Editor’s Note: We’ll also discussion two, even more obscure Ormond family productions, with the films Surrender at Navajo Canyon (1980) and The Sacred Symbol (1984), in the context of this review.
You wouldn’t know it by the lobby card, but this isn’t a soft skin flick or film noir rife with sexual innuendo: it’s a film about palm reading.
Yes. Palm reading.
Well, at least the guy’s palm is pawing the woman.
If you know your Ron Ormond history, you’ll know the Nashville-based indie filmmaker began his show business career as a vaudeville magician, while his soon-to-be-wife, June Carr, worked the stages as a dancer and singer. So it makes sense, since palm reading was part of the traveling circus and carnival roadshows of the day, that Ron Ormond would want to preserve the art of palm reading and fortune telling — as he did with minstrel shows in the frames of Yes Sir, Mr. Bones.
The Eternal Question, a black and white-shot film, is actually an Americanized remake of a part documentary/part dramatic film produced in the U.K. about a palm reader and the life of his clients, known as Hands of Destiny (1954). Produced by Ron Ormond, he took a co-writing credit as result of his tweaking screenwriter Tony Young’s initial script. They both co-directed the remake, which features the same cast as Young’s film.
Hands of Destiny concerns then famed Austrian palmist-to-the-stars Josef Ranald, who rose to fame with his book, How to Know People by Their Hands (1941), which served as the source material for the film. As a reader of everyone from Adolf Hilter to Bob Hope and Gary Grant, Ranald claimed — in the pages of his book and the film he co-scripted — the “evil” of people could be read in their hands. To that end: though the course of the film, Ranald, appearing as himself, saves the life a woman from a suicide-drowning via a reading; he reunites a long-lost mother and son by comparing their similar palm prints, etc. And that’s the tale: a collection of vignettes of Ranald’s work as a palmist. During the course of the film, we’re treated to his signed collection of palm prints from U.S. presidents, celebrities, and even Nazi officials.
It is said that Ormond’s version isn’t so much a remake, but a re-editing of the British film (thus the identical cast), with new inserts added, such as an intro sequence with Charlie Chaplin. Jr. as a psycho-mugger in the park — and he doesn’t appear in the British original. Bill Nagy (Fire Maidens from Outer Space), however, appears in both films.
The newsprint ad below tell us The Eternal Question was paired with another Ron Ormond release, Attack of the Flying Saucers.
Ron Ormond did a UFO film?
Attack of the Flying Saucers was an imported, West German science fiction short (17 minutes) known as Fliegende Untertassen, aka Flying Saucers (1954), shot at Filmaufbau Studios in Göttingen with direction co-credited to industrial filmmaker Georg Zauner and animator Friedrich Wollangk. Famed contactees Daniel Frey and Reinhold Schmidt appear in the film.
These two Ormond obscurities were paired in a triple feature with Fire Maidens from Outer Space by way of producer-distributor Robert L. Lippert. Ormond and Lippert collaborated over the years, especially on several westerns from 1948 to 1951 starring Lash LaRue (who worked on Ormond’s non-western, Please Don’t Touch Me There). Fire Maidens also features stock Sfx shots from Lippert’s own Rocketship X-M (read up on that production in our review of 1951’s Flight to Mars). But let’s not forget star Bill Nagy’s connection to The Eternal Question.
Outside of a new, English-language narration and dialog track created by Ron Ormond, the film remained the same. It’s also said the Ormonds planned to make their own UFO feature following the release of Attack of the Flying Saucers. Titled Crusade to New Horizons, it was to consist of “contact” stories told to Ron Ormond and feature insights from various UFOlogists. The feature-length film — which may or may not have incorporated footage from Attack of the Flying Saucers — was never made.
Ormond’s interest in otherworldly subjected led to his co-authoring a series of late ’50s books on the subjects of psychic phenomenon, Asian mysticism, hypnosis, and psychic surgery with his magician-mentor Ormond McGill. (Ron Ormond, born Vittorio Di Naro, derived his vaudevillian stage name, Rahn Ormond, in tribute to McGill.) Those “self help” books led to Ron working as the editor-in-chief for Flying Saucers From Other Worlds magazine. (By the mid-60s, Ron Ormond added television programming to his resume: as a producer of Roller Derby games for broadcast. His son, Tim, later a filmmaker in his own right, appeared as one of the Derbities in the child’s version of the games broadcast.)
Upon developing and undergoing medical treatment for bladder cancer in 1959, Ron and McGill traveled on an eight-month spiritual quest to the Far East that also took them into India and the Philippines. Those travels were documented in the photo journals Religious Mysteries of the Orient, Into the Strange Unknown, The Master Method of Hypnosis, The Art of Meditation, and The Magical Pendulum of the Orient. Also filming those travels, that footage — such as Filipinos ritually flagellating themselves — would be used in his later, ’60s films, such as Please Don’t Touch Me and The Girl from Tobacco Row.
That footage, shared in those films, also reappeared in Tim Ormond’s The Sacred Symbol (1984), a part documentary/part dramatic reenactment tale that examined, not only Christianity, but religions from around the world. Footage from Untamed Mistress (1959), which was actually footage shot-on-safari by a family friend, also appeared in the film.
It was after two, light-plan mishaps, with the second in 1970, that Ron Ormond dedicated his talents to spread the world of the Lord by producing a series of films with Southern Baptist pastor Estus Pirkle, the first of which was If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?. Ron’s final film before his May 1981 death — which was completed, in full, by Tim Ormond due to Ron’s failing health — was The Second Coming (1980).
Prior to the production of The Second Coming — a film mixed with science fiction, theology, special effects — Ron combined his extensive, past westerns experience with his later religious endeavors for the film Surrender at Navajo Canyon (1980). That promotional film was produced in conjunction with the ministry of Pete Rice to chronicle his efforts in ministering to the members of the Navajo Nation.
Tim spoke at length about the production of The Scared Symbol during a 2007 interview on the digitized pages of Mondo Stumpo:
“So from that point, the last Christian film I made [The Second Coming], which does not mean I’m not still a Christian, I am, I’ve just kind of gotten involved in other things. I still keep in touch with some of my other friends. But the last one I made was The Sacred Symbol, which was, in essence, when my dad went to the Orient. He shot a whole lot of footage of very unusual and strange things. Anything from fakirs to snake handlers to Buddhists to the flagellantes. Well, I had all this footage, but I was now making Christian films, so I thought, ‘What can I do with this strange footage?’
“So I wrote a script around the footage, and it was called The Sacred Symbol. And basically the storyline was, some people met at the Adventurer’s Club, and they discussed their guest speaker, John Harvey, who in real life was John Calvert, who was a famous worldwide magician and who was a friend of my dad’s back in Hollywood [when Ron, himself, was a vaudevillian magician]. And so, at the Adventurer’s Club, they discussed John’s travels, and he talks about, ‘I’ve been here and seen this, and I’ve been there and seen that, but I finally found something which amazed, even me, when I uncovered the sacred symbol.’ And then [John] started talking about Christ and such and such, and that led us into the finale of the movie, which was, ‘There’s all these various, different things and religions, but there’s the true path,’ and such.”
Our thanks to British film fans David McGillivary and Leowine/IMDb and the Telegoons.org website for their previous research regarding The Eternal Question in helping B&S About Movies chronicle this truly lost Ron Ormond film — in our quest to catalog his secular and Christian films — as there are no clips, trailers, or full streams of The Eternal Question to share.
You can learn more about the film’s British counterpart, Hands of Destiny, as well as television producer, writer and director Tony Young, with his career biography at Telegoons.org. Tony’s best-known production to American audiences is his final film, Penny Points to Paradise (1951), as result of it serving as the film debut of Peter Sellers.
You can pay-for-view stream Hands of Destiny from the BFI – The British Film Institute. There are no copies of Attack of the Flying Saucers or its German counterpart online.