|Index||5 reviews in total|
This film was released during the short-lived "Bridey Murphy" reincarnation craze of the mid-1950s. As such, I expected it to be somewhat exploitative, but it actually turned out to be a serious, well-intentioned study of reincarnation that presented alternate viewpoints, explored psychological explanations, and told the story of someone whose reincarnation story appears to be true. Jock Mahoney, usually associated with western and jungle films, does a fine job as a pilot who has strange, unexpected flashes of memories and unexplained knowledge from the life of a World War I pilot who died in 1918. My teenaged daughter, who was working on the computer in the same room where I was watching this film, stopped her work a few minutes into the film, and soon after came over to the couch and watched the rest of the film, riveted. I should state that this is a low-budget B-movie and contains a lot of talky sequences and serious-minded soliloquies--the kind of things that are not too popular with today's jaded, ironic screenwriters-- but those who would enjoy a serious (although in some ways naive) examination of reincarnation on a b-movie level should find this film worth seeking out.
****SPOILERS**** Have we lived before? Is reincarnation a fact that can
be proved scientifically as well as believed philosophically? This
mystery of life after death, or death before life, has baffled the most
renowned minds and thinkers since the dawn of recorded history; from
the Orient to ancient Egypt and Greece and to the great philosophers of
Europe from the middle ages to modern times.
John Bolan, Jock Mahoney, is a commercial pilot who had a fascination with flying since he was a little boy back in Schenectady New York. At the age of 12 in 1931 young Johnny got into the cockpit of a bi-plane and few and landed it like a seasoned pilot. It was the first time that Johnny ever was on a plane much less fly it.
One afternoon when he was about to fly his plane to New York John sees an elderly woman passenger and all of a sudden his mind fills up with memories of a past life that he led. John sees himself as a Let. Peter Stevens a WWI US Army pilot who was shot down over Villars France on April 29, 1918. It's that tragic memory almost causes John to crash his plane with him and all on board now in 1956.
Hospitalized John's thoughts of a life before has him leave and go investigate if there really was a Let. Peter Stevens who was killed in an air battle over France in 1918. Seeing his good friend and lawyer Robert Allen,Simon Scott, about the matter Robert checked out the information that John gave him and comes back with a hit; there was a Let. Peter Stevens and he was shot down over France in April 1918.
John now finds out who that passenger who brought back those memories of WWI and finds out that her name is Jane Stone, Ann Harding, and goes to Philadelphia where she lives. He's determined find out from her if she knew Let. Peter Stevens and, to John's surprise,is informed by Jane that not only did she know Peter Stevens but was engaged to marry him! This revelation by John being Peter, in another life, leaves Jane almost in shock and asks John to please leave.
John who never believed in, or even thought about, reincarnation now is firmly convinced that he lived before and lived the life of Peter Stevens. Nothing that the doctors or psychiatrists at the hospital say can convince John otherwise other then the unproven fact that, like the movie says, "He lived before". The only thing that can positively prove that he was Peter Stevens in another life is for the reluctant Jane Stone, who's persuaded by John's fiancée Lois Gordon (Leigh Snowden), to come to New York. John needs Jane to confirm events between her and Peter that only she knows about. With that John as well as Jane can put the case of Peter Stevens to rest one way or another and see if the theory of reincarnation is in fact a fact or not a fact.
Intelligent film about a mysterious subject, reincarnation, and trying to be not too obviously for or against it. Even though the end of "I've Lived Before" does make a strong case for rebirth it does it in an honest and un-sensational way. Whenever I think about the fact or myth of reincarnation I'm always reminded of the quote by the celebrated 18th century French author and philosopher Voltaire who said of the theory of reincarnation: "It is not more surprising to be born twice then once".
It's easy to criticize this entry in 1950s' very brief and now forgotten
"reincarnation" cycle. Most of the scenes simply consist of two or three
people sitting around in standard studio-interior sets laying out the plot
in straightforward expository dialog. These scenes progress with
unimaginative efficiency from one plot-point to the next. The acting and the
technical aspects of the production are never more than B-movie competent,
and the flat ending is no more than John McIntyre delivering the kind of
tie-up-the-loose-ends sort of speech which screenwriters are supposed to
And yet ... something about "I've Lived Before" merits a certain grudging admiration. Perhaps it's that unvarnished, minimalist quality which both limits and distinguishes it. In any case, those with a taste for the slightly off-beat may find this worth a look.
The opening two sequences, one set in 1918 France and one set in upstate New York in 1931 are unnecessary and get the movie off on the wrong foot, and there are the usual quirks which are now dated and provoke unwanted laughter such as the co-pilot smoking in the cockpit, the boyfriend sleeping on his fiancee's couch while she chastely retires to the bedroom, and Federal Airways optimistically billing itself as "The World's Safest Airline."
On the other hand, this provides a good showcase for Jock Mahoney, one of those beautiful men who doesn't seem to realize how beautiful he really is. It's both puzzling and unfortunate that he never became a star. Sadly, by the time he played the lead in two Tarzan movies, he was a bit past his prime as was the whole Tarzan genre. In this movie, he has only two fleeting bare-chest scenes contained inside a brief montage of medical examinations.
Fans of movies from the '30s and '40s will be pleased to see Ann Harding in a good supporting role, and the stewardess on the airplane is played by April Kent who later appeared as the female midget in "The Incredible Shrinking Man."
A year or two before this film was released, the biggest best seller in the
US was a book called "The Search for Bridey Murphy," a book about
reincarnation. In that book a modern woman supposedly knew intimate details
of the life of Bridey Murphy, an obscure Irish woman who died in the 19th
century and of whom she had never heard. This silly film, in which a
contemporary (1956) man remembers details in the life of a WWI pilot who was
killed in action, was obvious intended to capitalize on "Bridey Murphy"'s
success. It's not a good movie.
There is one reason, and only one, to see this film, and that is to see the gorgeous Leigh Snowden. She made very few film and retired from acting before she was 30, after she, truly a woman of the 50s, married accordianist Dick Contino and dedicated herself to raising a family. If her career had been better managed, or if she had been more committed to acting, she might have rivaled some of the blonde sex symbols of the 50s, such as Monroe and Mansfield. But it was not to be. Since this film isn't on video, the only chance you'll have to see it is if you're lucky enough to catch it on cable, most likely during the wee hours. Otherwise, your best opportunity to see the Lovely Leigh is in "All That Heaven Allows," an excellent Douglas Sirk soaper. Leigh, alas, will never be seen again; she died of cancer in 1982.
An interesting concept-reincarnation-is poorly addressed in this psychological drama. The bad acting and poor direction are extremely disappointing, considering the brief glimpse of genius Director Bartlett showed in earlier efforts-"The Silent Raiders"(1954) and "Silver Star"(1955). The stiff acting, and lack of direction, combined with preachy dialogue, deliver a picture reminiscent of an Ed Wood production.
|Ratings||External reviews||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|