Back Door The Hell (1964)


Back Door to Hell is a 1964 film concerning a three-man team of United States soldiers preparing the way for Gen. MacArthur’s World War II return to the Philippines by destroying a Japanese communications center. It was produced on a relatively small budget and received lukewarm reviews, and is most notable as one of Jack Nicholson’s earlier roles. Hellman, Nicholson and Hackett also made the film back to back with Flight to Fury (1964).

Robert Lippert had been impressed by Jack Nicholson’s Thunder Island so gave Nicholson and his friends Monty Hellman and John Hackett $160,000 and $400 a week salary to make two films on location in the Philippines. The three men and Hellman’s wife and child travelled 28 days by ship via Hawaii, Hong Kong and Japan with the three working on the screenplays to both films on the voyage. Back Door to Hell was a rewrite on one of Lippert’s existing screenplays. Popular singer Jimmie Rodgers had a substantial part in the film, and co-financed it.

The film, directed by Monte Hellman, was shot on location in the Philippines, giving it a particularly authentic look. The same plot was reused in Ib Melchior’s Ambush Bay (1966) with a larger Marine patrol destroying a minefield prior to the American and Filipino invasion of the Philippines.