Back Door To Hell (1964)
The teaming of director Monte Hellman and actor Jack Nicholson went through a period of 4 films during the early to mid sixties. Five if you count Hellman’s supposed participation in Roger Corman’s The Terror. But then it seems as if everyone had a hand in that film.
This time out Jack is billed under singing star Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers had some rockabilly hits including Honeycomb. Jack and Jimmie along with John Hackett star as a trio of marines sent ahead of invading forces to the Philippines. It is there that they form an uneasy alliance with an army of guerrilla resistance fighters. The Japanese forces currently hold the island.
Hackett playing our third marine actually is the credited screen writer as well as the producer of this fast moving 69 minute slice of WW2 heroism.
Nicholson and company are to send back reports by radio to the Naval fleet telling of where the Japanese strongholds are positioned on the island. The operation runs smoothly until the radio takes a few too many hits during a skirmish with a Japanese patrol. This leaves our trio no alternative but to embark on a suicide mission into the heart of a Japanese camp to commandeer a radio to send back a report. Joining them on the daring raid is the leader of the guerrilla forces played by Conrad Maga. Maga it should be noted stands out in the cast as the head freedom fighter.
This was filmed on location in the Philippines along with another early Monte-Jack film called Flight To Fury. They would then move on to doing a couple of westerns that have achieved a minor cult status. The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind.
For a low budget effort we get some decent performances and talent behind the camera. There is no doubting that Hellman has the know how to capture some good shots and deliver an enjoyable low budget feature to the movie houses where double bills reigned supreme. Jack needs no introduction to audiences worldwide but it is fun to see him in these early roles. The voice is nasally and he barely weighs 150 pounds. There is no way that anyone at that time could know an acting phenomena was just around the corner.
I picked this up recently on DVD and as is my custom, I checked out the bonus features after the film ended. It’s a good thing I waited till the film was over. Included in the trailer is a major spoiler! Under no circumstances check this out before first watching this compact WW2 actioner.