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Island in the Sky (1953)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Drama  |  5 September 1953 (USA)
7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 2,211 users  
Reviews: 66 user | 21 critic

A C-47 transport plane, named the Corsair, makes a forced landing in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane's pilot, Captain Dooley, must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue.

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(screenplay), (novel)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Captain Stutz
...
Col. Fuller
...
Mac McMullen
...
Willie Moon
Allyn Joslyn ...
J.H. Handy
Jimmy Lydon ...
Murray (as James Lydon)
...
Ralph Hunt
Hal Baylor ...
Stankowski
Sean McClory ...
Frank Lovatt
Wally Cassell ...
D'Annunzia
...
Walrus
Frank Fenton ...
Capt. Turner
Robert Keys ...
Maj. Ditson
Sumner Getchell ...
Lt. Cord
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Storyline

A C-47 transport plane, named the Corsair, makes a forced landing in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane's pilot, Captain Dooley, must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 September 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

William A. Wellman's Island in the Sky  »

Box Office

Budget:

$967,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(WarnerPhonic/RCA Sound System)| (WarnerPhonic/RCA)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The little yellow radio shown in the movie was a actual radio. Its design is based on a WWII German emergency transmitter. It is a BC-778/SCR-578/AN-CRT3 emergency transmitter (it could not receive) affectionately called 'Gibson Girl', a name taken from the narrow-waisted female drawings of 1890s fashion artist Charles Gibson. Its shape allowed the operator to hold it between the legs while cranking it the necessary 80 RPM to produce enough electricity to operate. It could be set to automatically send an SOS signal or switched to send Morse Code signals. Early models transmitted only on 500kHz, later models also could transmit on 8280kHz (later modified to 8364kHz). It was notorious for being tough to crank. See more »

Goofs

The stranded crew had arranged branches in the snow into the shape of a cross so the planes could spot it. Then they rearrange the branches to spell out a message when they fly over. The planes fly over one more time, and the branches are back in the shape of a cross. See more »

Quotes

Capt. Dooley: Tell them we're in a jam. Loosen up and lose some altitude. We're turning North West until we run out of gas.
Pilot: But if we go North West Captain, we'll fly right off the map. It says "unchartered" up that way.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Our Gang Story (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Blue Waters
(uncredited)
Written by Emil Newman and Irving Newman
See more »

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User Reviews

The Benign Indifference of the Universe
20 May 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Island in the Sky" has long vanished from television station inventories: I last saw this movie in, best guess, 1960. But I've never forgotten it, & two years ago I tracked down the knuckle-biter Ernest K. Gann novel on which the film is strongly based.

When a transport plane goes down in the white-blindness of sub-arctic Labrador its crew is in dire straits: howling winds, icy weather, almost no food, and no shelter or heat source. Fellow pilots & aircrews organize an air search, but the Labrador landscape they search is vast, monotonous & unforgiving of downed airmen: the searching crews know they're in a race against time, that the odds against their downed mates' survival decrease with every tick of the clock. The film sublimely depicts the searchers long hours of tedium in their inadequately heated Douglas C-47 flight decks, all the while with their hope for sighting their downed comrades dimming. They battle the ice-fog, the weather fronts, the monotonous vastness of the landscape, the limits of their aircraft and radios and compasses, and the human limits of their flying and navigational skills and their powerful fatigue. Yet nobody will give up the search: each of the rescue crews knows that they themselves might, at nature's or a fouled sparkplug's whim, have been the men crash-landed in the frigid wasteland beneath their wings.

We also see the plight of the downed aircrew scrabbling in their plane's wreck for morsels of food, shelter, clothing, and with their frozen fingers struggling to whirl the crank of a "Gibson Girl" emergency radio transmitter of dubious value. We feel their growing, chilling despair: after all, they're veteran airmen who know the odds against a search crew sighting their snow-covered wreck in this sub-arctic expanse where, from the air, every lake, hummock, snowfield, depression, hill and endless sweep of terrain looks alike. They know their would-be rescuers are flying over uncharted space, without a single reliable reference point; and they know that magnetic compasses (long before GPS satellite navigation came on the scene)in the Labrador region are subject to grievously false readings - they know the searchers could well be flying the same search routes over and over again without even realizing it: and the search crews know it too. And because there are no distinguishable landmarks, and because compasses are untrustworthy, the shivering men know that even if they are sighted it's likely that a rescue plane at the limit of its fuel could well be unable to relay accurate headings or recognizable landmarks to the crew of a follow-up aircraft.

The script neatly follows Gann's novel & its spirit: man and his pitifully inadequate, yet much-ballyhooed technology pitted against nature, against what has been called "the benign indifference of the universe". Gann was a veteran transport pilot whose novels, and this one is no exception, convey the grim obstacles airmen faced in aviation's primitive days. Gann's characters aren't heroes: they're just guys who happen to operate equipment which, like the men themselves, has finite limitations in the face of remorseless nature. Like the novel's, the film's dialogue is terse, the casting superb: you can imagine each actor being the man Gann wrote about in his novel. "Island in the Sky" is a no-frills film: no special effects worth mentioning, and none are necessary. You get to be on the frozen earth in the middle of nowhere, and on the flight deck with the weary, half-snowblind, anxious search crews. You feel the fear, the anxiety, the pressure, the cold, the crews' frustration with the limits of their technology and abilities.

I'd love to see "Island in the Sky" come out on DVD: a solid, bare-bones, no glamor, no mercy story well told.


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