|THE ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD
|Copyright 1974 Walt Disney Productions
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 7 April 2002
- Professor Ivarsson - Archeologist, interpreter, and an expert at unraveling legendary mysteries. All around, this is the best guy to have on your team when discovering a lost viking colony.
- Sir Anthony Ross - A bossy Englishman who has a nasty predilection for kidnapping. He must own a shipping business.
- Captain Brieux - Inventor and pilot of a wondrous flying machine: the Hyperion. Darn proud of being French too.
- Oomiak - Eskimo and master of hyperbole. I kept waiting for him to entertain us with tales of the days of high adventure.
- Donald Ross - Okay, a fellow could do worse than find himself in a land brimming with blonde Scandinavian maidens.
- Freyja - And here is a blonde Scandinavian maiden now...
- The Godin - Freaky religious leader of the viking colony. His ability to outrun a burning hydrogen airship was lacking, so the Law of Natural Selection said he had to go (it is not always a fair statute).
|The film begins with a long credit sequence set to ominous/expansive orchestration. The baffling slideshow of "relevant" paintings used as a backdrop sort of catches the eye. Combined with the music, it creates the illusion of being at an art exhibition, one called "The Days Inn Collection."
Sometime after dusk, in London (it is foggy), Professor Ivarsson is summoned to the residence of Sir Anthony Ross. The wealthy jerk wants the archeologist's help in finding his son. It seems that they had a fight two years ago and Donald ran off to become a whaler. Things are pretty bad when your only son decides freezing his butt off and soaking in whale blood is preferable to your company. Anyway, Donald is now missing, having set out to find a legendary island where the whales go to die. The reason I will refer to Ross as an S.O.B. (it's an acronym, look it up) now becomes apparent when Ivarsson, who has not formally agreed to join the rescue, discovers their vessel is already underway.
Their first stop is France, where Brieux is happily fussing over the maiden voyage of his airship. The Captain is obviously proud of his aerodynamic creation. At one point in the film he crows about Britain ruling the seas, but France now rules the air. Side note: does ruling anything matter if you surrender the moment an opponent attacks? Forget it; the expedition now begins in earnest as the Hyperion departs for Fort Conger.
It is surprising that the airship's arrival at the trading post does not cause a panic. The eskimos even run forward to perform ground crew duties! However, they are little more than rambunctious nose-rubbers and the ship is tossed while the natives gleefully tug on the ropes. At the outpost they meet Donald's friend, Oomiak, who supposedly saw the "spirits" that abducted the Ross heir. Convinced the eskimo can help them find the island, the elder Ross engineers the Hyperion's departure while Oomiak is still aboard. Sir Anthony certainly is proving himself to be a royal S.O.B. (oh, that was delicious).
The searchers run across a bit of luck when they find the whale highway. A single ribbon of open water stretches off into the horizon, along which numerous whales can be seen traveling. The exact mechanics of why the highway exists are never explained, but obviously the plot device leads to the whale graveyard. When the island is first sighted it is no more than a thick bank of clouds. Brieux refuses to fly his ship into the murk. Only after Sir Anthony decides to go afoot does the inventor relent and urge the Hyperion forward. Bad move there, for inside the cloud is a swirling maelstrom of wind and snow. The airship is bashed against rocks; eventually one improbable crash throws Ivarsson, Oomiak, and Ross out into a snowbank. They watch, helpless, as the storm drags the little Frenchman and his invention away.
The vikings patrolling the area soon take the three prisoner. Lucky for them that Professor Ivarsson happens to speak the ancient Norse dialect; he repeats everything said to his companions. I have to tell you, this enlightened method of translating for the audience could have been annoying to the extreme. Somehow the actor playing the archeologist (David Hartman) manages to pull it off.
Reunited with Donald, who has been living in the temperate valley for some time (it is warmed by volcanic activity and the sun is always shining), the real danger is revealed. The Norse are a lost colony who have been living on the island for centuries. They believe the rest of the world is frozen wasteland and have a legend that someday the barbarians from outside will invade. Having seen a demonic air spirit float by (guess what that was), followed by the explorers' arrival, the populace thinks the invasion is imminent and the outsiders are spies. The Godin sentences them all to be burned alive.
Freyja saves her beloved Donald and his friends from the burning vessel in the nick of time. They use her small boat to escape, but the villagers are close behind. The pursuit never ceases and eventually the group is forced to flee through the island's volcanic region. This is delightfully cheesy, with superimposed lava fountaining into the air, apparently falling on the characters. The chase leads through a whirlpool, temporarily dry after the vikings rolled rocks down at the protagonists and blocked up the river. Ivarsson and his friends are finally safe, having reached the legendary whale graveyard. Hundreds of the creatures lie half-rotting along the icy bay. Boy, that must smell AWFUL.
While paddling across the bay on a chunk of ice the escapees are attacked by killer whales. Just try not to scream, "Willy no!" as the carnivores leap over the ice boat; especially when Captain Brieux arrives and saves the day. Ever wonder what killer whales do when they are shot? Why, leap out of the water in startling aerobatic displays, of course.
The innovative Frenchman devises a plan to escape: by detaching the heavy motors and main cabin from the wrecked Hyperion they can drift away from the island. Unfortunately, the winds push them over the viking encampment. The priest shoots a flaming arrow at the ship, resulting in something resembling the Hindenburg disaster (yes, I know it was the skin burning). The fiery mess falls on him, thus removing the radical religious viewpoint.
For the benefit of you conspiracy nuts, I have already checked: there were no priests of Odin at Lakehurst, NJ that day (at least according to official reports).
In the end everyone is happy. The islanders will allow the explorers to depart, provided one of them stays as a hostage. Professor Ivarsson immediately volunteers to remain and study a real viking society at work. Ross has his son, his son has a new bride, the Captain will definitely build the Hyperion II, and Oomiak is still alive. Yep, everybody is happy. The trouble is that the next time a two-headed lamb is born or Halley's comet passes the Earth, guess who the Norse are going to burn alive? Blushing blonde maids or not, I wouldn't want to be Ivarsson.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Travel anxiety can often be attributed to the railcar's curtains.
- If you gun the engine and pop the clutch a dirigible can do an "air wheelie."
- Dogs loooooove blimps!
- Being lost sucks, but being lost in a blizzard with an Englishman really sucks.
- In the old days politics was a physically taxing profession.
- Vikings are a persistent lot.
- Killer whales act as the policemen of the sea; hence the color scheme.
- Hydrogen and Norse religion do not mix.
- 7 mins - The map is almost an exact match for the Eskimo artifact; that is fortunate.
- 12 mins - From the shadows cast here, the sun must be underneath the airship. Unless they used the same shot, but flipped.
- 22 mins - Has anybody down there seen a carpenter?
- 51 mins - I'm a little worried about what Freyja's father is thinking right now.
- 66 mins - Where did Sir Anthony Ross get a comb and mousse?
- 69 mins - This reminds me of the "Bog of Eternal Stench."
- 72 mins - It is the "Bog of Eternal Stench!"
- 74 mins - And so, the Kingdom of Fire is again at war with the Kingdom of Ice.
- 88 mins - Evidently dogs also love eskimos.
- 93 mins - Go to him; he is your daddy now.
- Brieux: "May I remind you that I am in command here! Only an idiot would attempt such a thing. I will do it myself."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Ross: "Something in the food hamper just bit me!" |
Brieux: "That is not the food hamper. That is the small boudoir of Josephine."
Ross: "It's some kind of a dog!"
Brieux: "But of course. The best kind, French!"
||Ivarsson: "We thought we'd lost you!" |
Oomiak: "You can't kill Oomiak. I hide in water, swim far like white bear..."
Ivarsson: "Good, good, but let's go."
||Donald: "We live by clocks and machines, instead of tides and seasons. You'll get used to it."
||Ivarsson: "You know, this is a chance no archeologist could turn down. Not only to study the past, but to relive it! I mean, here it all is hidden behind this mist for a thousand years and I haven't even scratched the surface."
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