Saturday, June 23, 2018

Back From Eternity

Seventeen years earlier, John Farrow directed what was probably one of the first airplane crash thrillers. Despite the fact that Five Came Back remained known as an adventure B movie, its fame helped most of its characters to move forward to Hollywood A production industry. It is in 1956 that Farrow directs Back From Eternity, a remake of the low-budget 1939 hit, but know 'correcting' aspects of the plot that failed to make it more recognized, from characters to extensions of the dialogue.

The general plot is basically the same: eleven passengers on a commercial aircraft flying towards Latin America crashes in the middle of the jungle and only five of them come back in the partially repaired airplane. However, to make this a mainstream movie, Farrow's movie starred a highly popular cast for promotion purposes. This was made very clear on the movie's poster which emphasizes the participation of the renowned superstar Anita Ekberg with the phrase "Ooh that Ekberg!".

Among the changes made to the movie (of course thanks to bigger budget expenses) there are some that concern to the quality of the production such as more filming locations and characters that allow to expand the story, better accessories, and an evidently more modern plane; there are other changes that might reflect the audience input after seeing the first movie, and also the good neighbour policy of the previous decades which influenced in the portrayal of Latin America in a different way than in the original movie. Certainly, Back From Eternity shows a friendlier approach regarding Latin America and its people. In the 1939 movie, the only occasion in which the United States and Latin America are contrasted is in the airport in Mexico, but this contrast, ironically, shows that there is no such thing because American culture and language predominate in the only Latin American city depicted in the movie. In this new delivery, in contrast, we visit El Paso and Panama City before the crash. The difference is evident. In addition to people finally speaking in Spanish and passengers excited to try local foods, at the entrance of the Mexican airport the first image we see is a humble Mexican woman selling ponchos, in contrast to the convicted Panamanian criminal who is the first Latino we see in the previous movie.

The character of the Latino criminal has been modified too. Now he is not even Latino, but a European that nationalized in the fictional South American destination called Boca Bravo. In this movie, he is not considered an anarchist or a dangerous person. Instead, Vasquel's (a variation of Vasquez, name used for the character in the original movie) friendly personality makes the rest of the group consider him trustworthy which also affects the end of the movie. In this occasion, Vasquel does not steal the gun but the group entrusts it to him. Interestingly, Farrow's choices on Vasquel's character and dialogue reflect the transition from the Good Neighbour Policy era to a returning period of US intervention during the Cold War which amounted to Soviet influences on Latin America. Though neither the non-intervention principle's nor the US-Soviet conflict is mentioned, Vasquel portrays just those two with his friendship with the old American couple, plus the rightfulness of his cause. He killed a politician but because he was aiming to kill a dictator that was as oppressive as the ones in Europe.

Thus, we are implicitly introduced to a Latin America struggling to get help to overthrow its dictatorial governments. We see its humble and friendly people who are deserving of that help. But still, Latin America is again in this remake a place of adventure that offers promising vacations or new beginnings but also it is the home of dangerous tribes where civilization has not reached yet. This movie is all about what the audience wants to see: more emotions, bigger planes, and more references to the reality, or what it should be like.