Back to Bataan (1945)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War  |  31 May 1945 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 2,600 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 12 critic

In 1942, after the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese, U.S. Army Col. Joseph Madden stays behind to organize the local resistance against the Japanese invaders.



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Complete credited cast:
Capt. Andrés Bonifácio
Fely Franquelli ...
Richard Loo ...
Philip Ahn ...
Col. Coroki
Alex Havier ...
Sgt. Bernessa (as J. Alex Havier)
'Ducky' Louie ...
Maximo Cuenca
Lt. Cmdr. Waite
Leonard Strong ...
Gen. Homma
Bindle Jackson
Abner Biberman ...
Japanese Captain
Vladimir Sokoloff ...
Señor Buenaventura J. Bello


The US Army's defense of its Philippines colony and the allied Malay countries/colonies behind it counted on its island fortress of Corregidor on Luzon -and a few others- but loses it in the 6 May 1942 Japanese combined forces attack. Colonel Joseph Madden is among the escaping survivors who are ordered by general Douglas McArthur to organize a guerrilla. As he finds many native Filipinos inclined to resist the occupier's vision of returning to the South Asian fold under a paternalistic empire which doesn't hesitate to 'spank the unruly', but is mainly civilian, unprepared, inept in military matters, Madden appeals to the legendary anti-US freedom fighter Andres Bonifácio's homonymous grandson Captain Andrés Bonifácio, who is luckily rescued from a POW dead march, to inspire the resistance -once his own fighting spirit is rekindled- with him in a still very unsure war, retaliated by bloody, ten to one repression. When the Japanese realize the people side against them, they stage fake ... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Story of the "Invisible Army of the Philippines" (original poster) See more »


Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

31 May 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Invisible Army  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Even at the time the movie was widely dismissed as crude propaganda. See more »


Before Col. Madden (John Wayne) is blown out of his foxhole by a munition the wires that pull him up are visible. See more »


Maximo Cuenca: [a poor student dying in his teacher's arms after heroic action] Miss Barnes, I'm sorry I never learned how to spell "liberty".
Bertha Barnes: [tearfully] No one ever learned it so well.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: This story was not invented. The events you are about to see are based on actual incidents. The characters are based on real people. JANUARY 30, 1945 THE JAPANESE PRISON CAMP AT CABANATUAN See more »


Featured in The John Wayne Anthology (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

Gutsy but intimate and intelligent film-making
8 August 2005 | by (MA) – See all my reviews

War movies can be a tricky recipe to pull off because they've been done so often and fall into clichés sooo easily. This film was saved by bravura and sincerity. It's a good film. What at first may seem like a generic Duke vehicle quickly exposes itself as a small ensemble drama on an epic stage.

Part of the appeal of this film is to watch it with history in mind. It tackles a lesser known part of WWII history, the war and guerilla movements in the Philippines. This film is totally unselfconscious in how it deals with the war, in one scene it features real Bataan POWs marching in a parade and introduces them documentary style with a narrator, and it hired Filipino extras and actors for important roles. This is what really touched and surprised me, how it elevated and glorified Filipino nationalism, culture, and history (Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifácio are frequently quoted and reverently referred to throughout the film); and, in an age where African American actors still were unfairly stereotyped and Asian actors almost nowhere to be found in Hollywood films, this treated Pinoy characters as equals and as heroes. This openmindedness on the part of the filmmakers was refreshing, but very reflective of the US fighting men's appreciation of the contributions of the Filipino people.

The film is passionate about the people it portrays. It's common for wartime films to be full of propaganda and overly zealous, but this film is more touching and intimate in its approach. Patriotic speeches actually have meaning and tears behind them, swelling music doesn't feel manipulative, no doubt because it was filmed with so many soldiers and civilians involved and in 1945, these people had just gone through all this and everything is done with a real and raw memory. It feels like it's built on real stories and people, and the actors seem to know they're not dealing with run of the mill cutout characters. There's a sincerity inherent in all of their performances because of the immediateness of the subject matter. John Wayne is less gruff than usual (and even downright dashing). Anthony Quinn's confused young man: brooding heartbrokenly when he's away from his informant fiancée, tender when he's around her, not sure how to fulfill what many feel is his destiny, and his own personal journey is lovely. Beulah Bondi (as a teacher evacuee who helps the men out) teary eyed when she thinks of her students; the motley crew mix of American GIs and Pinoy volunteers who surrounds the two officers, casual and down to earth. It's a tight cast in a friendly fight to upstage the others, and you'd better believe they milk every scene for what it's worth.

The film moves along quickly and realistically. Instead of complicated plot movements and intricate bloated twists, the story seems like it was taken from any number of jungle war experiences which makes it fascinating and unpredictable, like real history. Director Edward Dmytryk, later blacklisted, paid no heed to Production Code regulations for violence, and filmed scenes that were fairly explicit (for the time) in their portrayal of cruelty and violence inflicted on soldiers and civilians in an attempt to realistically dramatize some of the atrocities that occurred during the war which lends the film an air of impending danger and gravitas.

From before the era of ambiguous and complex war stories (which is how I usually prefer my war flicks to be served), this one of the best "classic" war films I've ever seen. (If you like this, check out "An American Guerilla in the Philippines" which was shot on location by the great Fritz Lang in 1949/50 and very similar in many regards.)

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