Like Lust of the Vampire, an uncredited Mario Bava assumed the director’s chair after the credited director abandoned the project. The plot concerns the first atomic rocket mission into space. The pilot runs into unexplained trouble and has to abandon the mission. I feared this would devolve into a cheap Quatermass knock-off, but I’m pleased to report we’re not subjected to any laughable rubber-suited aliens.
Good thing, as the film’s flimsy production proves its biggest weakness. The sets all look artificial, lending everything a stagy, theatrical appearance.
A shame, as the film captures a solid existential premise. In abandoning the rocket, humanity has shot an atomic bomb into space. Where will it impact? What will happen? The possibilities astound.
This film lands on a grounded, practical, if somewhat unimaginative answer: the rocket impacts an asteroid. The impact knocks said asteroid off-course, causing it to attract many smaller asteroids, creating a giant mass headed straight for earth. Not a bad twist, but we wait until the finale for the film’s leads (the world’s best scientists) to dream up the solution you’ve likely already imagined while reading this paragraph.
Still, the stretch in between entertains, providing a glimpse into the helplessness 1950s Europe must have endured during the Cold War. There’s a solid existential horror here, buried underneath the cheap visual effects and extraneous drama. An aspiring indie filmmaker might would do well to mine it.