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Five Came Back (1939)

Passed | | Adventure, Drama, Thriller | 23 June 1939 (USA)
A plane has engine trouble while flying over a jungle inhabited by cannibals.


John Farrow


Jerome Cady (screenplay) (as Jerry Cady), Dalton Trumbo (screenplay) | 2 more credits »




Complete credited cast:
Chester Morris ... Bill
Lucille Ball ... Peggy Nolan
Wendy Barrie ... Alice Melhorne
John Carradine ... Crimp
Allen Jenkins ... Pete
Joseph Calleia ... Vasquez
C. Aubrey Smith ... Prof. Henry Spengler
Kent Taylor ... Joe Brooks
Patric Knowles ... Judson Ellis
Elisabeth Risdon ... Martha Spengler
Casey Johnson Casey Johnson ... Tommy Mulvaney
Dick Hogan ... Larry


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 <mvg@whidbey.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Fice can escape in the crippled plane! Four must die! One must choose! (original poster) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Budgeted at a mere $225,000, which was extremely low even by RKO standards, this picture netted a rather impressive $262,000 in profits. See more »


Adding to the comments about the revolver: It's possible that a couple of the expended shells had been previously removed from the cylinder. However, Vasquez shoots Ellis just before the plane takes off, but there's no indication that he removed any spent shells and little time for him to have done so. See more »


Vasquez: Hanging is such an unpleasant death. Besides, a hanged man always dies alone. I much prefer dying in the company of decent citizens like you... always provided I'm the last to die.
See more »


Referenced in Pitch Black (2000) See more »

User Reviews

Who will live and who will die?
3 August 2019 | by bensonmum2See all my reviews

The Quick Pitch: Twelve people board a plane that crashes in the South American jungle. While they work to fix the plane and with angry natives closing in, the group realise the plane will generate enough thrust for only five passengers. Who will live and who will die?

What a nice, little B-film! Five Came Back was quite a nice watch. Director John Farrow should get a lot of the credit. He crafted a tight film with a very small budget and was able to inject well placed tension and atmosphere. There are few wasted moments in the 75 minute runtime. Every scene matters. I also like the way he and the writers turned societal norms on their head. The passengers you would expect to do well in the jungle, don't. Those who may have had problems in polite society end up being the heroes. It's a very interesting look at how adverse conditions can change people. The ending is very satisfying. The decisions about who will and who will not be on the plane lead to some very interesting drama.

Five Came Back is helped by having an outstanding cast. The most immediately recognizable name is Lucille Ball. This was long before she became Lucy. Here, she's the tough-talking sexpot. Allen Jenkins, Joseph Calleia, and Chester Morris are also standouts. Finally, has there ever been a more British looking actor than C. Aubrey Smith? One look at the man and you can all but hear God Save the Queen playing in the background. Overall, some strong performances.

I'm not sure I had ever heard of Five Came Back before watching it the other night. But it's a solid film that I plan to revisit again in future. My 8/10 is probably about right given the quality of the film and the enjoyment I got out of it.


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English | Spanish

Release Date:

23 June 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Five Came Back See more »


Box Office


$225,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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