Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Satellite In The Sky!

Truth told I've had Satellite in the Sky on my DVR for many months since catching the title on Turner Classic Movies and finding it curious. I never got around to watching it until a few days ago and frankly it's a little strange.

This British movie took off in 1956, relatively late in the science fiction surge of the decade. It is a movie with several virtues, among them a rock solid cast, color, and special effects which work most of the time. Sadly all these positives are wrapped up in a narrative which lacks almost all momentum.

In a nutshell, we are introduced to the Stardust project, an attempt to launch man into orbit, free of Earth's gravity for the first time. To that end we watch a fuel test in a handsome sleek jet and meet our hero, the classic composite scientist-test pilot who typified the era. He finds friction with a lovely reporter who casts doubt on the need for space exploration and who later stows away on the experimental space craft dubbed "Stardust". Then our hero and his doughty crew of three stalwarts (co-pilot, navigator, and communications man) learn that a new equally experimental bomb will be hauled into orbit by them and exploded in an attempt to showcase its might and end war as we know it. Needless to say the latter plan falls short and we are left in the final third of the movie with an existential threat to both Earth and our cast.

That doesn't sound as dull when I summarize it like that, but sadly this movie manages to make that story dull. It's mostly because all of our cast, save for a scientist who freaks out, are cut from the same sturdy brave cloth and so don't really have any conflicts of much consequence despite the harrowing nature of their dilemma. They all just clam up and enjoy another cup of coffee, served of course with a smile by the stowaway chick. 

We do get the stages of love and romance though. Our hero and the reporter are of course destined to fall in love and do so. We have a perky young man who proposes to his girlfriend and has hope for the future. We meed another who has a rocky marriage which his work makes difficult. And finally one of the crew is a widower. Different relationships, all seen through the lens of this tribulation.

The special effects get a lot of attention in his movie and early on they are very handsome. Early long shots of handsome real world planes are matched with some shiny model designs as Stardust looks properly sleek and gleaming in its launch bay hidden deep inside a bunker. When the ship takes off though it gets a bit dodgy as the exhaust sadly reminded me more of the Flash Gordon serials. Great stuff, but out of character in this more realistic effort.

All in all Satellite in the Sky is a pretty enough film but is just too dull.

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  1. SFX expert Wally Veevers had a long career doing high-quality work beginning with Things to Come in 1936, this flick, and later, Dr Strangelove, 2001: a Space Odyssey, Moon Zero Two, and Superman: the Movie.
    He retired in 1984.

    1. Good info. Thanks a bunch. Things to Come is a high concept movie for sure.

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