Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

All is not well, however, because that night (maybe, the film’s grip on time is, shall we say, less than lucid) Romi plots with his henchmen. It’s not quite clear what’s going on (I guess this film has goals too lofty to be concerned with inconsequential things like coherence), but they finish their scheming with a good round of maniacal cackling.

The next day, Edward walks down the aisle with his bride, and he and Dahlia are married in front of the budget-conscious kingdom. They repeat their vows to each other: “I now take an oath to you and God. I will cherish you in every way possible. For you are my wife.” She says, “For you are my husband.” Well, it’s the sentiment that counts. The festivities continue into the night, and Edward dances in a circle that was apparently the only form of dance until the late twenties. He gives this completely rehearsed laugh as if to say, “I’m so happy,” and, as expected, tragedy instantly strikes.

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An off-screen voice cries out, “My God, the Turks!” A rather meager handful of riders approach. It goes without saying that they look nothing like the Turkish warriors of the period, and it raises the question of where geographically this is supposed to be. Along with particleboard sets, Eternity shares with Quest of the Delta Knights the belief that “Europe” is a nebulous area of no more than twenty square miles.

The extras scatter, but Dahlia stays rooted to the spot. All to make it easier for one of the “Turkish” horsemen to awkwardly bend down and pick her up, I guess. Edward immediately gives chase and Romi follows. Romi stops to ask the King for permission to lead an army. The King grants that if Dahlia is harmed, there will be war. Thunder and lightning (but no rain) rake the sky.

Edward’s medallion falls to the forest floor. Lightning spooks the horse Dahlia is on, so it rears up and Dahlia tumbles to the ground. Edward dismounts and runs to her. The stunt was blocked poorly, making it look like she fell only a few feet and landed gently, but when Edward arrives the back of her head is bloody. As he cradles her in his arms, she smiles weakly. “I thought you would leave me first… Oh, I couldn’t bear that.” Edward chokes back tears, telling her, “Loving you is all I’ve ever dreamed”—Again, he’s known her for two days—”and nothing can part us. You are my wife.”

“You are my husband,” she answers. Not ready to expire just yet, she moans, “I must know, will we meet again?” He tells her that true love is forever. She asks how can he be certain and he replies, “I know it is so.” We’ll never know her reply, as she tilts her head back and relaxes her facial muscles. Edward turns on the waterworks and says, “I know it is! I know it is!” Jon Voight makes his first assault on the scenery as his cries increase in volume. “I know it is ! I KNOW IT IS!” And just when the helpless viewer is forced to think “dental plan, Lisa needs braces, dental plan, Lisa needs braces” in defense, the camera pulls away and dissolves to a cheesy golden effect that I think is supposed to represent a journey through time or something. Whatever the reason, I think the fine folks at Andromeda would like their special effects back.

Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

“My career as a leading man is over! I KNOW IT IS!”

In the present, we see a sweaty, shirtless Jon Voight tossing in bed. Thanks a lot, movie. He’s still crying out, “I know it is!” as he wakes up with a start. “What the hell was that?” In his bathroom, he splashes water on his face and tells his reflection it was just a dream. He then wanders into his kitchen, passing a framed picture of Abraham Lincoln. “Good morning, Abe,” he cheerfully tells the portrait. And I suppose if he were evil, we would see him saying “Howdy, Adolph!” to a picture of Hitler.

He turns on a small TV set and fixes breakfast. He sees the show that he hosts, a newsmagazine type program called Wake Up Call with James Harris. Wonder of wonders, the topic of today’s show is reincarnation. James jokes that he must have taken himself too seriously last night. He then goes to his aquarium and makes cutesy small talk with a fish. I guess this is an effort to build his “strange but endearing” credentials, but instead it gives weight to the rapidly growing theory that he might have a few gears loose.

The phone rings, and Eric (Wilford Brimley) is on the other end. Eric says good morning to James, who is stricken with his first “it was just a dream! …or was it?” moment. The viewer is treated to a flashback of Wilford Brimley as the King, and he’s wearing a bathmat for a robe and crepe paper hair as he asks his son, without a drop of an accent, how he would run the kingdom. Edward/James gives the expected “with wisdom, with understanding, with love” response. I’ll spare myself the strain of rolling my eyeballs, because I suspect I would have to do so after every line of dialogue that comes out of Jon Voight’s mouth. In the present, James regains his composure as Eric expositories about the money problems that the show is having. He says some bigwigs are coming in today who might be able to help, so James says he’ll be in right away.

Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

Kneel in awe before the subtle characterization!

James walks down the hall and sees his neighbor’s door is open, so he says hello and stops. Berneice (Lanie Kazan) is working out, and we see her in close-up giving him a salacious grin. We briefly jump into the wayback machine and see her wearing a less than convincing hairpiece as she raises her glass in toast to her son Edward. In the present, James asks if she saw his show. She teases that she would never miss it. He asks what she thinks about the whole reincarnation business. She admits that this “soul” business is a tough thing to swallow, laughingly noting that “I can’t see it… I can’t hear it… I can’t sleep with it!” James mentions he had a dream about knowing her in a past life. “Were we married?” she inquires hopefully. He says he’ll tell another time. He then adds, “Mom.” Berneice says, “Shit.” She rolls her eyes and goes to her rack of free weights. And before we can squirm our way out of our skin, the scene ends.

Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

Hey, who said there wouldn’t be a little somethin’ for the fellas?

James gets in his car and drives to his office. When he gets there, his secretary is dealing with an irate caller. She says, “If you put a smile on your face, no matter what, people will love you!” Um, the person’s on the phone, so I’m not sure how much a smile will help, and besides, nothing is more infuriating than trying to solve a problem and being brushed aside with a big, patronizing fake-ass smile, so there.

James walks up behind his secretary and hugs her as she gives the old runaround to the caller. She hangs up and pinches his face playfully. He tells some random people sitting in the front lobby that she’s taken care of him for a long time. She was his nanny in his past life, but I guess the hired help don’t get their own or was it? flashback moment. She hands him some letters and says she’ll be right in with a nice cup of tea. Just once, I’d like to see a secretary act like a professional and not secretly pine for her boss or fawn over him, straightening his tie and sweeping crumbs off his shirt.

Eric comes in, telling James to put on a jacket, because the bigwigs are waiting in the next room. They want to buy out the entire program, and James has reluctantly agreed to go along with the idea. He asks again what the name of their company is, which would be something I’d want to remember, but what do I know?

Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

If They Mated:
David Letterman and Estelle Getty.

Eric exasperatedly reminds him it’s the Shawn Wallace Company. When James meets the suits he gets a hammy “no! it can’t be!” look on his face. There’s one suit with hockey hair and huge glasses who gives him a quizzical look. In flashbacks, we see that his grizzled beard did a good job of covering up his terrible skin. He meets with Romi and meekly agrees about building a wall. In the present, the hockey-haired version of the guy asks James if he’s all right. James looks down at the company’s brochure, and it turns out that Shawn Wallace is none other than… wait for it… Romi! [insert shocked gasps here] Perhaps if the film hadn’t been leeching off suspense for the first quarter hour with all the flashbacks, we would have been surprised here. But from the start we knew something spooky was going on, so we were impatiently waiting for the plot to kick in.

A quick word about Armand Assante’s picture in the brochure. Most executives would be happy with a simple pose, like, say, sitting behind a desk, but Wallace has gone for style. The brochure features a full eight by ten glossy of him decked out in a tuxedo [!], like he’s about to conduct the New York Philharmonic.

Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

“To all deh girls I’ve loved beefooore…”

Eric bustles James out of the room, telling the suits that they just need a minute. James tells Eric that they can’t sell the company to those guys. Eric angrily asks why not, and the laughter begins anew as James tells him that Shawn Wallace is a warmonger and Eric’s son from a past life. Eric is less than happy with this news. James tells him he’ll have to trust him, but Eric, not ready to burn any bridges, goes back and tells the suits they’ll have to conclude business at another time.

Next, the subplot basement (™Sobell) is excavated as James pulls up to an Indian reservation. A Wise Elder® greets James warmly, telling him that people have been disappearing from their lands and others have gotten sick. He also says that the government is drilling on sacred land in order to build some kind of toxic waste pipeline. James has a camera crew with him and they start rolling as he interviews the Wise Elder®.

Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

Our very first example of the Will Sampson Effect.

We cut to a politician watching Wake Up Call on a TV in his limo. He sees James’ report on the Indian land and looks irate. His limo then pulls up to a government building where people are protesting that (according to one sign) the “WESTCO PIPELINE IS WRONG”.

The politician, who turns out to be the Governor, gets out and is confronted by reporters. He assures them that the pipeline will carry no toxic waste, and that it will save the government money and create jobs. In a subtle touch, we hear exactly two people applaud this statement. A reporter asks the Governor about James’ report of people disappearing from the reservation, but the Governor ducks the question and heads inside.

We then find James in the control room at the TV studio. There’s some random chatter between Eric and the secretary to remind us the show has money troubles, and then we see another employee who’s played by, no joke, ex-Four Seasons frontman Frankie Valli [!!]. He tells James to check out a monitor where an advertiser named Dan Spinelli is filming a commercial for his clothing store. They both chuckle as Dan is obviously having trouble with one of the actresses.

James walks down to the studio, where Eric tells him someone from the bank needs to speak with him. James gets on a nearby phone. “I’m going to need your help. I’m also going to need you to cover fifty thousand in the next two weeks. At least until we sell the new show.” Since his character is a good person, he can’t be any good at business.

Once he hangs up, Spinelli comes over and tells James that the actress in his commercial is being a real “fuzzball” about doing the shoot. Spinelli wants someone who will treat this as “a commercial, and not the William Shakespeare festival.” James says he’ll go talk to her.

He walks over towards the dressing room as Valerie (Eileen Davidson) storms out in anger. She “hilariously” shouts, “I’m history!” She bumps into James and spills the contents of her laundry basket-sized purse all over the floor and stoops to pick it up. James helps her and gasps, “Oh my god.” In a flashback to ye olden tymes, we see Valerie/Dahlia look up at Edward. He tells her, “Come, take my hand. I’ll see that you’re cared for.” Dahlia says, “I could not ask you to do that for me.” The witty [sic] reply from James is, “You didn’t ask.”

Eternity (1989) (part 2 of 4)

Hey, this video is awesome! “Here I go again, on my ooowwowwwn!”

In the present, the now teary-eyed James chokes out, “I know it is.” HE KNOWS IT IS! He tells her, “True love is forever.” Valerie asks what’s wrong with him, and James, not one to mince words, blurts out, “We’ve known each other many lifetimes.” Instead of bursting into helpless peals of laughter, Valerie angrily sighs, “Oh my God, do you know how corny that is? Not today, okay?”

She complains that she was hired to do a commercial that she finds beneath her talents, but she knows she shouldn’t be turning down work. I’ll say, sister. She ends by apologetically telling James, “I don’t know you well enough to be telling you my saga.” James soothes her worries, telling her that this is a “true value commercial” and that Spinelli only wants to give people the best value for their money. And I’m impressed that James is such a good person, he’ll only accept commercials like that. I also wonder how his show survives if he only has one advertiser.

James tells Valerie to have fun and is nearly overcome by emotion. “I’m saying fun, but I’m weeping with joy to be in your presence!” Valerie gives him that uncomfortable smile that will become a staple of their relationship and only says, “You’re very odd.”

Spinelli comes over and is pleased with the change in Valerie’s spirits, so he starts filming on the commercial. In a bit of shameless padding, we’re shown the entire thing being filmed. I think this is supposed to be a moment of intentional humor, but it can’t hold a candle to the wacky dialogue. Anyway, we learn that Spinelli’s House of Stallions offers the best in affordable tuxes and gowns. On a cheap, tacky set (that somehow is more convincing than the castle interiors) Valerie preens and seductively tells the camera that her dress cost only eighty-three dollars. And by the looks of it, that was eighty-two dollars and fifty cents too many.

Jessica Ritchey

Born in Western North Carolina, Juniper was discovered in a filthy shack in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains, speaking a made up language to a tattered rag doll, her only companion. Her social skills have improved little in the intervening years. She is currently making flailing efforts at being a freelance writer. One of history's supreme procrastinators she plans on writing a book about it someday.

Multi-Part Article: Eternity (1989)

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