|The Day the Sky Exploded|
Italian film poster for The Day the Sky Exploded
|Produced by||Guido Giambartolomei|
|Story by||Virgilio Sabel|
|Music by||Carlo Rustichelli|
|Edited by||Otello Colangeli|
The Day the Sky Exploded (Italian: La morte viene dallo spazio, lit. 'Death Comes From Space'), released in the United Kingdom as Death Comes From Outer Space, is a 1958 science fiction film. It is known as the first Italian science fiction film, predating even the science fiction films of Antonio Margheriti.
From Cape Shark in the Australian desert, the United Nations launches an atomic rocket on a manned moon mission, but one of the engines malfunctions. The pilot, American John MacLaren, disengages the capsule and returns to Earth. The atomic booster, however, continues on, eventually exploding in the Delta asteroid cluster. When MacLaren insists on staying at Cape Shark to help, his homesick wife Mary takes their son and leaves for the U.S. without him.
Engineer Peter Leduq, a boastful ladies' man, makes a bet that he can thaw frigid co-worker Katie Dandridge with a kiss within six days, unaware she can hear him over the intercom. She rebuffs his initial efforts but allows him to kiss her while they are working an all-nighter to calculate the results of the rocket's explosion. When she belatedly remembers his amorousness is motivated by a bet, she is heartbroken, not realizing he has developed genuine feelings for her.
The rocket explosion dislodges the asteroids from their orbits. They coalesce into one giant cluster heading for Earth. To make matters worse, scientists find that the cluster will pass the Moon, causing tidal effects which will flood coastal regions. As the cluster approaches it causes worldwide disasters: tidal waves, wind, firestorms and earthquakes. Mass evacuations lead to panic and riots.
While searching for a solution, Dandridge cracks under the pressure and Leduq takes over her shift for her, exposing his sensitive and supportive side to her. At the eleventh hour, MacLaren comes up with the idea of arming every missile on earth with a nuclear warhead and firing them all at the cluster. Due to the climate change wrought by the cluster, Cape Shark's air conditioning must remain at maximum power to keep the temperature low enough for the base's calculator to determine all the firing data. MacLaren is reunited with his family. Mary explains that they were waiting until the last minute to board the plane in hopes that he would join them, and so heard the announcement of the asteroid disaster and headed back to Cape Shark.
Scientist Dr. Randowsky becomes convinced that the chaos caused by the cluster is divine punishment for mankind's use of nuclear missiles. He disables the air conditioning unit, thus rendering the calculator inoperative, and uses a gun to hold off anyone who approaches to restore it. MacLaren, Leduq, and MacLaren's friend Herbert Weisser rush Randowsky, and Weisser is fatally shot. Randowsky runs out of ammunition and, while fleeing from MacLaren and Leduq, accidentally electrocutes himself. The calculator is restarted, and the last of the firing data is transmitted. The missiles are launched, destroying the cluster and saving Earth.
The film is credited as being directed by Paolo Heusch, but cast member Ivo Garrani has stated that it "was completely directed by [Mario] Bava"; this would thus mark Bava's unofficial solo directorial debut, two years prior to the release of his official debut Black Sunday. Bava biographer Tim Lucas has hypothesized that Bava was intended to serve as the film's director from the beginning, with Heusch only credited for the purposes of attracting funding, since he was an established director while Bava was a newcomer.
The visual for the X-Z rocket was a magazine clipping put into a glass matte. For the blast-off sequence, a double exposure was used to overlap this stationary image with a strobing semi-sphere of light and then, following a cutaway to Mission Control, with a billowing smoke effect created by pouring white leaded powder into an aquarium. The asteroid cluster was a large sponge with chunks torn out, silhouetted with backlighting. To create the climactic sequence of the cluster being bombarded with rockets, Bava shot footage of numerous backyard model rockets against a black surface using his father Eugenio's Mitchell camera, then overlaid it onto shots of the asteroid cluster with multiple exposures.
In addition to using both acoustic and electric instruments, composer Carlo Rustichelli felt he needed to create new sounds in order to suit the film's science fiction themes and setting, so he brought a fire extinguisher, a blender, and a vacuum cleaner into the recording studio to create the space-age sound effects.
It premiered in the United States on September 27, 1961 in Los Angeles.
In a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin stated that "The producers of this Franco-Italian science fiction film have turned to stock footage to such an extent that this might well be termed the stock-shot film par excellence." and that "this disparate material has been quite ingeniously assembled". They concluded that the film was "otherwise routine" and "tamely directed".
TV Guide gave the film a one out of four rating, referring to it as an "Ineffective sci-fi outing". In Phil Hardy's book Science Fiction (1984), a review stated that "the picture's main asset is Bava's excellent cinematography; both acting and direction fail to transcend a poor script."