Twelve people are aboard Coast Air Line's flagship the Silver Queen enroute to South America when the airplane encounters a storm and is blown off course. Crashing into jungles known to be ...
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Fred M. Wilcox
Twelve people are aboard Coast Air Line's flagship the Silver Queen enroute to South America when the airplane encounters a storm and is blown off course. Crashing into jungles known to be inhabited by head hunters, pilots Bill and Joe race against time to fix the engines and attempt a take off. The situation brings out the best and worst in the stranded dozen as they create a makeshift runway and prepare to escape before the natives attack. But damage to the plane and low fuel reserves means that only 5 people can be carried to safety. Do both Bill and Joe make the flight out? And what about the rest: Peggy, a woman with a slightly tarnished past; Pete, a racketeer who is escorting his boss's young son Tommy; Alice and Judson, eloping lovers who seem to have less in common as their plight changes one of them in the other's eyes; Crimp, who is bringing criminal Vasquez to justice; Prof. and Mrs. Spengler, an elderly couple whom become closer due to their predicament; and finally, is ...Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Five Came Back may not be the best B picture ever made, but it is a superior example of one, almost in a way the ideal B in terms of what's done with the subject matter. It's a standard enough story of several people stuck in an isolated setting,--in this case the jungles of South America--and how they cope with their predicament. The story is similar to the one in The Lost Patrol, and is similar to many war movies such as Bataan and Sahara; it was even remade (badly) by the same director, John Farrow, many years later under a different title. A plane carrying twelve people crashes in the jungle. After looking over the damage it is determined that the plane can be made to fly again, but it can carry no more than five people. The problem is that not too far off is a tribe of head-hunting Indians; whoever is left behind will almost certainly face a horrible death. Eventually the passengers' numbers are whittled down by various factors, and the character who seemed early on the most sinister undergoes a remarkable transformation. This is not a deep movie, nor, as a study in character is it remarkable, though the characters are far better realized than in most films, let alone second features like this one. I can't help but think that Five Came Back was designed as a sort of small or experimental A picture. It was a surprise hit when it came out and put director Farrow on the map in Hollywood. But he was an up and comer anyway, a screenwriter and husband to actress Maureen O'Sullivan. Although leading man Chester Morris had pretty much become a B actor by this time, he is fine as usual (one can easily imagine Clark Gable playing the role in a Metro A version). Lucille Ball has a good part, and so does Allen Jenkins, much softer than usual here. C. Aubrey Smith is prominently featured, which again makes me wonder just how B this picture really is. The jungle setting, like the story, is quite obviously artificial, which is no way detracts from the film, since we expect fake jungles in thirties movies anyway. Overall, the technical side of the movie is more than good enough, and since RKO produced it, there is a special quality here hard to pin down; for want of a better term I'll call it artistic, as opposed to slick, which is what most studio movies were. This artistic aspect of the film gives it a gravitas that it almost certainly wouldn't have had had it been made elsewhere. It's a good show, thoughtful and moving at the same time.
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