Tuesday, October 1, 2013

REVIEW: The Island at the Top of the World

The Island at the Top of the World
Director: Robert Stevenson
Year 1974

The Island at the Top of the World is a fantastically fun adventure film. Produced by Walt Disney Productions and filled with copious amounts of eye-opening effects and sets, this larger than life cinematic feature introduces us to a wonderful cast of characters as they embark on a most unusual journey. Overflowing with entertainment value and awash in adventurous exploits, The Island at the Top of the World is a fun-filled family adventure film that really is a feast for the eyes.

At the turn of the century, a Victorian gentleman named Sir Anthony Ross and a renowned Nordic studies professor, Ivarsson, embark on a quest to the high arctic in order to rescue Sir Anthony's lost son Donald, who disappeared on an expedition meant to uncover a mythical location from Viking lore called the whales' graveyard. Heading out into the great unknown, Sir Anthony commissions the use of an Airship owned by Captain Brieuax, and together the three men set off across uncharted waters and towards unparalleled adventures.

Donald Sinden takes on the role of Sir Anthony Ross, the strong willed and equally determined father who is desperately searching for his lost son. Sinden is emphatic in the role, making good use of his boisterous personality and take-charge persona. He gives Sir Anthony a brash quality that helps propel the film into action, resulting in a movie that rarely stops moving as it tumbles precariously from one exciting sequence to another. Pairing up with Sinden's Sir Anthony is David Hartman as the knowledgeable Professor Ivarsson. Hartman gifts an intellectual weight to his character, and inherently to the film, as his distinct voice fits the character to perfection. His presence in the film gives great credence to the back story and lore of the movie, as he routinely dishes out tidbits on Viking history and their extremely interesting mythologies. Needless to say, the combination of Sir Anthony and Ivarsson is something of an odd couple pairing and they work beautifully off of each other in this particular scenario, thanks to the incredible work by Sinden and Hartman.

Jacques Marin also performs brilliantly as the stereotypical Frenchman, Captain Brieux, adding an over the top demeanor to an already overblown character. His portrayal is infinity caricature in nature, but the absurdness of his performance injects a great deal of fun into the film. The same thing can be said for character actor Mako as the Eskimo Oomiak. He is as stereotypical as they come and the veteran actor comically renders him to innocently enjoyable proportions. The last main player of the piece is David Gwillim as Donald Ross, the estranged son of Sir Anthony Ross. Heroic and daring, Gwillim showcases an adventurous nature for the dynamic character, and he's paired up rather nicely with the ridiculously beautiful Agneta Eckemyr who plays the role of Freyja, the Viking native. The combination of all of these actors makes for an engaging cast that expertly handles the weight of this rip-roaring fantasy romp.

The production value of The Island at the Top of the World is top notch, relying heavily on some of the most imaginative practical effects of the era. Matte paintings, models, and everything in between, the film is a treasure trove of filmmaking trickery that dazzles in abundance. Combined with some truly picturesque locations, the visual splendor on display is tremendously expansive and always impressive. For instance the views from the Viking city alone are worth the price of admission, with an elaborate layout that reaches across grand lakes and climbs up an awe-inspiring mountain face. The conceptual designs for the film are rather accomplished and it shows in great splendor in the final product.

Of course it's not all wonder and awe, there is a great deal of entertainment value in this sadly forgotten gem. The fun really comes into play as the adventure sets into motion and the motley assortment of would-be explorers cast out into the great unknown. Facing insurmountable odds and encountering a wide array of dangers, the highs of this extremely enjoyable Disney production is through the roof. An ancient lost Viking civilization, a forgotten world, and an encounter with a gang of uncharacteristically viscous killer whales, are just a few of the wonders on display, and when you add it all up you have a recipe for one hell of a good time. Not to mention the film has a bevy of characters that really make you care about the story. In the end, The Island at the Top of the World is just plain old family friendly fun, with adventure to spare.

The Island at the Top of the World is without a doubt an unappreciated adventure flick which is highly entertaining and endlessly imaginative. Based off of the mythical lore found in Viking cultures and crafted by Disney artisans, the production benefits greatly from the cornucopia of talent and topics on hand. Infused with a whimsical sense of adventure and brimming with constantly energetic characters, this is one film that truly wears its heart on its sleeve.

Donald Sinden, David Hartman, Jacques Marin, David Gwillim, and Mako do a fantastic job in bringing the film to life, and each one of them fits there individual characters like a glove. With all of the outlandish events and over the top antics swirling around them, they do a commendable job in rolling with the punches and giving the film the perfect balance of whimsical flair and sincere representation. As far as family friendly adventure films go, The Island at the Top of the World is among the best, providing enough talent in front and behind of the camera that it can be only one thing and that's entertaining. This flick is without a doubt an.....

That's right! I'm looking right at you big daddy!

I hate your guts, Sir... Anthony.... Ross!

Now that's one sexy looking airship.

So I'm French... No big whoop!

There's a man on the wing of the.... Airship!

Everyone loved Mako's gorgeous locks.

What's up bro?

I can see my house from here!

You dickheads better not be staring at my daughter's cleavage.

Here comes the welcoming party!

That's one freaky wizard man!

In an interesting twist, the three main characters are accused of witchcraft.

We must cast it into the fire's of Mount Doom!

We're gonna need a bigger iceberg.

Shit! It's Orca!

Anyone mind if I cut the cheese?

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