The Day the Sky Exploded (1958)

This public domain movie available for legal download has little to recommend it. A very cheaply made, two set movie that consists almost entirely of stock footage and a bunch of scientists shoving bits of paper at each other while peering into a radar screen.

A wild-eyed news reporter who doesn’t seem to know where the camera is wildly info-dumps the news to us that the world’s first circum Lunar flight is about to take off. Scientists pass pieces of paper to each other and peer at radar screens. Soon the flight runs into difficulties, the pilot jettisons the atomic rocket and returns to Earth. A strange blip is discovered on the radar. More paper is scribbled on and passed to and fro before they make the discovery that the rocket has blown up in a bunch of asteroids, annoying them so much they glued themselves together “with magnetic attraction” and are heading towards Earth. That took a very boring 30 minutes of screen time to set up.

The next 30 minutes are spent watching the scientists pass even more bits of paper to each other before they conclude the asteroids are going to bump into the moon on the way in so the world may be saved without them actually having to do anything. Everyone sits around looking at radar screens (or out the window with binoculars) and sweating as the (Yawn!) tension mounts. With only about 22 minutes of screen time remaining, the asteroids miss the moon and keep on towards Earth. Oh Bum! At which point our nominal hero has the genius idea of blowing the asteroids up with nuclear missiles. The pace of paper passing heats up to fever pitch. The stock footage comes at us faster and faster. Refugees!. TV transmission masts! Jet planes taking off! Jet planes landing! More transmission masts!

“London reports temperatures are increasing all over the world. Fires are breaking out everywhere!” says one scientist between calculations. We are then shown a long montage of things burning down all over the world.

The pace of calculations speeds up to fever pitch as for some unexplained reason the scientist at the moon launching base are the only people in the world who can do the maths to aim the world’s ICBMs – though, given the fact they managed to get the calculation about the asteroids whacking into the moon wrong, I can’t say that I would have had a lot of faith in them myself. The cooling system breaks down making their room sized electronic flashy-lighty, adder-upper machine go wrong. And don’t you just know it, there’s a doom saying loony with a gun who gets in their way when they try to fix it.

Finally the last piece of paper is scribbled on and the nuclear powers (which bizarrely seem to include Norway and Scotland) are ready to fire.

Everyone says a prayer. Dear glorious and humungeous God, please let this be the last montage of the movie.

All the missiles are fired in a long montage of every piece of missile launching footage available to the editors, including the ubiquitous shots of V2s taking off (V2 didn’t have the capability to get above the atmosphere) and several shots of anti-aircraft missiles with an even shorter range.

Kaboom! The asteroids are blown to itty-bitty bits which are “dispersed into space”. Our leads go and watch the sun rise.


There are a couple of sub-plots too thin to be worth bothering with. Ice maiden scientist girlie melts into arms of handsome hunk. Mrs astronaut realises she her place is beside her man. Both involve some hugging.