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A South American plane loaded with an assortment of characters crash lands in a remote jungle area in the middle of a storm. The passengers then discover they are in an area inhabited by vicious cannibals and must escape before they are found. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
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After having just seen BACK FROM ETERNITY for the first time in about a "hundred" years, I really have to weigh in with my opinion on this. It is one of the few times when the remake is an improvement on the original, exceptionally so.
I saw the original (FIVE CAME BACK) some time ago and, from what I can tell, the only thing which could possibly raise it even slightly above the superior remake is the curiosity factor of having Lucille Ball in the cast. Other than that, the acting and the production were very wooden and dated, and the overall cast pales in comparison to that which was assembled for ETERNITY.
For anyone not familiar with the story, a plane crashes in the midst of a remote South American jungle. Besides the pilot and co-pilot, there are nine passengers: a so-called "fallen woman", an engaged couple, an elderly professor and his wife, a small boy and his guardian, and a cop with a prisoner in tow. They must stay alive until the plane is repaired, a task complicated by the realization that they are surrounded by a hostile tribe of headhunters.
Here you have Robert Ryan instead of Chester Morris, Rod Steiger instead of Joseph Calleia, and Gene Barry instead of Patric Knowles. Ryan and Steiger especially, in the main roles, display more screen presence and acting talent in this one film than their predecessors were able to conjure up in their entire careers.
Ryan plays the world-weary pilot, another of his sturdy and dependable performances which are often overlooked and not fully appreciated because he made it seem so effortless. Steiger has the more colorful role as the anarchist, with only imprisonment and execution waiting for him if and when they make it back to civilization. The same talent, which would gain an Oscar for the actor some ten years later, is clearly evident here.
The underrated Keith Andes (as the co-pilot, instead of forgettable Kent Taylor) gives a hint of the star he could have become, and the equally underrated Phyllis Kirk is far more effective in her role than whoever played it in the original. Barry, usually cast as a good guy, gives a good account of himself, playing Kirk's fiancée. Whereas most of the other passengers rise to the occasion, his character becomes increasingly desperate, grasping, and unstable.
Anita Ekberg, frequently dismissed as an actress, may not have been as talented as Lucille Ball (who played the part in the original), but at least proved that she could indeed act, and is certainly more convincing in this type of role than Lucy was.
Of note is a pre-Lassie Jon Provost as the little boy. Jesse White, better known for his work in comedic films, does a fine job as the boy's roughhewn guardian, and Fred Clark is good at giving a distasteful stamp to the rather seedy cop. Above all, Cameron Prudhomme and Beulah Bondi, as the old professor and his mrs., give two very moving, heartfelt performances.
The story concerns the characters' survival, how each holds up under the pressure and are changed by the situation. Steiger begins to rediscover some of the values of his youth, but then finally takes it upon himself to decide who will live and who will die, when it is learned that some must stay behind. The conclusion builds to a shattering climax that will stay with you long after the film ends. This is the remake to see and it is definitely worth seeing.
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