Satellite in the Sky

Rating: 5 out of 10.

The UK’s 1956 answer to Destination Moon is visually impressive, but marred by a tedious script and uninspired direction. But it does offer a chance to see Lois Maxwell before her Miss Moneypenny fame, and Thespian Donald Wolfit in a space suit. 5/10

Satellite in the Sky. 1956, UK. Directed by Paul Dickson. Written by John Mather, J.T. McIntosh, Edith Dell. Starring: Kieron Moore, Lois Maxwell, Donald Wolfit, Bryan Forbes, Jimmy Hanley, Barry Keegan. IMDb: 5.2/10. Rotten Tomatoes: N/A. Metacritic: N/A.

In 1956, one year prior to Sputnik, Britain is about to launch the world’s first mission around the Earth in a spacecraft, the first manned “satellite”. The day before the launch, the press is invited to partake in the final fuel test, carried out in an experimental jet plane. At the press conference afterwards, pilot Michael Hayden (Kieran Moore) is pestered by the pretty but annoying reporter Kim Hamilton (Lois Maxwell), who feels the whole project is a waste of money, and in particular potential lives. After a private tour of the facilities, courtesy of Commander Hayden, she sneaks aboard the spaceship as a stowaway. The next morning the “Stardust”, a proper space rocket in the George Pal style, takes off without a hitch, with a crew of Hayden, Jimmy, Larry and Lefty (Moore, Bryan Forbes, Jimmy Hanley and Barry Keegan), that has been rounded out with a plus-one: Professor Merrity (Donald Wolfit). Wolfit is on a secret mission from the British government, who, in cooperation with Washington, are about to detonate a new kind of nuclear bomb, a “tritonium” bomb, that will act as a deterrent to the rest of the world (read: Russia). Hayden and navigator Larry Noble (Hanley) are informed of this secret mission the day before the launch, and the rest of the crew after the fact.

This is also when they notice the plus-one has become a plus-two, when reporter Hamilton is found hiding in the electric storage room. The crew grumble a bit over the fact that they have become involuntary bomb technicians and geopolitical messengers, but are soon swayed by their British sense of duty. They also grumble over the stowaway, but are swayed when it turns out that Hamilton possess that unique feminine skill set of serving tea and ham sandwiches, be it that the tea comes with an extra seasoning of anti-nuclear sentiments.

Kieron Moore and Lois Maxwell.

But it is when the bomb is being offloaded that real trouble begins. The propulsion system on the rocket fails, and it circles back and attaches itself to the hull of the rocket. Hayden takes a spacewalk and tries to push it away, but again it just makes a U-turn back. This, he explains, is due to either “metallic attraction” or “magnetism”. The problem is that the bomb is now armed, and set to go off in a few hours. Taking it back to Earth is out of the question, as it would cause wide-scale devastation and kill the crewmembers in the process. Back on Earth, the military and scientists mull over the problem, but find no other solution than to sacrifice the rocket and its crew for the greater good. The news is recieved aboard the rocket with surprising calm, only Professor Merrity has a slight nervous breakdown, one which has no consequences. At the end of her life, Kim Hamilton reveals her personal reasons for opposing the space program, it seems she lost both father and brother to it, but now, as she falls in love with the hunky Commander, she not only embraces the “progress” of space travel, but also that of the bomb which is soon to take her life. However, Professor Merrity and Lefty (a widow, mind you) make one final, desperate attempt at saving the rocket with a space walk — but will they succeed before the bomb explodes, and can they make it back alive?

The experimental jet.

I must admit that when I first sat down to view this British 1956 movie, my initial thought was “oh no, not another British experimental flight film”. Inspired by David Lean’s 1952 hit film The Sound Barrier, about the test flight of an experimental jet plane, there was an explosion of aviation films in the UK, some with a clear SF premise. We have reviewed two of them here on Scifist, The Net (1953, review) and Spaceways (1953, review). Both films concern an experimental flight: The Net, directed by Anthony Asquith, revolves around a new nuclear-powered jet plane and Spaceways, by Terence Fisher, like Satellite in the Sky, has astronauts attempting the first orbital flight. In both cases, the action is decidedly Earth-bound, focusing primarily on the hunt for a saboteur within the top-secret lab, and on the domestic drama around embittered wives who seek solace with male colleagues when their workaholic husbands are never around. So when I first saw the intro of the film, with stock footage of experimental jet planes, the stiff press conference and the cut to a domestic quarrel between Larry and his wife Barbara (Thea Gregory), I was ready to throw my hands in the air and give up. It’s like Biritsh SF movie writers were not confident that the SF would provide enough drama, so they had to fill out their films with often rather pointless domestic melodrama. To the credit of Satellite in the Sky, this aspect of the movie more or less dissipates at around half the film’s running time, but on the other hand, this only makes the focus on the soap opera-like melodrama in the beginning all the more pointless. Barbara’s fling with another man has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the plot, nor do we spend enough time with her character or with her and Larry for the plot addition to have any emotional impact. We also spend quite a while with a subplot about Jimmy wanting to take his girl (a cute Shirley Lawrence) out on a date with the intention of proposing to her. However, she calls it off because she has to work, and then Jimmy mopes at a bar (THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS SPACE FLIGHT!) until the bartender encourages him to propose by phone. This is a whole plot in and of its own, and, again, it has no bearing whatsoever on the actual plot of the film (the two women very briefly turn up at the end of the film to give some emotional impact of the astronauts’ impending doom, but it’s too little and too late).

Jimmy Hanley and Thea Gregory.

These preambles and preludes to the actual plot could have worked if they would have given us some insight into the characters, but they are on such a soap opera level that their only function is to draw out an already talky and slow-moving drama. Another problem with the film is that it lacks a central conflict. When Kim Hamilton first sneaks aboard the plane, we assume she is there to sabotage the flight (perhaps a foreign spy?), but it turns out she simply wants to go on the flight out of curiosity (and, it turns out, because of feelings connected to her lost loved ones, maybe?). It is soon made clear that despite her intellectual opposition to the flight in general and the bomb mission in particular, she will not pose an actual threat to any of them, but is along for the ride only to observe and nag (and perhaps because of an interest in the hunky commander?). Professor Merrity is set up as a villainous character, but he doesn’t do anything villainous, except being obnoxious. The way the crew of the rocket grumblingly fall in line with the bomb mission also defuses the potential tension this plot development offers. Even when the military brass and scientific leaders down on Earth decide that the crew and its stowaway are to be sacrificed for the greater good, all aboard accept their fate with little complaint, except for a hysterical outbreak by Professor Merrity, which is resolved in a matter of 10 seconds. While it’s nice to see a film that skirts some of the tired clichés of space movies (a stray meteor, the rocket flying out of trajectory, loss of fuel/air, a foreign saboteur on board, etc), the film fails to add something of its own in order to build tension and suspense. The bomb about to go off, killing the entire crew is such a potential plot twist, but as none of the crew members seem particularly upset about dying in history’s biggest explosion, the film falls rather flat.

Jimmy Hanley and Donald Wolfit checking the detonator.

The flat script is a bit of a surprise, as one of the credited screenwriters is J.T. Mcintosh, pseudonym for James MacGregor, a competent enough Scottish SF author. However, it’s possible that Mcintosh was merely brought on as “technical consultant” for the script, which is also credited to John Chartres Mather, who was a theatre producer, and Edith Dell, who has only one other IMDb credit. These two are not to be confused with American Nobel laureate and NASA scientist John C. Mather or British romance author Edith Dell. But fault also lies with producers, the Danziger brothers, who chose protegé Paul Dickson as director of this CinemaScope and Eastmancolor pseudo-epic – a director who had nothing in his resumé to suggest he would be the right person to direct this film. Up to 1956 Dickson had primarily directed short films, a couple of anthology movies and one romantic feature film.

The rocket taking off in an impressive model shot.

That said, while Dickson seems to have had little knack for the drama needed for a film such as this, Satellite in the Sky looks good for what can’t have been a prestige project. I wondered where the money for the elaborate effects, CinemaScope and colour came from — this was not the Danzigers normal wheelhouse. Then I saw executive producer was Nicholas Duke Biddle, an American diplomat and philantropist from a prominent (read: rich) family, who must have put up some of the financing. Warner Bros. also picked up distribution stateside, and may have partially funded the movie. The film’s biggest asset was special effects director Wally Veevers, who went on to work on a whole number of special effects blockbusters, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Superman (1978). Veevers’ miniature work is what makes this movie worth watching. Sure, there are the usual problems: occasionally wobbly rockets, occasionally visible wires, smoke rising upwards in space, etc, but these issues were present even in the best of 50’s SF movies. The miniature work is exquisite. The design of the rocket is cool, very much based on the pulp magazine idea at the time of what a space rocket would look like. But it goes beyond what was the standard in movies of the era, including such scientifically correct features as double-door airlocks and interesting, and cool-looking observation domes with 180 degree visibility on both sides of the rocket, which are extended from the hull once the rocket has left Earth’s atmosphere. It is also one of the few 50’s rockets that include a two-stage propulsion system. At first glance I was extremely impressed with the blue screen work — not a wobble and not a matte line in sight! Then I rewatched the film in order to pull screen grabs, and noticed a few short instances when the matted image was extremely shaky. I now realised that all the shots I had previously though to be blue screen were in fact not, but rather in-camera practical effects, painted mattes and backdrops, and that they had built an actual life-size model of the rocket in the studio, or at least a large part of it. A couple of great scene which I though were bluescreen composites, people looking from the observation pod at one end of the ship at others who space walk and handle the bomb in the rear, are actually shot live in camera. This is pretty cool practical effects work.

I thought this was a bluescreen shot, but it isn’t.

Curiously enough, though, we never see much of space, or Earth for that matter. This works as both a detriment and a strength. The procucers must have figured that they wouldn’t be able to make a believable Earth replica (most Earths in 50’s movies look rather crappy) and instead opted not show it at all. Neither do we see much of space, save from the spacewalk sequences, where the background looks a bit faded and not as black as one might hope (my observation on the lack of bluescreen photography above may explain this). One thing that Satellite in the Sky shares with the majority of space exploration movies is that once we get up there, nobody marvels at the fact that they are actually in space. The sense of awe and wonder that has been our driving motivation to explore the universe from the days of the ancient Greek is completely absent. It’s all just “another day in the navy”, as these movies tended to be modelled on war films.

“PIIIIIIGS IIIIIN SPAAAAACE!” Sorry, I’m being silly. Wrong movie.

Both in look and tone, Satellite in the Sky resembles George Pal’s classic Destination Moon (1950, review). The pastel colour palette is familiar, as are the designs of the rocket exterior and interior — with the exception that the rocket in this movie seems impossibly roomy. One of the reasons for this is that this rocket is built horizontally, rather than vertically, as it takes off from a ramp, as seen in Cosmic Voyage (1936, review) and When Worlds Collide (1952, review). This means there are only two extended floors, rather than several cramped ones. In a sense, it is built like a plane rather than like a rocket. Inside the rocket the crew use standard blue coveralls, but the space suits are of a pretty unique design — they are bulkier than any I have seen this far in a 50’s movie, with an exaggerated ridged design. They look both functional and sturdy, although I’m not sure what the strange golden half-globe on the backs of their gloves are supposed to represent. The backpacks are significantly smaller than on modern space suits, and they have an exposed air hose feeding oxygen into the helmet rather than a circulating pressure inside the suit. They also seem to have the kind of backpack propulsion system so popular in science fiction movies. As is often the case in these films, despite all the knobs and lights and gauges, the only instrument anyone ever uses is a simple back-and-forth lever. Otherwise, the film is thin on props, but credit should be given for not including whiskey bottles and tea kettles — tea and coffee are served in plastic cups and the ham sandwiches are plastic wrapped.

Barry Keegan and Donald Wolfit dressed up with nowhere to go.

The film is a bit sketchy on logic: it is unlikely that a reporter could just sneak into and hide in a space rocket the night before takeoff, even if the film tries to explain this away with the fact that the guards are mainly stationed by the perimeter fence. It is also unlikely that said reporter could stay hidden in the elctrical cabinet past takeoff without anyone noticing. But of course, certain liberties must be taken in the advancement of plot. More problematic is perhaps Kim Hamilton’s wobbly motivations. Her motivation for sneaking aboard the rocket ship remain sketchy at best, even if the script tries to somehow tie it to her dead family members. I can buy that her opinion on space exploration is altered when she has taken part of it herself, but the way she seems to accept and even take pride in her impending death by atom bomb is bewildering. As stated, the stiff upper lip attituide of the entire crew regarding imminent death makes this film something of a snoozer. One character, the widow, barely flinches when he is told his life is going to end a few hours. The happy-go-lucky kid who has just been engaged to his girl throws in a couple of jokes and acts a little bit miffed, as if he had missed a flight to a birthday party. The pilot is all task and trying to find a solution, barking out orders and perhaps a few curses at the military brass back on Earth. Hamilton complains, but it seems to be more of an intellectual objection than any emotional distress. Professor Merrity seems to be the only one acting rationally — meaning he panics.

One of many shots of lots of people in brown suits. Here with Donald Gray and Walter Hudd.

The overall direction is rather dull, and most of the film is shot in wide shots, with a few cuts to mid-shot and the occasional close-up for dramatic effect. While crossing the 180 line is something a director should be worried about, the way Dickson shoots both the interior and the exterior of the rocket from almost exclusively one side borders on ridiculous. Dickson seems to have been hindered by the bulky colour cameras, as the film is extremely static and dull from a visual point of view. (EDIT: When re-watching it for pulling screengrabs I now realise that somewhere around 2/3 of all the scenes in this film are shot in a single take

Lois Maxwell.

The acting is fine, and at least the characters have a little more life to them than do George Pal’s in Destination Moon. Kieron Moore, however, may be hunky and have a velvety barytone to melt for, but he has the charisma of cold porridge. Lois Maxwell, whom most of my readers will know as Miss Moneypenny, is charming and witty, and does what she can with the schizophrenic role. Character actor extraordinaire Donald Wolfit is the only one who is able to bring some real life into the movie, as the obnoxious, colourful Professor Merrity.

Kieron Moore, Donald Wolfit and Bryan Forbes.

Contemporary reviews for Satellite in the sky were not kind. Bosley Crowther at The New York Times wrote: “let’s just say that the trouble with this film is that it makes space travel so simple that it is without surprise or kick. Kieron Moore as the captain of the space ship might be a cub scout leader on a hike. CinemaScope and color make the optical effects look good, but that’s all.” Time magazine called it “the sort of thing the British usually do very well done badly”. Harrison’s Reports wrote that the film was “only a moderately interesting picture of its kind, best suited for the lower half of a double bill”. British Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush Gazette stated that “the story is rather weak, but the effects in Satellite in the Sky are startling”. Variety’s Brog opined that “Satellite in the Sky has nothing to recommend it. It’s ineptly written and directed. […] The screenplay […] features ridiculously trite dialgoue and situations that are no better.”

Modern audience and critics seem to be somewhat more forgiving. The film has a 5.2/10 audience rating on IMDb, based on 700+ votes, and no Rotten Tomatoes consensus. AllMovie gives it 2.5/5 stars, but has no review. Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide calls it “elaborate but unexciting”. In The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies, Phil Hardy writes: “A predictable mix of British stiff-upper-lip heroics and melodrama, Satellite in the Sky is a lacklustre film. […] The outer space special effects are effective as is the model work”.

Bryan Forbes, Jimmy Hanley and Barry Keegan.

Bill Warren in his book Keep Watching the Skies! writes “Dickson fails to generate much suspense, though, with the script he was given, it seems unlikely anyone else could have delivered much better”. DVD Savant Glenn Erickson says: “Director Dickson’s talky scenes frequently contain only one or two cuts, and the film moves like molasses. The petty domestic subplots go nowhere. […] The film’s considerable interest for Sci-Fi fans lies in its hardware.” Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings opines: “The British were capable of making tense thrillers when they put their minds to it; they were also capable of making talky, tiresome snoozefests. This is one of the latter, I’m afraid.” And Mark David Welsh says: “the model work is surprisingly quite good throughout and there’s nothing here to relegate the film into the realms of truly bad cinema. Only it is boring. Very, very boring.”

The rocket taking off.

Satellite in the Sky tries to be a British Destination Moon, and unfortunately it succeeds marvellously well in this. Like its predecessor, it takes itself all too seriously, replacing George Pal’s Catholic zeal with British stiff upper lip. Considering the British preference for “grounded” hard SF films, it’s surprising that no-one ever got around to adapt their countryman Arthur C. Clarke’s excellent novel Prelude to Space, but instead all seemed to rely on second-rate SF writers to do the job for them. On the other hand, seeing as the SF movies of the UK were mainly done by small quota quickie companies, it is possible Clarke was wary of selling the rights to the book. Satellite in the Sky is by no means a terrible film — the pace picks up toward the end, and the visuals are reason enough to see the movie. The actors succeed in making it moving in the right parts. It’s just a pity they didn’t have a better script and a more seasoned director.

Lobby card.

Producers Edgar and Harry Danziger were New Yorkers who ran a sound studio in their home city, before relocating to London in 1952, where they started producing TV movies and episodes as well as quota quickie feature films. Working primarily on the concept of quantity over quality, they would have their screenwriters churn out scripts for already existing sets, left over from other productions. According to an interview I found on the Bela Lugosi Blog, in 1954 the Danzigers worked on a TV show called The Mayfair Mysteries for Paramount, along with stage and TV producer John C. Mather. When shooting finished with 10 days to spare, they decided to whip up a script and filma movie on the existing sets. Few would probably have anticipated the end result would have become an enduring cult classic — Devil Girl from Mars (review). Mather was primarily a theatre producer, but was involved in the writing of Devil Girl from Mars, although it was not, as stated in the film’s credits, based on his stage play. Perhaps it was his involvement in this surprise science fiction hit that made the Danzigers call him up when time came to do Satellite in the Sky.

Donald Wolfit getting manhandled by Jimmy Hanley and Kieron Moore.

The Danzigers in 1956 decided to form their own studio, and founded New Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire outside London, and converted a former wartime aero-engine testing factory into a studio with six sound stages and exterior shooting facilities. It is not far-fetched to imagine that Satellite in the Sky was their grand opening of the studio, which might explain the sudden change in pace from low-budget quickies to a CinemaScope colour “epic”. Paul Dickson was a Danziger protegé, who had made a couple of well-received documentary shorts, made short entertainment films and a couple of anthology movies prior to Satellite in the Sky. The Danzigers must have had a lot of faith in him to let him helm such an ambitious project, but unfortunately it was misplaced. Dickson is not up to the task, but the Danzigers also should have demanded a much better script.

Kieron Moore.

Lead actor Kieron Moore, born Ciarán Ó hAnnracháin, was an Irish catholic born into an artistic family who showed serious promise in post-war British films – producer Alexander Korda signed him to a contract with London Films in 1947, and gave him the marquee name Kieron Moore. Korda said: “He has a brilliant acting talent. Then he has six-feet-two of brawn, a mobile photogenic face, rich expressive eyes, and ability to adapt himself to any type of role – ultra romantic or the last word in villainy. Very soon he will be one of the big names on the world’s screens.” Despite his leading man looks, stature and booming barytone, he initially impressed in villainous roles, in particular in Mine Own Executioner (1947). The film that Korda hoped would make him a major star, Anna Karenina (1948), instead became a lodestone – Moore was deemed miscast as Count Vronsky, and his career failed to take off, despite steady work and a shot at Hollywood in 1951.

Kieron Moore and Barry Keegan.

Returning to the UK, he found himself mainly cast in B-movies, until a chance to play against Michael Redgrave in the A-lister The Green Scarf (1954), of which he said to The Newcastle Sun: “Thank heavens for this. I’ve had a rough time of it, especially during the last three years. Now perhaps I can re-establish myself as an actor.” But it wasn’t the break he had been hoping for, and his roles gradually declined – he was offered bit-parts in larger productions and occasional leads in B-movies. In the early 60’s he was seen as lead or co-lead in three SF/horror/disaster movies: Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961), Day of the Triffids (1963) and Crack in the World (1965). He then transitioned to TV, where he at one time got a chance to play the lead in a TV series, Ryan International (1970), however, it only ran for one season. He retired from acting in the late 70’s and went into catholic relief work.

Lois Maxwell serving tea.

Canadian teenager Lois Maxwell, born Hooker, ran away from home aged 15 to join the noncombatant female corps during WWII. Showing a knack for entertainment, she became part of the Canadian Auxiliary Services Entertainment Unit, which shipped to the UK . However, when they reached London, she was revealed as a minor, and discharged. But instead of going home, she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. At the age of 20 she moved to Hollywood, and was hailed as an up-and-coming actress in the post-war years – after changing her somewhat unfortunate surname to Maxwell. However, she was mostly cast in small roles in B-movies, tired of Hollywood and moved to Italy in 1950, where she appeared in a series of movies, became a race car driver and befriended Sophia Loren. In 1955 she visited Paris, met TV executive Peter Marriott, married him and moved back to London in 1957. Here she appeared in a number of TV series and in small film roles, before she landed her career-defining role as Miss Moneypenny in the first official James Bond film Dr. No (1962). She reprised the role in 13 more movies, becoming an international screen icon in the process. While her first appearance in 1962 paid 200 pounds for two days’ shooting, by the 70’s she could state her own salary. Maxwell played Moneypenny through the entirety of Sean Connery’s first run as Bond, and the entirety of her former acting school classmate Roger Moore’s run as Bond. In her final appearance as the beloved character in A View to a Kill (1985), producer Albert Broccoli pointed out that he and Maxwell were the only cast and crew left from the first Bond movie. She made a handful of films yet in the late 80’s, but more or less retired in 1989. She passed away in 2007.

Donald Wolfit.

Sir Donald Wolfit was a legendary British stage actor who at one time set the standard for playing Richard III (until Olivier came along). As renowned for his acting, as for his vanity and his temperament, he was infamous for leading his theatre troupe like a tyrant and for always surrounding himself with mediocre actors, in the fear of someone upstaging him. Films he did mainly in order to finance his stage company. He appeared in three movies that were nominated for best film Oscars: Room at the Top (1958), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Becket (1964), in which he miraculously managed to work with his arch enemy John Gielgud without killing him. His most famous role, however, is probably the title role of Svengali (1954), in which he hypnotises Hildegard Knef. He also appeared in the SF movie The Hands of Orlac (1960) and even played a resurrected ghoul in Blood of the Vampire (1958).

Bryan Forbes.

If Lois Maxwell had studied with Roger Moore, then Bryan Forbes served with him, occupying Germany in 1947. In 1962 Forbes was offered to direct Dr. No, but turned it down as “just another bang bang film”. Forbes plays the happy-go-lucky kid who proposes over the phone in Satellite in the Sky. While respected as an actor, he really came into his own as a writer and director, making a splash with three films made for a production company he founded with Richard Attenborough: The Angry Silence (1960), The League of Gentlemen (1960) and Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1961). He also wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for such films as Hopscotch (1980), The Whisperers (1984) and Chaplin (1992). He is perhaps best known today for directing the horror/SF classic The Stepford Wives (1975).

Jimmy Hanley.

Good-natured Jimmy Hanley was a minor star of light fare in the 30’s as a child actor, but his success never quite carried over into maturity, even if he starred in a couple of low-budget films with wife Dinah Sheridan during WWII. Hanley was relegated to supporting and bit parts in every conceivable genre, but made a bit of a comeback on television in the 50’s. Barry Keegan was a reliable supporting actor and guest star on TV from the 50’s to the 70’s. In supporting roles in Satellite in the Sky we see a number of familiar faces, not least Alan Gifford, who appears on a video phone screen in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) as Gary Lockwood’s father. He also appeared in Escapement (1958), The Road to Hong Kong (1962) and Phase IV (1974). Carl Jaffe had a tendency to show up as a doctor or scientist, and did so no only in Satellite in the Sky, but also Timeslip (1955, review), Escapement (1958, in an unusually large role) and Battle Beneath the Earth (1967). 6’7 or 2 meters tall Bernard Bresslaw, here in a tiny role, was a classically trained actor discovered by Laurence Olivier, but would often get cast in roles where he was defined by his physical attributes rather than his acting abilities. A staple in Carry On films, where he would play characters like “Upsidasi”, “Bungdit Din” and “Bernie Hulke”, he can also be seen in Blood of the Vampire, played the lead in the Jekyll/Hyde comedy The Ugly Duckling (1959), played Varga the Ice Warrior in the 5th season The Ice Warriors storyline in Doctor Who (1967), had a bit-part in Moon Zero Two, and is perhaps best remembered to genre fans as Cyclops in Krull (1983). Bill Nagy was a staple face in a number of British SF films, including my next review, Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1956, review), First Man Into Space (1959) and Z.P.G. (1972).

Alan Gifford and Ann Gillis as Gary Lockwood’s parents in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The poor direction of Satellite in the Sky can’t be blamed on bad cinematographers, as one of them was Georges Périnal, who had won an Oscar for his work on The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and probably handled effects shots along with the miniature team. Principal photographer for non-effects shots was probably James Wilson, a veteran workhorse of British cinema. Special effects man Wally Veevers’ became a go-to man for Hollywood producers who made films in the UK. Among his SF movies can be counted Things to Come (1936, review), Satellite in the Sky, The Road to Hong Kong, The Day of the Triffids, Skies Above (1965), Die, Monster, Die! (1965), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon Zero Two, Superman and Saturn 3 (1980).

Janne Wass

Satellite in the Sky. 1956, UK. Directed by Paul Dickson. Written by John Mather, J.T. McIntosh, Edith Dell. Starring: Kieron Moore, Lois Maxwell, Donald Wolfit, Bryan Forbes, Jimmy Hanley, Barry Keegan, Donald Grey, Thea Gregory, Shirley Lawrence, Alan Gifford, Walter Hudd, Carl Jaffe, Bernard Bresslaw, Bill Nagy. Music: Albert Elms. Cinematography: Georges Pèrinal, James Wilson. Editing: Sidney Stone. Art direction: Erik Blakemore. Sound: George Stephenson. Special effects: Wally Veevers. Wardrobe: Rene Coke.

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