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I'm 62 yrs old and had thought I'd seen every b&w WWII film made in the
USA. I saw this film today for the fist time. I was completely
surprised by the performance of Jimmie Rogers and several of the
Filipino actors. Not enough attention has been paid to the sacrifices
made by the Filipine people during WWII. I think this film had a
certain raw elegance that rises above the sometimes stilted dialog
and,thus,deserves more air-time.
I remember Jimmie Rogers as a singer in the 1950's. I was surprised and impressed with his acting in this film. He played the young soldier thrust into a position of leadership by world events and, like so many other young men (me among them), tried his best. He was thoughtful and serious, but not ponderous as he tried to lead other young men through the moral/ethical mine field that war represents. Also,this film is worth your time just for the opportunity to see a very young Jack Nicholson at work. I must also add here that I am definitely a sucker for black & white films. I think Ted Turner should be drawn and quartered. for colorizing the classics!
Finally, all of the Filipine actors had decent, meaningful dialog and were shown to be the resourceful, dedicated and very effective fighters that they,in fact, were. Joe Bradley Virginia Beach, VA
One time pop singing star Jimmy Rodgers is teamed with a VERY young Jack Nicholson, in this tale of three Intel-recon rangers, landing in the Phillipines, just prior to McArthur's return. This is an early directorial effort by Monte Hellman, and combined with the young cast, and several Phillipino actors there is a sense of awkwardness to the film that actually lends to its authenticity. The story, centered on knocking out a Japanese communication center is simple, the dialogue terse. Theatre owner/producer Lippert is credited as an executive producer, and the film is reminscent of his earlier release "Silent Raiders" (1954). Worth a look, just to see a young Nicholson, honing his craft.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's a certain grim, stark quality to this low-budget war film that makes it seem almost documentaty-like at times. Rodgers, Nicholson and Hackett play three U.S. soldiers during WWII who've just landed in The Philippines with orders to take down a Japanese communications site. They must rely on Maga, a tough, Filipino guerrilla who is only slightly more fond of the Americans than he is of his Japanese oppressors. He distrusts practically everyone and with good reason, considering the state of his homeland. Huggins appears as his female sidekick. The ragtag band makes its way across some rugged terrain, eventually sacrificing several of their members in order to carry out the mission. Filmed almost simultaneously with the director's "Flight to Fury", this is a fairly simple and straightforward film, but one containing a fair amount of grit. Rodgers, a pretty famous 1950's singer, is attractive enough and amiable, but lacks charisma and vocal strength. His flat delivery, while not as good as a skilled actor would provide, does help make the film seem more realistic. He comes off as an average Joe. Nicholson doesn't begin to hint at the fact that he would one day become a renowned A-list film star, but he does imbue his character with a quirky charm. Hackett does a decent job as the third, and most seasoned, member of the triad. Maga gives a fairly arresting performance, his character blurring the lines of what was acceptable methodology for the treatment of captured enemies. Torture isn't beyond his scope. Huggins (in her only screen credit) gives her character a weary, resigned quality that is mostly free from any standard Hollywood-style trappings. (She does, at one point, appear in a floral dress and a little makeup, but generally she's authentic.) There's a bit of suspense concerning the fate of some very cute Filipino children. This sequence ranks as one of the best in the film along with a treacherous river crossing. It's by no means an epic war film. It's a more intimate story, accented by the presence of a young Nicholson (who, by the way, looked after Hackett later on in life, making him his stand-in for several movies.)
Hollywood has frequently (and variably) dealt with the WWII Pacific
conflict: this is another such film, for which 'indie' director Hellman
managed to secure the backing of a major studio, Twentieth-Century Fox
(though the end result being just 69 minutes long, it was clearly sold
as a 'programmer'). Anyway, Hellman's talent for introspection is even
more evident (in an otherwise slightly-plotted effort) than before,
with the emphasis on characterization (pertaining especially to the
initial-distrust-which-develops-into-mutual-respect between the
different races involved)...though the action, whenever the film
resorts to it, is sufficiently well-handled.
Jack Nicholson co-stars as one of a trio of American soldiers who arrive by raft to the Philippines in anticipation of the imminent Allied invasion of Japan. Though good as always, and already displaying his chameleon-like abilities, the role (joker, radio operator and Japanese interpreter all rolled into one!) does not allow him to shine like he did in the simultaneously-shot FLIGHT TO FURY (1964), another Hellman collaboration. The chief reason for this has to do with the fact that the central figures here are Nicholson's conscientious superior (a youthful-looking but undeniably effective Jimmie Rodgers) and the dehumanized leader of the rebel army (imposingly played by Gerald Maga).
The third member of the outfit, then, is blood-thirsty John Hackett (who co-wrote the film!), while the locals also number among them a strong-willed girl who became attached to Maga after he lost his family during the early days of the war. The two units clash over the treatment to be accorded some Japanese officers they capture, but soon they are fighting them side by side: the Americans' radio having been rendered useless in a skirmish, the trio then decide to infiltrate the enemy camp in order to send word back home that their mission is accomplished. Caught in the act, however, Nicholson succumbs to a hail of bullets and, when the two groups eventually reconvene, the girl tells Rodgers that Maga has fallen as well!
Though reasonably impressive as a cinematic exercise, the general tone proves rather too low-key for the film to be properly gripping as a whole. Besides, the overall pace is decidedly leisurely (consequently feeling longer than its running-time would suggest!), while the overly familiar situations that unfold throughout do not exactly help make it a distinguished example within such a prolific genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Three American GIs stationed in the Philippines -- conflicted, reluctant lieutenant Craig (amiable Jimmie Rogers), sardonic wiseguy radioman Burnett (a pleasingly lively and quirky performance by a then unknown, pre-stardom Jack Nicholson), and gruff cynic Jersey (an appealingly rugged John Hackett, who also co-wrote the concise script) -- embark on a perilous recon mission against the Japanese. The GIs enlist the aid of a ragged guerrilla army led by the bitter Paco (superbly played by Conrad Maga) to assist them on their desperate mission. Complications ensue when their radio gets busted. Monte ("Two-Lane Blacktop," "Cockfighter") Hellman's tight, no-frills, straightforward direction maintains a snappy, steady pace throughout, creates an appropriately bleak and despairing tone, stages the sporadic stirring action sequences with considerable brio, and elicits sound acting from the entire cast. Kudos are also in order for Mike Velarde's moody score and Mars Rasca's crisp black and white photography. Nice downbeat ending, too. Shot on a shoestring budget along with the equally good and unjustly overlooked "Flight to Fury," this perfectly satisfying little World War II potboiler is well worth checking out.
Three US soldiers come ashore on a Philippine island to do intelligence work in preparation for the big US invasion to retake the islands from the Japanese. Led by Jimmie Rogers as sensitive Lieutenant Craig with pacifist leanings, with Jack Nicholson playing a communications expert with a lot of philosophical observations, and John Hackett as Jersey the tough realist among them, they meet up with the local resistance led by Paco (Conrad Maga), who have been fighting the Japanese for the last few years and have grown cynical about the Americans ever coming back. This film is a direct contrast to the John Wayne movie Back To Bataan in which the Americans were seemingly idolized as they were led by the Duke himself. Maga tells Rogers that he (Maga) is in charge if they are to work together. Rogers, Nicholson, and Hackett have to find out where the Japanese defenses are as the invasion is about to happen, and the film hikes us through the jungles and highlands in pretty sharp black and white, with some authentic flourishes about interrogation of captured Japanese soldiers and another ragtag guerrilla band that is looking to make a profit out of the war. The details are what make this well worth checking out, as the film dodges any of the obvious heroics it could have exploited. Get through the opening credits and you see that it was directed by Monte Hellman (Two Lane Blacktop) and he delivers a war film with enough action as well as some semblance of authenticity giving us a multi-faceted story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Average WWII drama set in the Philippines. Three soldiers are assigned to gather needed information about Japanese occupation, as the American forces are planning a major attack. Jimmie Rodgers, Jack Nicholson and John Hackett lose their radio transmitter during their arduous trek through the jungle; and now need the help of Filipino resistors to make use of the radio in a key Japanese communications post. Probably needs more action, but an interesting Black & White film shot in and near Bicol, Luzon, Philippines. Rodgers is the moderately successful singer of the late 50s, who's biggest hit was "Honeycomb" in 1957. And the young Nicholson is honing his wise-cracking. Also in the cast: Conrad Maga, Johnny Monteiro, Annabelle Huggins and Joe Sison.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
****SPOILERS**** Tragic & gripping war drama involving three American
GI's sent to scout out Japanese troops & gun positions on the
Philippine island of Luzon to make way for a major invasion by the US
military. Needing help from the local gorilla units the men run into
difficulty with gorilla leader Paco, Conrad Maca, who doesn't trust
them since both his wife and son was killed not by the Japanese but a
US air strike on his village.
Slowly gaining important information on Japanese gun positions and troop movements the GI's Lt. Craig radio man Brunett & Sgt. Jearsy, Jimmie Rodgers Jack Nicholson & John Hackett, are confronted by a gang of crooks and desperadoes lead by the grinning and stuffing himself with bananas and pork chops Ramundo, Johnny Monteiro. It's Ramundo who demands that they hand over their radio so he can listen to American band and swing music while he munching down his food!
With the GI's not willing to give Ramundo their radio he in a fit of anger ends up destroying it and disappears into the jungle with his band of crooks leaving the Americans out in the cold and with no means of contacting their fellow GI's out at sea waiting to hear from them via radio. It's then when all hell breaks loose with Paco and his men together with the three GI's attack a local village where the Japanese are holding the children hostages to grab their radio and send out a message to the US invasion force about the critical information that they need.
****SPOILERS**** With almost all the GI's- except Sgt. Jersey- and Paco and his men killed in the fighting the message was indeed sent out by Brunett making the invasion of Luzon a smashing success. We see at the end of the movie stock footage of fighting all across the South Pacific that in most if not all cases had nothing to do with the story were seeing on the screen. But it does it's job in showing us the horrors of war in the modern world. We also get to see that the sacrifices that the American & gorillas made weren't in vain either.
A trio of American soldiers sneak into the Japanese-held Philippines to
scout it out for the forthcoming invasion. However, once they meet up
with the local partisans, they come to realize that the war these
locals have been waging isn't a 'nice' war but a war without rules and
a war without pity. At first, the soldiers balk at this--murdering and
torturing prisoners ISN'T what they were trained to do! However, they
must forge some alliance with these Filipinos and work behind enemy
lines without being detected...and this might just mean adopting the
same tactics as their new allies.
While the very low budget in this film is rather apparent (with the use of non-stars, at least at that time, as well as a HUGE chunk of stock footage near the end), it's a good but certainly not great film. I appreciated how the film presented a side of war not seen in WWII films made during the war--that sometimes soldiers need to be vicious and not exactly noble creatures! Plus, it gives you a chance to see Jack Nicholson in the sort of film in which you might never expect him to act. Mildly interesting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Back Door to Hell" qualifies as a traditional World War II thriller.
In 1944, a sensitive U.S. Army lieutenant and two soldiers slip into
Luzon in the Philippines by sea on a secret mission for General
MacArthur. Allied headquarters wants all the information that they can
get out of the Japanese. Accompanying Lieutenant Craig (Jimmy Rogers of
"The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come") is Burnett (Jack Nicholson of
"Batman") and cynical Sergeant Jersey (John Hackett of "The Two Jakes")
and the most precious piece of equipment that they are carrying is
their radio. Before they rendezvous with Philippine resistance
fighters, they encounter some relaxing Japanese soldiers in a village.
They kill one but another gets away because Lieutenant Craig hesitates
when he has a chance to kill the soldier.
Later, Craig discovers the resistance leader with whom they were supposed to rendezvous, Miguel, has been tortured and killed by the new resistance leader Paco (Conrad Maga) who doesn't like the Americans. When U.S. troops left the Philippines during the first Japanese invasion, Paco lost his wife and child, and he hasn't recovered from the loss. He dictates what the Americans must do as long as he remains in charge. No sooner have they settled in with the resistance than they learn that the Japanese know about them. Remember, one Japanese soldier got away. The Japanese notify the resistance that they start executing a child an hour until the Americans are delivered to them. Paco and the Americans stage a raid, kill most of the Japanese after them, capture the leader, and lead the children to safety. Paco and the Americans run into a bandit Ramundo (Johnny Monteiro of "Lost Battalion") who has a lot of information about Japanese troop movements. He demands their radio and Craig is willing to give the radio to Ramundo as soon as they contact MacArthur. Ramundo does not get the radio quickly enough so he shoots holes in it and flees.
Meanwhile, our heroes have found that Ramundo is a credible source of information, but they have no way now of transmitting the information. Craig suggests that Paco lead them to a nearby Japanese radio outpost and Burnett send a message on the enemy radio. During the transmission, Burnett catches a hail of bullets and dies. Craig and Jersey make it out alive, but Paco dies, too. "Ride in the Whirlwind" director Monte Hellman maintains the action in this 70 minute epic and nobody gets a break in the screenplay by Richard A. Guttman and John Hackett. Indeed, some of the dialogue is philosophical. This low-budget World War II thriller, like many of them co-produced by an American and a Filipino company is nothing substantial but Hellman manages to inject a modicum of suspense. One-time only actor Conrad Maga is good as the resistance leader who has no love lost for Americans. Officers are respected for their rank and nobody tries to kill the lieutenant here or take over command from him. The Japanese are depicted as a ruthless enemy, prepared to kill children to accomplish their goal, but Hellman and company do not make their appear sympathetic.
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