Saturday, February 23, 2008


This is not the more famous 1953 John Wayne movie about an Arctic plane crash, but a thoroughly average B-movie crime thriller which is worth watching for the leading lady, the lovely Gloria Stuart. The Island in the Sky is a 70th-floor nightclub where assistant DA Michael Whalen proposes rather informally to his girlfriend Stuart. She insists that he get untangled from his job long enough for a decent honeymoon and he agrees to, but that very night, Whalen is called to investigate the murder of the rich Mr. Vincent. Because a safe has been opened, it appears to be a clear-cut case of a bungled burglary, but a garage owner implicates Vincent's son (Robert Kellard), a young spoiled man who owes a lot of people a lot of money. His girlfriend (June Storey) tries to give him an alibi, but it doesn't wash, and because Kellard won't defend himself in court, he is found guilty and sentenced to death. Stuart agrees to delay her wedding until she and Whalen can clear Kellard. Stuart stumbles onto some evidence that shows that the elder Vincent was involved in a shady scheme with the owner (Leon Ames) of the Island in the Sky nightclub and she tries to hunt down a soon-to-be released convict (Paul Kelly) who could shed some light on the situation, but she's chased off the road and winds up in a coma for a few days, coming out of it on the day of Kellard's scheduled execution. Though Whalen insists she remain in the hospital, she escapes with some help from Whalen's sidekick (Paul Hurst), gets hold of Kelly, and finds out that a long-hidden fact about Kellard's paternity is the reason Kellard won't speak in his defense. The fairly exciting climax (which may have been some inspiration to the creators of IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER) occurs at the nightclub and involves a criminal's confession being aired to a crowd via hidden microphone. Whalen is unattractive and bland, and a real drag on the proceedings. Luckily, the supporting cast is strong. Kellard (the hero of the serial DRUMS OF FU MANCHU) is quite handsome and much more engaging than the nominal leading man, but he spends most of the running time sitting in a jail cell. Kelly is good as the mysterious ex-con who holds the key to the mystery. Ultimately, I stuck with it for Stuart, who is almost always better than the material she wound up in. She's the center of the action here, which helps keep the boring Whalen in a secondary role. [FMC]

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