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Although overshadowed in the minds of fans by THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, ISLAND IN THE SKY ($15) is actually the superior aviation flick made by John Wayne’s own production company. A taut and suspenseful tale of survival, ISLAND IN THE SKY tells of a transport plane that gets lost in a storm and goes down in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, in the dead of winter. Short on supplies and having little protection from the elements, Captain Dooley (John Wayne) does what he can to keep his men alive, while airborne search teams scour thousands of miles of barren territory in an effort to rescue their comrades before time runs out. Based on the novel by Ernest K. Gann, ISLAND IN THE SKY is a solid character driven piece that greatly benefits from the superior ensemble cast that includes Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, James Arness, Andy Devine, Allyn Joslyn, Jimmy Lydon, Harry Carey Jr., Hal Baylor, Sean McClory, Wally Cassell, Regis Toomey, Louis Jean Heydt, Bob Steele and Darryl Hickman.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made ISLAND IN THE SKY available on DVD in a fine looking black and white transfer that frames the film in the 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. The levels of sharpness and detail are both quite good, although the more controlled shots appear crisper than those that depict the expansive wilderness. Blacks are deep, whites are stable and the image produces fairly smooth contrast and a varied grayscale. The film elements used for the transfer display few blemishes and appear to have benefited from some digital clean up work. Noticeable film grain is present, but it effectively reminds one they are watching a movie and not a video. Digital compression artifacts never give one cause for concern.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is generally solid and offers little to complain about. Most instances of background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which prevents the track from having an annoying or fatiguing quality. Tiny bits of distortion crop up here and there, but they are not excessive or long-lived. Fidelity has the expected limitations, so the music can sound a bit thin, as do some of the sound effects. Dialogue is easy to understand, and the voices maintain a nice sense of character. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English subtitles are provided.

Full motion video and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a four minute Introduction By Leonard Maltin. Next up is a running audio commentary featuring Leonard Maltin, actors Darryl Hickman & James Lydon, the director’s son William Wellman, Jr. and aviation expert Vincent Longo. The Making Of Island In The Sky is a forty minute four part program composed of Dooley's Down, Flight School - The Art Of Aerial Photography, Ernest K. Gann: Adventurer, Author, Artist, and The John Wayne Stock Company: Harry Carey, Jr. Flying For Uncle Sam is an additional featurette that looks at the Air Transport Command, as depicted in the film. A Theatrical Trailer, Introduction To "Gunsmoke" TV promo, Batjac Montage, Island In The Sky Premiere Footage and Photo Gallery close out the supplements.

ISLAND IN THE SKY is another great John Wayne movie that has been out of circulation for far too long. Paramount has done a great job with their release of this classic film. Recommended.

One final thought, as a John Wayne fan, I cannot wait for Paramount’s pending releases of HONDO and MCCLINTOCK!- their arrival on DVD cannot get here fast enough.



Island In The Sky (Special Collector's Edition) (1953)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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