An articulate drama of men and planes has been fashioned from Ernest K. Gann’s novel. The Wayne-Fellows production was scripted with care by Gann for aviation aficionado William A. Wellman who gives it sock handling to make it a solid piece of drama revolving around an ATC plane crash in Arctic wastes.
The film moves back and forth very smoothly from the tight action at the crash site to the planning and execution of the search. It’s a slick job by all concerned.
John Wayne is the ATC pilot downed with his crew, James Lydon, Hal Baylor, Sean McClory and Wally Cassell, in an uncharted section of Labrador. How he holds them together during five harrowing days before rescue comes on the sixth is grippingly told. Each of the players has a chance at a big scene and delivers strongly.
The snow-covered Donner Lake area near Truckee, Calif, subbed for the story’s Labrador locale and provides a frosty, shivery dressing to the picture. Both the lensing by Archie Stout and the aerial photography by William Clothier are important factors in the drama and thrills. Title derives from the fancy that pilots are men apart, their spirits dwelling on islands in the sky.