Wellman and shot by William Clothier who collected some great footage of the airplanes in flight.  Any airplane pilot or fan of aerial pictures would be a good candidate to watch Island in the Sky.

The Island in the Sky DVD is from Paramount and contains a restored black and white 109 minute version of the movie with a bunch of extra features including a commentary from Leonard Maltin and several of the surviving cast members, a making of featurette, and several other features you can watch.  English subtitles are also included.

Recommend this product? Yes

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Along with THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY John Wayne's thrilling survival epic ISLAND IN THE SKY is a Duke classic long held out of print by a legal dispute ...
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