This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

23 November 2010

1958 Italian Asteroid movie (The Day the Sky Exploded)

The Day The Sky Exploded (1958)

The Day The Sky Exploded (Part 1/9)

Article on the Space Review (from Dwayne Day) on a 1958 Italian Asteroid movie (The Day the Sky Exploded)...

If you turn on the Discovery Science Channel on a lazy Saturday afternoon, there is a pretty good chance that they will be showing a “documentary” about killer asteroids. That word should always be used in quotation marks, because many of these shows contain some ridiculous errors. There are easily several dozen of these shows, some of them dating back to the mid-1990s. But if you try to get away by switching to the SyFy Channel, there is a pretty good chance that—if you don’t get stuck with Megashark vs. Giant Octopus—you will run into one of at least a dozen movies about killer asteroids. You know the obvious ones, Armageddon and Deep Impact, both from 1998. You might even be aware of the 1979 Sean Connery movie Meteor! (which sometimes has the exclamation mark after the name and sometimes doesn’t—its presence does not change the general crappiness of the film). But there are a ton of low-budget films that you probably never heard of. There is Meteor Storm, and Meteor Apocalypse, Impact, Without Warning, Meteorites!, A Fire in the Sky, Doomsday Rock, Falling Fire, and Asteroid. Both Meteor(!) and A Fire in the Sky date from the late 1970s. All the rest are from the late 1990s to the present, and were clearly inspired by the 1996 impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter. You can bet good money that there will be more, especially as we approach our predicted doom in 2012.

But it turns out that the killer asteroid movie concept goes back farther than the 1970s—much farther. In 1958, Guido Giambartolomei produced The Day the Sky Exploded. You can be forgiven for not recognizing Giambartolomei’s name. He was an Italian producer, and this is an Italian movie, and possibly the great granddaddy of all killer asteroid flicks. It is also a rather lousy film, at times barely watchable, but fortunately only 80 minutes long. It was dubbed into English, sometimes effectively—they used Australian and Indian actors to reflect their native accents—and sometimes not, such as referring to retro-rockets as “retard rockets.”

The Day the Sky Exploded was written by Sandro Continenza and Marcello Coscia and directed by Paolo Hueusch. The cinematographer was Mario Bava, who directed Black Sunday in 1960 and quickly made a name for himself as a director of Italian horror movies. Bava’s cinematography does make the film more visually interesting than one would expect from a really low-budget Italian science fiction movie. Other than Bava, nobody from The Day the Sky Exploded seems to have left much of a mark on film history.

But where did the movie’s creators learn about the Tunguska explosion? And where did they come up with the idea of an asteroid impact causing widespread destruction on Earth? And where did they come up with the idea of using nuclear weapons atop missiles to take out the asteroid? Perhaps only an Italian science fiction film historian might be able to track down the answers.

The idea that asteroids could pose danger to human life is one that evolved slowly, over many decades. The giant Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona was not scientifically connected to a meteor until Eugene Shoemaker published his study results in 1960. The connection of an asteroid collision to at least one major extinction event in Earth’s history did not come until several decades after that—and the details are still under dispute. An obscure, long-forgotten, and not-very-good Italian science fiction film somehow connected a number of dots in 1958 that were still scattered throughout scientific literature, to the extent that they existed at all.

Link: The Space Review ("Italian doomsday: killer asteroids in 1958")

Link: YouTube Video (The Day The Sky Exploded (Part 1/9))

Link: Wikipedia Entry (The Day the Sky Exploded)

Link: IMDB (The Day The Sky Exploded)

Link: (The Day The Sky Exploded)
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