Island in the Sky Studio: Paramount Year: 1953 Rated: NR Length: 109 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Audio: Dolby Digital English 2.0 Mono English Subtitles Closed Captioned Special Features: Commentary, Four Part Documentary, Featurette, Trailer, Newsreel Footage, Gallery Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 USD Release Date: August 2, 2005 “Dooley’s Down!” The call goes out when Dooley (John Wayne) and his crew aboard a transport plane goes down in the unexplored arctic. The problem is, Dooley’s crew never quite figure out where they are in the brief moments of radio contact they have. A search would require covering thousands of square miles of unexplored frontier, in the most harsh conditions imaginable. A desperate game of survival begins for Dooley and his crew, who have few rations and little in the way of shelter. Just as desperate is the search by Dooley’s friends, against overwhelming odds. They must fly their planes to the limit of their range in search of the downed crew. This ultimate story of survival teamed director William A. Wellman with John Wayne a year before their other famous aviation film, The High and the Mighty. As much as I liked that film, I like Island in the Sky better. It is more raw, and more real. It’s an incredible story of survival and the bonds of friendship. Along for the ride in this film are Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, James Arness, Andy Devine and Harry Carey, Jr. The film also features aerial photography that is quite incredible for its time. The Transfer Island in the Sky is presented in full screen format, close to its original aspect ratio. The black and white image comes from a clean print and features good contrast and detail. Print damage is at an absolute minimum, considering the age of the film. Black levels are solid, while maintaining detail. White values are bright without blowing out. The only thing I can knock the transfer for is an occasional touch of haloing around high contrast transitions. The sound is presented in 2 channel mono. Frequency response is good, especially considering the age of the recording. A slight hiss can be heard in quieter scenes. Special Features Commentary by Leonard Maltin, William Wellman, Jr., Darryl Hickman, James Lydon and Vincent Longo Much like the commentary for The High and the Mighty, Maltin sort of acts as moderator for the commentary, offering up historical perspective on the film and its players. Wellman’s son adds as personal a touch as possible on his father’s direction, and the other participants relate their experiences working on the film. A nice commentary. The Making of Island in the Sky is a four part documentary, lasting over 40 minutes. The first short segment, Dooley’s Down is an overview of the film. Ernest K. Gann - Adventurer, Author, Artist is a retrospective on the author. Flight School - The Art of Aerial Cinematography profiles William Clothier, the aerial photographer for Island in the Sky. The final segment, The John Wayne Stock Company: Harry Carey, Jr., is a nice profile of the actor. I’ve always had a particular interest in cinematography, and found the profile on Bill Clothier of particular interest. One thing that really bothered my about this four part “making of” is that there is an awful lot of dialog that bleeds through to all five channels on many of the interviews. I found it extraordinarily annoying, trying to listen to an interview and having it sound like I was sitting in a barrel. This defect isn’t on all of the interviews, but it certainly was annoying. Flying for Uncle Sam (8:45) The story behind the Air Transport Command, the civilian pilots who delivered planes, mail, freight and munitions for the war effort during World War II. Theatrical Trailer Newsreel Footage of Premiere Introduction to Gunsmoke TV Promo Batjac Montage Photo Gallery Final Thoughts Island in the Sky is a little seen and much under appreciated film. I’m happy to see that the Wayne family has finally let this gem out of the vault. A good transfer and some decent extras add up to a hearty recommendation for this excellent film. Recommended.