Sunday, October 20, 2013

Island at the Top of the World (1974)

Island at the Top of the world was one of the weird live action misfires that Disney cranked out in the 1970’s. After the death of Walt the studio seemed to have lost its way. Unsure of what to do it turned out animated films now and again, and a steady stream of live action films most of which made you wonder what they were thinking. Sure they hit with things like the Love Bug movies, Pete’s Dragon, The Apple Dumpling Gang but at the same time they had several misses like One of Dinosaurs are Missing, Gus and Unidentified Flying Oddball. Island at the Top of the World was somewhere between the hits and the flops.

The plot of the film has a rich British financing an expedition in order to track down what happened to his son who was lost on a whaling expedition. Using a dirigible the explorers set off to the artic. Along the way they have a variety of adventures and eventually discover an island of lost Vikings.

I saw the film at the drive in with my Dad and my two brothers. We had been chomping at the bit togo and somehow my mom talked my dad into taking us. To me the film has always been a cool, if artificial grand adventure. One of the period adventure films that would include things like The Land that Time Forgot and At the Earth’s Core. It’s the cinematic equivalent to the boys own adventures that were popular during the early part of the 20th century. I love the designs  of the airship and the Viking compound (there was an Oscar nomination). If the action was a bit too family friendly it scored in not being the same old same old.

Truth be told the one reason I remember the film, and probably it’s biggest drawback, is that David Hartman plays one of the members of the expedition. Hartman, a good actor, lost any ability to play pretty much any part when he signed up as one of the original hosts of Good Morning America which went on the air not before the movie was released. Hartman had been a well-known TV actor thanks to roles in a variety of series, perhaps the most prominent being Room 222. For me watching Hartman is a case of watching someone go through the motions in a dress up outing. He’s not bad, he just doesn’t blend in.

Of course that doesn’t mean I hate the film, I don’t. I like it , It just means that I never fully give myself over to it.

Recommended for a night when you don’t want the same old same old

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