Island at the Top of the World, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1974). Walt Disney Pictures. Produced by Winston Hibler. Directed by Robert Stevenson. Written by John Whedon based on The Lost Ones (1961; vt The Island at the Top of The World 1968; rev 1974) by Ian Cameron. Cast includes Agneta Eckemyr, David Gwillim, David Hartman, Mako, Jacques Marin, Gunnar Öhlund and Donald Sinden. 93 minutes. Colour.

London, 1907: wealthy industrialist Sir Anthony Ross (Sinden) hires archaeologist and expert on Nordic culture Professor John Ivarsson (Hartman) to help search for his son Donald (Gwillim), lost somewhere in the Arctic. Donald's expedition was seeking the legendary Whales' Graveyard, supposedly on a mysterious Island. Pilot/aeronaut Captain Brieux (Marin) takes them north in the Hyperion, an Airship of his own invention. In the Arctic, Inuit guide Oomiak (Mako), a friend of Donald's, reluctantly joins the search. After considerable adventure during which they are separated from Marin while Oomiak is presumed dead, Ross and Ivarsson find Donald at Astragard, an island heated by volcanic activity and inhabited by a Lost Race descended from Vikings. To keep this colony's existence secret, its high priest the Godi (Öhlund) wants them all executed. Nearly cremated alive in a Viking funeral pyre, they are rescued by Freyja (Eckemyr), an attractive Viking woman who has fallen in love with Donald. Reunited with Oomiak, the group is next pursued by the Godi and his warriors to the Whales' Graveyard, but cannot escape by sea owing to a pod of vicious killer whales guarding the graveyard. Captain Brieux reappears to take them aboard, but an arrow fired by the Godi damages the airship severely, with the priest killed in the explosion. It is agreed that Ivarsson will stay behind in return for the others' freedom and a promise not to reveal the existence of Astragard. The others, with Freyja, return across the ice to the outside world.

One of Disney's few worthwhile 1970s sf productions, The Island at the Top of the World holds up reasonably well today despite its lack of box-office success. Among the conspicuously dated aspects are the somewhat racist portrayal of Oomiak – repeatedly referred to as an "Eskimo" – as cowardly. Tie merchandise included a long-playing vinyl record from Disneyland Records, with the film's story narrated by actor Thurl Ravenscroft. The screenwriter John Whedon was the grandfather of Joss Whedon. [GSt]

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