Before Italian science fiction lost its collective mind with madcap creations like “Super Argo and the Faceless Giants” and “King of Kong Island,” there was “The Day the Sky Exploded.” “Sky” is Italy’s humble first entry into the science fiction movie genre. And it’s boring.
Trading the insane for the sane, the film follows a failed atomic rocket mission into space. It turns out the pilot, John McLaren (Paul Huschmid, “A Funeral in Berlin”) forgot to dislodge the explosive atomic engine, sending it hurtling into an asteroid supercluster and putting the earth in danger.
For all of its atomic age moralizing, “Sky” is a boring mess of half-formed story lines and horribly misplaced sound effects. It’s like the characters are stuck in a world where every satellite sounds like a whale song and every radar is made out of thin paper and a flashlight.
The film’s only real claim to fame is that Italian cinematographer and giallo pioneer Mario Bava is behind the camera. Giallo is an Italian film genre that has elements of crime fiction, mystery, horror and eroticism. His signature smattering of tilted shots and harsh shadows is etched into the film’s DNA. But his style is the only positive thing about the movie.
Some of this can be forgiven since it’s a low-budget flick from the ‘60s, but even for the time it’s terrible. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” set the precedent for the Atom Age of science fiction and “Sky” tries to go for a more realistic view of imminent nuclear death. It fails.
At points, it’s unclear what movie it wants to be. Inconsequential romances are kindled and then scrapped. These half-formed storylines aren’t helped by the fact that there’s no tension whatsoever. If it weren’t for expository news broadcasts and United Nations meetings explaining how dangerous the situation is, one would think no one cared much about the world ending.
The performances are robotic and, coupled with a lackluster American dub, are emotionless and alien. When it comes down to it, “Sky” takes itself too seriously. There are times that it could have been something better. Campy shots of satellites floating through space are hints that the writer and director kept themselves from doing anything too crazy, and maybe that was the problem.
It’s a mess of a movie trying to be a message movie, but there’s no message to take away from here besides stay away, stay far away.