Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Arctic Flight (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Wayne Morris stars as bush pilot Mike Wein in ARCTIC FLIGHT (1952), a new release from the Warner Archive.

Mike keeps busy running errands and ferrying tourists in remote Alaska. His jobs including delivering the new schoolteacher, Martha (Lola Albright), to a remote Eskimo community and taking wealthy John Wetherby (Alan Hale Jr.) hunting for polar bears.

Mike's always careful, though, to stay away from the international date line, as there are Soviets on the other side; in fact, they shot Martha's predecessor, who was curious and got too close!

Mike's life takes an unexpected turn when Wetherby drops his identification and Mike realizes that Wetherby is actually a Communist spy. Mike, a WWII veteran, must figure out how to handle the volatile situation, which gets even more complicated when he's "accidentally" wounded by Wetherby.

How to explain ARCTIC FLIGHT? It's not an especially good movie, with a leisurely storyline and somewhat wooden acting. Lovely Albright has a hairstyle that's not particularly becoming, and there's also a goofy-looking scene where Albright and Hale appear to be dancing in front of a back projection of Eskimos.

The average movie-goer would probably watch this film and be unimpressed, so I don't feel I can give it an unqualified recommendation, yet despite that I have to say I rather liked it. Is it kind of lame at times? Yes. But it's also kinda cool, just the type of "B" film which I personally tend to appreciate.

Morris isn't a charismatic actor, but I have a soft spot for him due to his record as a WWII flying ace who earned four Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals. Needless to say, he's very at home in his role as a pilot, and while he's not a dynamic performer, there's something appealing about how he comes across in this; he's a real guy just hangin' out with his pals. Morris is also credited as an associate of producer Lindsley Parsons.

The movie also appealed to my interest in northern climes, as a good bit of it was shot on location. There are terrific black and white shots of travel by dog sled and boats frozen in place for the winter, which give the film a unique authenticity. Jack Russell was the cinematographer.

I also found ARCTIC FLIGHT entertaining because of my longstanding interest in the Cold War, including how U.S.-Soviet relations were portrayed on film. The story concept of Americans living just a short hike away from gun-toting Red soldiers was fun. George Bricker and Robert Hill's screenplay was based on a story by Ewing Scott.

Despite her bad haircut, Albright is good as a spunky gal interested in moving to the middle of nowhere to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. She doesn't hesitate to go toe to toe with Mike when she disagrees with him, and they seem likely to have a lively relationship going forward.

The cast also includes Carol Thurston, Phil Tead, Thomas Richards Sr., and Kenneth MacDonald.

The movie was directed by "B" stalwart Lew Landers. I've seen roughly two dozen Landers films and while they might not all be great, he keeps things moving and generally wrings the most entertainment possible from whatever he's given to work with. A long list of links to previous Landers reviews can be found at the end of last year's review of CANAL ZONE (1942).

As a postscript, Wayne Morris died suddenly in 1959; he was just 45 when he had a heart attack. He was married to actress Peggy Stewart's sister, Patricia, who lived until 2001; he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

I'll be reviewing more Wayne Morris releases by the Warner Archive in the near future. I really appreciate the Archive bringing obscure titles like this Monogram film back into circulation in beautiful prints. The movie looks and sounds terrific, and I'll be popping it in my player again when I want to spend time visiting beautiful Alaska. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger DKoren said...

Very intriguing! Love the setting and the time period. I may have to see if I can get this one, cuz I suspect it's right up my alley.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think you might like it, Deb! If you catch it please let me know what you think. :)

Great to hear from you!

Best wishes,

9:03 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I also have a bit of a soft spot for Wayne Morris (maybe because he was one of those actors I became aware of early in life - he starred in a UK TV series 1956 called 'ADVENTURES OF THE BIG MAN'). Distinctive voice.
I saw 'ARCTIC FLIGHT' for the first time fairly recently, Laura, and agree with your assessment that, whilst not any kind of classic, it is quite entertaining and the setting and Cold War storyline made it unusual.

11:37 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

I agree that it's great to see Warner Archive release these obscure old B Movies
in lovely transfers. I have this and the three Westerns on the way to me,and
cannot wait to see them. Hopefully it will not be too long before The Archive release
YELLOW FIN another Morris non-Western-he's a boat skipper in this one.
YELLOW FIN has the added attraction of co-starring Adrian Booth and Gloria Henry.
I always loved Adrian in those Republic Westerns-that gal had real spirit-in fact I
watched her in THE PLUNDERERS only last night. I understand Adrian will be 99 later
this year.
I DO hope eventually,Laura you will get around to watching PORT OF HELL with Dane
Clark and Wayne Morris. This one has boats and atomic bombs and it's a really cool
little movie. Sadly this is one of the Allied Artists not owned by Warners.
I must say Morris as a tough tugboat skipper is on top form in PORT OF HELL.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I love getting your feedback, Jerry! Glad you saw it and was interested to read that your take was similar to mine.

Very interesting about Wayne Morris doing UK TV!

John, looking forward to your opinion when you check out this film and the Westerns. I feel very fortunate that the Archive is putting out these rarities looking so great and hope others will enjoy them also.

PORT OF HELL is in my "hot stack" (which admittedly is huge, but that's a good thing! LOL). Great info on Adrian Booth.

Best wishes,

3:44 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

It seems that following his series of westerns and adventure films at Monogram/Allied Artists 1950-54, Wayne Morris crossed the Atlantic during 1955-57 quite a lot. He made (without checking) around six movies in GB of varying quality but all quite enjoyable.

A VERY popular TV series here 1954-5 was 'FABIAN OF THE YARD'(meaning Scotland Yard).Boy did I love that as a kid! I have a handful of episodes but would love to see a Complete Series restoration. Anyway....following that series'popularity the same company produced 'ADVENTURES OF THE BIG MAN' starring Wayne Morris as a store detective (!!) in the midst of his time here. The Fabian success wasn't repeated though.

4:32 PM  

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