Back from Eternity
|Back from Eternity|
|Directed by||John Farrow|
|Produced by||John Farrow|
|Written by||Richard Carroll (story)
|Music by||Franz Waxman|
|Cinematography||William C. Mellor|
|Edited by||Eda Warren|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Box office||$1.5 million (US)|
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 the later remake. 
A passenger airliner piloted by Bill Lonagan (Robert Ryan) and Joe Brooks (Keith Andes) is bound for Boca Grande, South America, making a pick-up stop in Central America. Passengers: Jud Ellis (Gene Barry) 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.
- Robert Ryan as Bill Lonagan
- Anita Ekberg as Rena
- Rod Steiger as Vasquel
- Phyllis Kirk as Louise Melhorn
- Keith Andes as Joe Brooks
- Gene Barry as Jud Ellis
- Fred Clark as Crimp
- Beulah Bondi as Martha Spangler
- Cameron Prud'Homme as Professor Henry Spangler
- Jesse White as Pete Bostwick
- Adele Mara as Maria Alvarez - Stewardess
- Jon Provost as Tommy Malone
- Barbara Eden made her screen debut in this film, in a minor, uncredited role as a photojournalist
- Tristram Coffin as Paul, Rena's "patron"
- James Burke as Grimsby, Airline Manager
- Tol Avery as Thomas J. Malone
- Joe Gray as Gambler
- Charles Meredith as Dean Simmons
- Harold J. Stone as Dealer
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. Principal photography on Back from Eternity took place from March 5 to April 26, 1956.
Despite its earlier notable screen heritage, Back from Eternity did not have a positive review from film critic Bosley Crowther at The New York Times. He said, in part, " ... the plight of a group of people downed in the South American wilds when the airliner in which they are traveling is forced to crash land by a violent thunderstorm ... This is the undistinguished company, and we hasten to advise that nothing that happens to them is either inspired or interesting. " 
- The presence of Anita Ekberg in the film was played up in marketing Back from Eternity.
- "Back From Eternity: Detail View." American Film Institute. Retrieved: June 2, 2014.
- "The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956." Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957.
- Pendo 1985, p. 271.
- "Original print information: 'Back from Eternity' (1956)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: may 2, 2015.
- Crowther, Bosley. "Back from Eternity (1956); Screen: Crash landing; 'Back From Eternity' opens at Victoria." The New York Times, September 8, 1956.
- Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
- Back from Eternity at the TCM Movie Database
- Back from Eternity at the Internet Movie Database
- Back from Eternity at AllMovie