Back from Eternity (1956): John Farrow’s Adventure (Remake of his 1939 Picture), Starring Robert Ryan and Anita Ekberg

A remake of the 1939 film, Five Came Back, Back from Eternity was directed and produced by John Farrow.

Grade: B (*** out of *****)

Back from Eternity
Back from Eternity FilmPoster.jpeg

Theatrical film poster

Richard Carroll, who is credited with the script, also wrote the original story for Five Came Back.

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.

The diverse group of passengers includes: Jud Ellis (Gene Barry), escorting his fiancée Louise Melhorn (Phyllis Kirk); political assassin Vasquel (Rod Steiger) transported back to the authorities by detective Crimp (Fred Clark); mobster Pete Bostwick (Jesse White), accompanying a boy named Tommy, whose father is Bostwick’s boss; an elderly couple, Professor and Mrs. Spangler (Cameron Prud’Homme and Beulah Bondi), on vacation; and jilted blonde bombshell Rena (Anita Ekberg), on her way to a South American casino.

During a rough storm, a portable oxygen tank is loosened and crashes through the fuselage doors, killing the flight attendant, Maria Alvarez (Adele Mara).

The crew is then forced to make an emergency landing in the jungle. Crimp tries to take charge of the group, but the captain stops him.

Crimp renders Bostwick unconscious, steals the gun he was guarding, and flees into the jungle.  Ellis becomes psychologically unhinged, and tries to force himself upon Louise, but co-pilot Brooks steps in.

The aircraft is repaired, but soon after searching and finding an errant Tommy, Bostwick and Rena discover Crimp’s headless body.  Local head hunters kill Bostwick with a poison dart.

When Lonagan and Brooks start the engines, they discover an oil leak.  With only one good engine, the aircraft can carry only four adults and the child over the mountains.  When Vasquel takes charge by force, Ellis tries to stop him but is shot dead.  The elderly Spanglers volunteer to remain behind, and the aircraft takes off.

In the end, Vasquel shoots the Spanglers with the last two bullets and prays as he awaits a horrible death.

Barbara Eden made her screen debut in Back from Eternity, in a minor, uncredited role as a photojournalist.


Directed, produced by John Farrow
Written by Richard Carroll (story); Screenplay by Jonathan Latimer
Produced by John Farrow
Cinematography William C. Mellor
Edited by Eda Warren
Music by Franz Waxman

Production and distribution by RKO Radio Pictures

Release date: September 8, 1956

Running time: 100 minutes
Box office $1.5 million (US)

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
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
Marilyn Hanold, uncredited casino showgirl