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Anchor Bay presents
The Island At The Top Of The World (1974)

"Only an idiot would attempt such a thing! I'll do it myself."
- Captain Brieux (Jacques Marin)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: January 02, 2001

Stars: David Hartman, Donald Sinden
Other Stars: Jacques Marin, Mako, David Gwillim, Agneta Eckemyr, Gunnar Öhlund, Lasse Kolstad, Erik Silju, Rolf Søder, Torsten Wahlund, Sverre Anker Ousdal
Director: Robert Stevenson

MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h:33m:47s
Release Date: May 18, 1999
UPC: 013131082593
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AA-A- D+

DVD Review

They don't make films like this anymore. Prepare for an adventure that will take you to the unknown regions of the arctic, in Walt Disney's The Island At The Top Of The World. Based on Ian Cameron's novel and directed by Robert Stevenson (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Love Bug, Mary Poppins, Old Yeller), this is classic Disney adventure, perfect for Saturday matinee screenings.

The year is 1907. Professor John Ivarsson's (David Hartman of Good Morning America) presence is requested by Sir Anthony Ross (Donald Sinden), whose son, Donald (David Gwillim), has disappeared while on expedition in the arctic. An old journal document from a Hudson's Bay trading post tells of a mysterious island, set under a single cloud out on the ice flows, which is the graveyard of the whales, a place known only from folklore and legend. Ross' son had gone in search of the island, but when he didn't return, the letter describing its location was forwarded to him, along with an ancient artifact used for navigation. His interest piqued, Professor Ivarsson agrees to go on the journey, which will first take them to France, where a special dirigible has been built that will allow them to cross the ice flows in winter. Here we meet Captain Brieux (Jacques Marin), the creator of the Hyperion, the motorized airship that takes them to the eskimo trading post where Donald was last seen. The journey is not without incident, as the ship loses a propeller in mid-flight. The ship finally reaches the village where they begin inquiries about the island, and are introduced to Oomiak (Mako), an eskimo who had accompanied Donald on his journey. He confirms the existence of the island, guarded by evil spirits, which is why no eskimo will join them as a guide. Sir Anthony devises a way to get Oomiak to join them, and the adventurers set out north to find this legendary island, but as the cloud described in the writings becomes visible on the horizon, what perils await them on The Island At The Top Of The World?

Like most Disney films of this era, the story is pushed along by somewhat incredible turns of fortune, though this doesn't diminish its enjoyment. An adventure story in the style of Jules Verne, the special effects and cinematography are surprisingly good for a work of this vintage. The airship is an interesting piece, and the antics of its captain are very entertaining. The contents of the island are extremely well done, and the visuals are a feast. Interestingly, much of the dialogue is in foreign languages with no subtitling, which adds authenticity to the characters. Though much of the story is plausible, it is in the realm of the fantastic at times, which keeps the discovery of the next scene fresh and interesting. Good for all ages, The Island At The Top Of The World is a fun adventure the whole family can enjoy.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Presented in both 1.66:1 and full frame. Image quality is for the most part quite good, though there is some grain and occasional compression issues present. Colors are well rendered with solid black levels. For a 1974 film this looks impressive, even when zoomed in for widescreen TVs, though being nonanamorphic, some line structure is evident. There are a few nicks here and there, but nothing too distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: A solid two channel mono presentation. Maurice Jarre's score is well preserved with no signs of distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc is barren, though the insert does contain a decent amount of background info on the production. It is too bad that many of the films from this era won't have details about their special effects processes disclosed, since they feature some very innovative and imaginative photographic techniques, which make them all the more fantastic. With younger generations being brought up with CGI imagery, it is sad that much of the magic that went into filmmaking isn't more elaborately celebrated on these discs.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Anchor Bay has preserved another treasure from Disney's vaults. In an era dominated by computer generated effects and scripts that seem cookie cutter most of the time, it is great to be transported back to the days when it took imagination and innovation to bring fantastic visions to the screen. A wonderful Disney adventure in classic style, The Island At The Top Of The World gets the thumbs up from me.


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