review for The Big Sky on AllMovie

The Big Sky (1952)
by Craig Butler review

The Big Sky falls short of being the classic it wants to be, but it's a good film nonetheless. Part of its problem is simply its length: it goes on too long and, especially in the middle section, doesn't always seem to know where it's going. While it would be nice to think that this was director Howard Hawks' clever way of commenting on the characters' actual journey, where being in alien territory made them feel they didn't know where they were going, it's doubtful in the extreme that this is what was intended. Hawks was a sensational director; he simply didn't find the right answers to the problems confronting him with Sky. But he was absolutely the right person to direct this film, as it combined his love of rugged, manly subjects with his penchant for humor, especially of a somewhat dark vein. No one else would have filmed the amputation scene as a comedy and gotten away it (brilliantly, one might add). Hawks was blessed with a great cast; Kirk Douglas is in very fine form, and Arthur Hunnicutt deserves the plaudits he received for stealing the film away from its stars. And Russell Harlan's cinematography is beautiful and evocative.