Perhaps the ultimate trapped-in-an-elevator movie, a sleazy but staid
Italian import that takes place largely inside a broken-down lift
holding a dozen people--needless to say, mayhem ensues!
IN THE HIGHEST OF SKIES (NEL PIUí ALTO DEI CIELI) was
released in its native Italy back in 1976, but took over thirty years to
come to light in the English speaking world. Now, of course, itís become
a cult item among American horror and exploitation movie buffs.
Catholic-bashers, I should think, will particularly
A clergy-appointed gathering of twelve people, whose
ranks include a priest, a teenage girl, some businessmen and several
nuns, meet in the lobby of the Vatican. At one point they step into an
elevator only to have it break down between floors. Luckily the elevator
is brightly lit and quite spacious, leaving ample room for everyone to
move around. But thereís no electrical apparatus with which to contact
the hotelís overseers--pounding on the walls and shouting donít help
matters--and the atmosphere quickly turns toxic.
The madness begins when a businessman goes nuts and
tries to strangle a nun. Heís forcibly subdued and knocked unconscious.
Before long he passes on, leaving the elevatorís inhabitants with a dead
The priest gets randy with the teen girl while she
sleeps, for which heís gagged and tied up by his companions. But as
starvation overtakes the group all traces of civility break down, with
wonton sex, rampant brutality and cannibalism coming into play.
Director Silvano Agosti set himself a
near-insurmountable challenge here by situating nearly the entire film
in a single, largely nondescript space packed with actors who spend most
of their screen time standing around talking. Itíd be nice to say that
Agosti rose to and overcame the challenge, but Iím afraid thatís just
not the case.
Agosti favors wide shots, more often than not with
several people crowded into the frame--a mighty inefficient way to cover
a scene, seeing as how itís extremely easy for the viewerís attention to
wander. There are films shot in this manner that donít have that problem
(Carpenterís THE THING and Bunuelís EXTERMINATING ANGEL spring to mind),
but this isnít one of them.
Further problems include repetitive (and annoying)
music cues played over and over, and much bad acting. The film
ultimately doesnít work as the anti-Catholic satire Agosti was
apparently trying for, and nor is it passable as exploitation, lacking
as it does the pulpy energy of the Italian ďgiallosĒ popular at the
time. What it is is a so-so film whose curiosity value
constitutes its sole point of interest.
IN THE HIGHEST OF SKIES (NEL PIU ALTO DEI DIELI)
Director: Silvano Agosti
Screenplay: Silvano Agosti, Stefano Rulli
Cinematography: Claudio Tondi
Cast: Livio Barbo, Edy Biagetti, Giorgio Bonora, Gisella Burinato,
Francesca Cacciolati, Francesca Romana Coluzzi, Francesco Costa, Alberto
Cracco, Jorge Krimer, Clara Colosimo, Marcella Michelangeli