Scientists discover that a group of meteors are hurtling on a collison course with Earth, and if they hit, the planet will be destroyed.
Paul Hubschmid ... John McLaren
Fiorella Mari ... Mary McLaren
Madeleine Fischer ... Katy Dandridge
Ivo Garrani ... Prof. Herbert Weisse
Dario Michaelis ... Peter Leduq
Peter Meersman ... Gen. van Dorff
Jean-Jacques Delbo ... Sergei Boetnikov
Massimo Zeppieri ... Dennis McLaren
Sam Galter ... Randowsky
Annie Bernal ... Lab Assistant
This little Italian oddity offers the drama of a world-wide disaster and the themes of international cooperation which were better capitalized by the Star Trek franchise and several similar disaster films of more recent vintage.
The film is somewhat unique for its unusually jerky pace, clever low budget effects, odd use of stock footage, and strange cinematography. The Day the Sky Exploded begins as if it is going to be a space-flight adventure, but instead treats the space flight in a realistic, almost mundane manner, before proceeding to reveal the real plot - concerning the meteors. The astronaut (nicely played by Hubschmidt) is forced to eject from the nuclear powered rocket and the rocket flies off to .... where? before you know it, a cluster of meteors, probably blown off of some planet or perhaps the moon, is threatening to destroy the earth.
Some of the 'scientists' allude to unknown religious beliefs and seem to think that some great big meanie out there has it in for us because we've ventured off our planet in a serious way for the first time (like the perspective offered by Star Trek First Contact inverted). The plot begins with the rocket launch and a great feeling of optimism and then proceeds into panic, and then a feeling of inevitable doom, as nobody seems able to come up with an adequate solution.
There are also some amusing but really unnecessary romantic elements and some decent character development which help to round the film out in a general way. The acting is generally good, but there are a few really odd moments where people seem either too calm or absurdly evocative given the circumstances they are dealing with. There are also a couple of bad moments for the script, which may be a result of translation problems from the film's native language.
I have noticed a lot of people making fun of the special effects. Sure, the dozens of stock footage clips of rockets being launched is over-done, and yeah, some of the scenes showing people and cars moving around in the parking lot of an unidentified building are kind of funny, but I actually enjoyed the primitive but creatively filmed scenes of asteroids and explosions. They were, at the very least, more artistically designed than some of what appears in contemporary films with similarly low budgets.
This public domain movie available for legal download www.Archive.org has little to recommend it. A very cheaply made, two set movie that consists almost entirely of stock footage and a bunch of scientists shoving bits of paper at each other while peering into a radar screen.
A wild-eyed news reporter who doesn't seem to know where the camera is wildly info-dumps the news to us that the world's first circum Lunar flight is about to take off. Scientists pass pieces of paper to each other and peer at radar screens. Soon the flight runs into difficulties, the pilot jettisons the atomic rocket and returns to Earth. A strange blip is discovered on the radar. More paper is scribbled on and passed to and fro before they make the discovery that the rocket has blown up in a bunch of asteroids, annoying them so much they glued themselves together "with magnetic attraction" and are heading towards Earth. That took a very boring 30 minutes of screen time to set up.
The next 30 minutes are spent watching the scientists pass even more bits of paper to each other before they conclude the asteroids are going to bump into the moon on the way in so the world may be saved without them actually having to do anything. Everyone sits around looking at radar screens (or out the window with binoculars) and sweating as the (Yawn!) tension mounts. With only about 22 minutes of screen time remaining, the asteroids miss the moon and keep on towards Earth. Oh Bum! At which point our nominal hero has the genius idea of blowing the asteroids up with nuclear missiles. The pace of paper passing heats up to fever pitch. The stock footage comes at us faster and faster. Refugees!. TV transmission masts! Jet planes taking off! Jet planes landing! More transmission masts!
"London reports temperatures are increasing all over the world. Fires are breaking out everywhere!" says one scientist between calculations. We are then shown a long montage of things burning down all over the world.
The pace of calculations speeds up to fever pitch as for some unexplained reason the scientist at the moon launching base are the only people in the world who can do the maths to aim the world's ICBMs - though, given the fact they managed to get the calculation about the asteroids whacking into the moon wrong, I can't say that I would have had a lot of faith in them myself. The cooling system breaks down making their room sized electronic flashy-lighty, adder-upper machine go wrong. And don't you just know it, there's a doom saying loony with a gun who gets in their way when they try to fix it.
Finally the last piece of paper is scribbled on and the nuclear powers (which bizarrely seem to include Norway and Scotland) are ready to fire.
Everyone says a prayer. Dear glorious and humungeous God, please let this be the last montage of the movie.
All the missiles are fired in a long montage of every piece of missile launching footage available to the editors, including the ubiquitous shots of V2s taking off (V2 didn't have the capability to get above the atmosphere) and several shots of anti-aircraft missiles with an even shorter range.
Kaboom! The asteroids are blown to itty-bitty bits which are "dispersed into space". Our leads go and watch the sun rise.
There are a couple of sub-plots too thin to be worth bothering with. Ice maiden scientist girlie melts into arms of handsome hunk. Mrs astronaut realises she her place is beside her man. Both involve some hugging.
An interesting film. I saw it in 1958 when it came out in the U.S. It was nicely done. Different Italian film effort, but interesting. Some really good special effects for atmosphere disturbances caused by the approaching meteors. I especially enjoyed the affects of seeing a giant dark spot in the sky over New York City with a halo outlining it. There were other nice ones. The meteors were destroyed with every country in the world sending up rockets to pulverize them.
The movie METEOR is based on this 1958 film. Unfortunately for METEOR they used a weak sentimentality of some sort of pseudo solidarity between the U.S., the USSR and Communist China which I found campy. The 1958 film mainly showed missiles being fired toward the heavens from many countries on the globe who are capable of doing so.