Rating: ** Threat: Meteor collision
Excelsior. Written by Marcello Coscia & Alessandro Continenzia based on a story by Virgilio Sabel; Photographed by Mario Bava; Special effects by Mario Bava, Venanzio Biraschi & Oscar Arcangelis; Edited by Otello Colangeli; Music by Carlo Rustichelli; Produced by Guido Giambartolomei & Samuel Z. Arkoff (executive); Directed by Paolo Heusch. B & W, English-language version, 80 minutes; European version, 82 minutes.
Paul Hubschmid (John McLaren, American scientist and astronaut); Fiorella Man (Mary McLaren, his wife); Massimo Zepperi (Dennis McLaren, their son); Madeleine Fischer (Katy Dandridge, British mathematician); Ivo Garrani (Herbert Weisser, professor in charge of the Space project); Dario Michaelis (Pierre Leducq, French scientist); Jean-Jacques Delbo (Sergei Boetnikov, leading Russian scientist); Sam Galter (Randowsky, Russian scientist and astronaut); Peter Meersman (General Van Dorf, military advisor); Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (Stewart, British scientist and astronaut); Anne Berval (lab assistant).
Apart from the controversial truncated epic, End of the World (1931/35), which had limited distribution, this Italian/French co-production is the earliest in a long line of “celestial collision” apocalyptic films that includes A Fire in the Sky (telefilm, 1978), Meteor (1979), Asteroid (TV mini-series, 1997), Meteorites (telefilm, 1998), Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998). Unfortunately, the film's budget was so small that it was unable to adequately portray the scope and impact of the story. The script tried to overcome this by concentrating on a small group of characters, scientists on a space project who both propagated the crisis and resolved it. This film only merits serious consideration because of its uncanny foresight.
The story opens with a montage of newspaper headlines from around the world proclaiming the launch of the first manned space flight, which will circumnavigate the moon. A group of international scientists is overseeing the project, based at Cape Shark in Australia. John McLaren, an American scientist, is selected to serve as pilot for the mission over the other two candidates, Stewart from England and Randowsky from Russia. After the successful rocket launch, Professor Weisser leads a celebration at the launch complex and presents Sergei