Eternity (1989) (part 1 of 4)

The Cast of Characters:
Eternity (1989) (part 1 of 4)Prince Edward/James Harris (Jon Voight in one of the many roles he took before becoming Hollywood’s white collar villain of choice). Cares about his employees and spreading The Truth. Has a thing for reincarnation. Now seen under multiple prosthesis as various historical figures.
Eternity (1989) (part 1 of 4)Romi/Shawn Wallace (Armand Assante, The Man Who Would Be But Was Not Quite Alec Baldwin). Plays both of his characters like a less stable version of Kim Jong Il in Prince Valiant drag. Now seen trying to pick up where Klaus Kinski left off.
Eternity (1989) (part 1 of 4)Dahlia/Valerie Demotta (Eileen Davidson). The woman that James and Shawn politely fight over. Suffers the indignity of having a horrible hairstyle in multiple lifetimes. Now seen sporting a cute pixie cut on The Young and the Restless.
Eternity (1989) (part 1 of 4)The King/Eric (Wilford Brimley. Yes, Wilford Brimley). Everyone’s favorite oatmeal shill plays the crotchtiest medieval king this side of Sam Elliot. Now that Diagnosis Murder has left the air and deprived him of lucrative guest spots, he can most likely be seen enjoying the early bird special at Denny’s.
Eternity (1989) (part 1 of 4)The Queen/Berneice (Lanie Kazan). A mother figure that would unnerve Freud. Trades in her horsehair braids for Spandex and come-ons to her son. Now seen contributing to the downfall of Western Civilization on My Big Fat Greek Life.

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Reincarnation is a fascinating subject. Films such as Dead Again have used it as a framework upon which to hang stories of murder, romance and revenge. A serious, real-life belief in reincarnation, however, is another matter. While it’s acceptable to believe in reincarnation in a large part of the world, in this country it’s relegated to the back pages of tabloids, and its practitioners are more likely to be treated as a few bamboo shoots short of a Chinese restaurant than as Holy Men.

A likely explanation for this is that most Western proponents of reincarnation were never boring in their previous lives. They usually claim to have been famous historical figures like Joan of Arc or Alexander the Great, and never Larry the Tax Accountant or Gertrude the Milkmaid who died of the plague in 1323. Coupled with the fact that its most well-known advocates are usually luminaries on the level of Shirley MacLaine, reincarnation remains firmly in the realm of the impossible in the minds of most in our culture.

Eternity is different, however, in that instead of using reincarnation to tell a story, it serves as a tract on the belief, and actually wants the viewer to accept it as fact. Reincarnation is a fairly common plot device in horror movies, but here it’s expected that every revelation and development will be taken seriously and met with a straight face. And that’s where a lot of the fun comes in.

You see, Eternity is a terrible movie, but unlike the film I previously recapped, Superman III, it is a bad drama. This means that no matter how ludicrous the situation, or how hilariously over the top we get, the movie will never be played with anything but the utmost seriousness. This provides a goldmine of laughs for the uninitiated as they realize that this preachy, threadbare, New Age propaganda isn’t meant to be taken as a joke. And making things that much worse is that the film’s director and co-writer is none other than Steven Paul, who also helped write the screenplay for Never Too Young to Die, making him the Agony Booth’s latest Repeat Offender.

It seems they lifted the soundtrack from a Christian bookstore as things start off with a cheesy-sounding chorus “ahh-ahh“-ing. Prince Edward (Jon Voight in rented Renaissance duds) rides his noble white steed through a very Southern California-esque England. His woman Dahlia (Eileen Davidson) sits behind him on the horse and fingers a medallion that has “plot point” written all over it. Actually, it probably has “Property of Mount Vernon High School Drama Department” written on it, as the piece looks to have cost about two bucks.

Eternity (1989) (part 1 of 4)

“There’s a liiiight… burnin’ in the fireplaa-aaace!”

They approach Edward’s castle, and while it doesn’t look as bad as someone taping a picture of a fish tank model to the corner of your screen, it doesn’t necessarily look that much better, either. We cut to later that night at a feast, where Edward’s brother Romi (Armand Assante) casually mentions that’s it’s time to look into defense preparations.

“Father,” he says to the King, “It is time to form an alliance to build a wall around this city now!” Prince Edward disagrees: “There are so many things we can do in a loving way! There’s no need for armies if we don’t provoke aggression! We must find ways to draw together in peace and harmony!” Look, revisionist history is unavoidable in films, but come on. It was the Middle Ages. Building a wall wasn’t an act of aggression, it was common sense. Romi snipes at Edward a bit, until the Queen (Lanie Kazan) tells them both to chill out. Romi retreats to glower at the horrible wig he’s been forced to wear.

The next day, Edward and Dahlia go for a walk. “Oh, Edward,” she says, “I’m just a gypsy girl!” I can’t really say Davidson is going for any kind of accent here. It’s more like that “fancy” voice you used as a kid when reading fairy tales. Edward disagrees: “You are a princess! You are my princess!” Dahlia whines that she doesn’t feel like one, so Edward asks her to marry him. Later events will show that Edward is making this proposal after knowing her for only two days, which is both impressive and more than a little creepy.

She thinks he’s only teasing her and runs away, and our discomfort increases as he tackles her and pins her to ground. He firmly says how he’s loved her many lifetimes and will love her for many more. Moved by his gentle touch, she agrees to marry him, and our discomfort turns into illness as we watch the jowly Jon Voight make out with Dahlia.

Edward’s parents apparently have no problem with a peasant girl without a dowry marrying their royal son, because soon we see Dahlia modeling her wedding gown, a worn white number from the 1997 Shania Twain Collection. Edward kneels before her. “I bow to you! You’re as a beautiful as a dream!” I’m assuming Edward wrote a lot of crappy poetry as a teenager. And Jon Voight too, for that matter, since he’s one of the three credited screenwriters.

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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