Back from Eternity

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Back from Eternity
Back from Eternity FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by John Farrow
Produced by John Farrow
Written by Richard Carroll (story)
Jonathan Latimer
Starring Robert Ryan
Anita Ekberg
Rod Steiger
Phyllis Kirk
Keith Andes
Gene Barry
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography William C. Mellor
Edited by Eda Warren
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • September 8, 1956 (1956-09-08) (US)[1]
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.5 million (US)[2]

Back from Eternity is a 1956 drama film about a planeload of people stranded in the South American jungle and subsequently menaced by headhunters. It is a remake of an earlier 1939 film, Five Came Back, starred Chester Morris, and Lucille Ball, also directed and produced by John Farrow. Richard Carroll, who is credited with writing the story for Back from Eternity, wrote the original story for Five Came Back.

Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Anita Ekberg, and Gene Barry star in this version.


An aircraft is bound for Boca Grande, somewhere in South America, making a pick-up stop in Central America. Passengers: Jud Ellis (Gene Barry) is escorting his fiancé Louise Melhorn (Phyllis Kirk); repentant political assassin Vasquel (Rod Steiger) is being transported back to the proper authorities by detective Crimp (Fred Clark); mobster Pete Bostwick (Jesse White) is accompanying a little boy named Tommy, whose father is Bostwick's boss; an elderly couple, Professor and Mrs. Spangler (Cameron Prud'Homme and Beulah Bondi), are apparently on vacation; and jilted blonde bombshell Rena (Anita Ekberg), on her way to a South American casino, is vying for Ellis' attention.

During its flight, the aircraft enters a rough storm and is dangerously jostled about. A portable oxygen tank is loosened from its mooring, and crashes through one of the fuselage doors, killing the flight attendant, Maria Alvarez (Adele Mara) who is thrown out of the aircraft.

The crew is then forced to make an emergency landing in the jungle, aircraft intact. Crimp tries to take charge of the group, but the captain stops him. Late at night, Crimp renders Bostwick temporarily unconscious, steals the gun he was guarding, then flees into the jungle. Momentarily, Ellis becomes psychologically unhinged, and tries to force himself upon Louise, but co-pilot Brooks steps in to dissuade him. Later, the aircraft is repaired, but soon after searching and finding an errant Tommy, Bostwick and Rena discover Crimp’s headless body. Soon, local head hunters shoot Bostwick dead by poison dart.

The crew and passengers decide the best escape strategy; since there is only one good engine to help the aircraft fly over the mountains, the human cargo will have to be exceptionally light, so some will have to stay behind. With gun in hand, Vasquel forcibly takes charge of the matter, and chooses those that will be able to return to civilization; Ellis tries to stop him and is shot dead. The aircraft manages to take off, dropping off a cliff and then narrowly clearing the mountains.

The elderly Spanglers choose to stay behind, facing a horrible death from the head hunters. With only two bullets left in his gun, Vasquel shoots the Spanglers and prays for forgiveness as he waits for his own death.



The supposed New York airport control tower shown near the beginning of the film is actually that of the Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, California.


  1. ^ "Back From Eternity: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956." Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957.

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