Cinema: The New Pictures, Sep. 28, 1953

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Island in the Sky (Warner) opens with a crash landing in the frozen Canadian North and closes, naturally enough, with the rescue of the survivors. Based on a novel by Ernest Gann, the film gives Director William (Battleground) Wellman a fine documentary chance to explore the hazards of arctic flying and to train his camera on a bleak but beautiful terrain (the picture was made, not in Labrador, but in the Donner Lake region of northern California). What slows things down is the high-blown rhetoric of the script, the tediously familiar characterizations of the flyers, and the endless invisible choirs that form the musical background of every shot of storm-cleared sky.

As the pilot of the downed transport, John Wayne plays perfectly the lean and leathery hero that has made him a top box-office attraction for years. His crew is pictured as a pack of irresponsible children who would not last ten minutes in the wilderness without Wayne's paternal guidance: one of them does not follow Wayne's orders, and as a result freezes to death; Wayne has to slap another out of hysteria, cajole a third into courage. The high-strung pilots of the rescue planes include such familiar character actors as Andy Devine and Allyn Joslyn.

* Defined by Sholom Aleichem as a man who escapes only imaginary dangers.

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