The Island at the Top of the World (1974) starring David Hartman, Donald Sinden, Jacques Marin, Mako, David Gwillim, Agneta Eckemyr, Gunnar Öhlund directed by Robert Stevenson Movie Review

The Island at the Top of the World (1974)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Donald Sinden in The Island at the Top of the World (1974)

The Lost Son in The Lost World

When his son goes missing during an expedition to find the grave yard of the whales Sir Anthony Ross (Donald Sinden - The Black Tent) persuades Professor John Ivarsson (David Hartman) and French balloonist Captain Brieux (Jacques Marin) to set out on an arctic expedition to try and find his lost son. Along with his son's Eskimo friend Oomiak (Mako) they make it to the arctic where they come across a lost world, a green and fertile oasis above the arctic thriving due to the heat of a volcano. But this hidden oasis contains a secret, a tribe of Vikings who have lived there is isolation for 1,000 years and who don't take kindly to the appearance of Ross and his friends.

For a long time these 60s and 70s fantasy adventure movies passed me by, they never grabbed my attention when I was a child and it is only now that I am in my 40s I find myself with a curious fascination for these old movies. Maybe it is because I missed out on them when I was younger that approaching them now for the first time I am accustomed to them coming across as often being cheesy and "The Island at the Top of the World" certainly ticks that box whether it was intentional or not.

David Hartman in The Island at the Top of the World (1974)

But being cheesy is not really a big problem as any movie which is 40 years old and relies heavily on special effects is going to feel dated and cheesy now. What is a problem is that "The Island at the Top of the World" fails to grab your attention in the same way which other fantasy adventures do. Part of that comes from it just throwing us straight into things and never really bothering to establish any background to this. We have a scene of Ross and Ivarsson in a carriage where we are told a minimum which is the same when we come to meet balloonist Brieux who flies them to their destination. It's a shame that more time couldn't be spent on building the back story more naturally rather than rushing us into it.

Now I do have to return back to those special effects and the set designs because "The Island at the Top of the World" feels like an adventure movie made with budget limitations. What I mean by that is many of the sets rely on the backdrop painting to try and provide depth but rarely do these impress as they far too often look exactly what they are, matte paintings. It is not just the backdrops which cause issues as the special effects and costumes also are lacking that bit of style and creativity needed to really grab you rather than make you laugh.

What doesn't help all of this is the acting with Donald Sinden bulldozing his way through the movie as the brusque Ross whilst David Hartman seems at times a little lost as to how to react to Sinden's thespian delivery of the dialogue. Don't get me wrong as this is all kind of amusing but I don't believe for a minute that was the intention but this is made worse because of the lack of back story to really establish the characters rather than thrusting them upon us.

What this all boils down to is that "The Island at the Top of the World" is not one of those great fantasy adventure movies of the 60s and 70s but it is one which is now entertaining in a dated, cheesy way.