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  IN THE HIGHEST OF SKIES

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!

The Package
     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 love it.

The Story
     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 body.
     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.

The Direction
     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.
 

Vital Statistics

IN THE HIGHEST OF SKIES (NEL PIU ALTO DEI DIELI)
Coop NPAC

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

     

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