The Crowded Sky

Released: 1960
Grade: D+

The Crowded Sky (1960) on IMDb


Soap opera / disaster film follows the past lives of several characters just before they all board the same flight. Also includes the backstories of two Air Force pilots who are trying to get to Washington DC over night. Due to several errors, the commercial flight and the Air Force jet are on a collision course.


OK so first of all, this is not my favorite disaster movie – in fact it’s not even close. But it stars Dana Andrews and Anne Francis, so I decided to check it out. I certainly didn’t expect to see an elongated soap opera.

Clocking in at 106 minutes, this movie is at least 76 minutes too long. If you decide to watch this, skip the first hour at least. There is literally nothing in the first part of the movie that you need to see. The endless and disjointed flashback scenes are very hard to watch – not because of their content but because they’re just so incredibly boring. There are too many characters and not nearly enough plot. By the time we get to the end, not enough of the backstories connect into anything meaningful. I really didn’t care about any of these characters at the end of this.

I’m wondering if the reason they spent so much time on the backstories of these characters is because they had a really low budget for special effects. All of the plane footage was made with models – it’s extremely obvious, and quite distracting. I’ve seen much better effects in movies that were 20 years older. Normally I wouldn’t care about the effects, but the producer spent the money on color film when they probably should have focused on special effects instead. I bet it would have been more realistic.

In every disaster film, you definitely need some backstories so the audience will care what happens to these characters. But here in this film, I just didn’t care what happened to these people. I’m not sure why exactly, but I just wasn’t impressed.

Of Note

It’s apparently true that flights are generally separated by 1000 feet, depending on which direction they are going. This is also mentioned in the film, but there’s also a huge problem. The commercial flight is at 20,500 feet and the Air Force jet is at 18,000 feet. This is because the commercial pilot wants to avoid the clouds at 20,000 feet. The Air Force jet is lower than it is supposed to be, but that’s because of some technical error – I wasn’t paying that close of attention. Eventually, a flight controller notices this and he tells the Air Force pilot to climb and tells the commercial airliner to drop. Wouldn’t you know it, but the two planes crash right into each other. The commercial pilot takes the blame because of “pilot error”, but in reality if the flight controller on the ground had just let the two planes stay where they were – at least until they passed each other – then this disaster would have never happened.