Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Early Lucille Ball

Overnight tonight, at 4:45 AM ET on September 11, TCM is showing the movie Five Came Back. It's one of the movies that shows Lucille Ball to be a much better actress than she's usually given credit for, and one that really deserves watching.

Ball plays Peggy Nolan, a girl with a past who's trying to escape that past by running off to South America. Unfortunately for her and everybody else on the plane, it crashes somewhere in the jungle. Worse, this part of the jungle is inhabited by a tribe of headhunters, so they have to fix the plane as fast as possible. Eventually, they get the plane fixed to a point, but the bad news is that it's only going to be able to carry five people, which is much smaller than the number of people who were on it when it took off. Somebody's going to have to decide who lives and who dies....

This is not the sort of Lucille Ball movie most people would expect. She spent the second half of her career doing I Love Lucy on television, and zany comedies like The Long, Long Trailer when she did go back to movies. But early on, she got some chances to do drama, and here, she's quite good. Granted, it helps that the rest of the cast, despite being made up of character actors and other supporting players, is equally as good. Chester Morris plays pilot Bill Brooks; John Carradine plays a policeman escorting a revolutionary (Joseph Calleia) who's being extradited and faces execution; Patric Knowles plays a spoiled heir; and C. Aubrey Smith plays on old professor who's seen everything in life.

Despite having been made on a low-budget and using a cast of people who were not stars at the time, Five Came Back is a very good movie, so good that RKO later remade it as Back From Eternity. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have been released to DVD.

No comments: