starring Tom Mix
January 27, 1922
A few releases like this Western adventure story with Tom Mix as its hero will make up for a lot of mediocre and worse stuff from the Fox establishment. "Sky High," which bears the name of Lynn Reynolds as scenario writer and director, is a splendid action film, direct, unpretentious but plausible and interesting in story and characters, and packed with truly sensational "stunt" material. It's a breath-taking tale in the gorgeous settings of the real Grand Canyon of Arizona.
Its backgrounds alone as a pictorial would be sufficient to hold interest, but in addition it holds a capital adventure tale and plenty of thrilling feats by the audacious cowboy hero. Out of the opulent wealth of sensations, it is enough to describe the achievement of the hero, who is shown in an aeroplane flight above the actual canyon. The plane is seen in its soaring flight above the walls of the abyss, tipping below the rim of he awesome crater and as a climax appaently dropping the hero to the end of a long, trailing rope, from which he plunges into the river. Probably the landing is trick stuff, but it is so well managed, that it would convince event the most sophisticated. To all intents and purposes it is a real feat.
A series of titles at the outset makes it appear that the stunt was done in reality, at least as far as the aerial flight was concerned , and there is nothing in the film to raise a doubt of the truth of the statement. If that aero thrill was not enough, Mix does a horseback dash up what appears to be miles of almost perpendicular, twisting trail, a hair-raising performance. Almost as thrilling were his many climbs on a slender rope up the straight sides of lofty precipices. Much of the action takes place on a narrow shelf of rock along the side of the cliff's face, surrounded by heights almost terrifying to behold even from the security of a theatre seat, and with the distant peaks as the heroic background of the simple but absorbing tale.
There are endless escapes and pursuits, with men on foot climbing the dizzy altitudes of the walls and sprinting about on perilous footholds with giddy distances stretching below them. Hardly a moment passes but has its thrill. It's as well sustained a Western melodrama as has been seen in many a day. Of its kind, the production matches anything that comes to mind as a program release.
The film has a brisk beginning. Mix rides into the picture from the surrounding forest in time to intercept a limousine speeding through the mountains. He holds it up, lining up at the roadside a group of what appear to be women tourists but who are revealed as smuggled Chinese coming over the Mexican border. He is an immigration bureau agent sent to check the running of Chinese.
"The man higher up," the government learns, has concealed a whole army of Chinese in the Grand Canyon, awaiting a chance to get them into the States, and Tom is picked to run the band down. He gets himself employed by he runners by a clever trick and is among the fugitives in the canyon when the girl ward of "the man higher up" on the way to join her guardian, gets lost among the cliffs of the mountains nearby.
Mix finds her on a narrow shelf halfway up the wall and takes care of her until the outlaws learn his real identity and attempt to do way with him. Here is the beginning of the sensational fight and chase which runs through three of four reels to its breathless finish. To attempt to detail its incidents would be a task, but it provides an hour and a half of gripping adventure and action well worth anyone's time. Jane Novak is the pretty heroine and there is a magnificent horse.
It's a picture for anybody's theatre. The marvel is that it was not held out as a special and given the exploitation it deserves. The picture is a credit to everybody concerned in its making, and that goes double for Mix, the best rough and tumble stunt film actor that ever took a chance. One picture hero like this is more credit to the business than all the sorrowful, introspective screen ladies that ever struggle with a broken heart or stubbed her toe on the Double Standard. More power to the breed!
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