Five Came Back (1939)

Genres - Action, Adventure  |   Release Date - Jun 23, 1939 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 75 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The premise of Five Came Back is one that audiences have seen countless variations on in the decades since the film was released -- and indeed, it probably wasn't totally fresh in 1939. This familiarity works against Five, but if a viewer can overlook the predictability factor, he is very likely to find himself hooked and enjoying it, even as he tells himself that he shouldn't. That's because the trio of screenwriters have done their work well; Five sets up the plot and works it through to its logical conclusion in a tight, professional manner. If it leaves little room for character development and falls back on stereotypes, it still works, thanks to John Farrow's excellent direction. Lean and focused, Farrow's work is all about propulsion, making an asset of the film's short running time to create tension and atmosphere. He is aided by a fine cast that works together like a well oiled machine. Special mention must be made of Lucille Ball, if only because the performance is a departure for those who know her mostly from her television work. Five gets a little rushed toward the end, and its "B" movie origins are obvious in its artificial jungle sets, but overall it's a tidy and engrossing thriller.