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Rare John Wayne film is a find

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Two television series and one hard to see film are featured in this week's DVD column.

Island in the Sky

Most people either love or hate John Wayne. The macho icon of American cinema is remembered for the last 10 years of his life and career when he made some truly forgettable films. Too often Wayne would simply walk through a role in his "John Wayne" persona rather than actually create a characterization.

It's a shame if people remember his work in a negative way, as Wayne did give us some great performances in films such as Stagecoach, The Searchers, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and True Grit, among others.

Up until now, Island in the Sky has been a fairly obscure John Wayne feature, but it's a good one. Made in 1953, the film was directed by William Wellman and involves a rather simple story. A transport air crew working for the military is forced down due to bad weather during a flight from Greenland. They land in a remote section of Canada and must try to survive until their fellow pilots can find them.

Wayne underplays his role as the pilot of the stranded plane. While heroic, he is also human. The rest of the large cast also projects the quiet professionalism I'm sure these pilots had in real life.

The DVD is introduced by Leonard Maltin and has some nice extras including sequences on the making of the film, the screenplay's author Ernest K. Gann, and the art of aerial photography. Maltin interviews Harry Carey, Jr., a cast member and part of the informal John Ford/John Wayne stock company, about the making of the film and working with Wayne.

A solid, enjoyable film that should please Wayne fans and non-Wayne fans alike.

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America's Funniest Home Videos, Volume One with Tom Bergeron

Okay, I'll admit that over its lengthy run I've watched this show at times, but at some point I stopped. After watching a good chunk of this four-disc DVD collection I remember the reason why: this series is basically a parade of abuse pet abuse, child abuse and self-abuse.

Sure, seeing someone caught on tape doing something stupid can be funny, but this nine and a half-hour compilation is just too much.

I have to question the motive of people who don't put down their video camera when their child has done something potentially hurtful. You would think mom or dad wouldn't keep the tape rolling as junior heads towards a disaster.

There was a clip in which two five or six year-old boys are featured. They're standing in a fishing boat and one kid smacks the other in the face with a fish someone has caught. The kid bursts into tears and shoves the other kid into the open holding tank. He gets up with his pants soaking wet and now he's bawling. At no time do you hear a parent yell, "Cut that out!" Why not? Because someone was hoping to qualify for the money the show pays for the best clips of the week.

I'm sure I'm in the minority here this show has been over for more than 15 years but this was painful to watch. Thank all that is holy, though, that Bob Saget and his swarminess wasn't part of it.

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The Maigret Collection

I had never heard of Inspector Maigret, the hero of more than 100 novel and short stories written by the French author Georges Simenon, but my mystery-loving wife had. Neither of us, though, had seen any of these British-made adaptations of the original stories, but we're glad we did.

These are tightly made period mysteries set in Paris right after WWII. Maigret, played with authority by Michael Gambon, is a man who has seen it all and is as interested in the reasons behind a murder as the culprit who committed one.

What I really liked about Gambon's performance is that Maigret, despite his experience, isn't jaded. The character is very human and has an understated sense of humor.

Without blood, guts and autopsy scenes, these mysteries entertain and fascinate. Be sure to check them out.

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