Jump into Hell (1955)

90 or 92-93 mins | Drama | 14 May 1955

Director:

David Butler

Writer:

Irving Wallace

Producer:

David Weisbart

Cinematographer:

Peverell Marley

Editor:

Irene Morra

Production Designer:

Stanley Fleischer

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

After the opening credits, there is a written dedication to the men and officers of the French Union forces defending Dienbienphu, the “symbol and proof that free men will forever oppose slavery.” Voice-over narration then begins: “There are moments in the history of every nation when men must be prepared to sacrifice their lives for freedom.” After comparing Dienbienphu to the Alamo and Dunkirk, the narrator continues to describe the French-built fortress. The back-stories of the four main characters, explaining their reasons for volunteering for the mission, are related in flashbacks near the beginning of the film, while the characters are being flown to Indo-China.
       As mentioned in a May 1954 LAEx news item and reviews, the film is based on real events that occurred in remote North Vietnam on a French military base, which was established to prevent Communists from invading Laos. Commanded by Col. Christian De Castries, the base was manned by the French military, Foreign Legionnaires, many of whom were German, North African and Vietnamese. As depicted in the film, the perimeter of the area surrounding the base was protected by strongpoints fortified with bunkers and artillery, each named for a woman, and these were further protected by minefields and wire. According to modern sources, the base was strategically placed by the French to lure the Viet Minh army commanded by Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap away from its guerrilla tactics and into a battle. The French believed that their more sophisticated weapons and aircraft would prevail. The French presumed that the high mountains surrounding the valley would prevent the enemy from moving in large artillery, but by disassembling their ... More Less

After the opening credits, there is a written dedication to the men and officers of the French Union forces defending Dienbienphu, the “symbol and proof that free men will forever oppose slavery.” Voice-over narration then begins: “There are moments in the history of every nation when men must be prepared to sacrifice their lives for freedom.” After comparing Dienbienphu to the Alamo and Dunkirk, the narrator continues to describe the French-built fortress. The back-stories of the four main characters, explaining their reasons for volunteering for the mission, are related in flashbacks near the beginning of the film, while the characters are being flown to Indo-China.
       As mentioned in a May 1954 LAEx news item and reviews, the film is based on real events that occurred in remote North Vietnam on a French military base, which was established to prevent Communists from invading Laos. Commanded by Col. Christian De Castries, the base was manned by the French military, Foreign Legionnaires, many of whom were German, North African and Vietnamese. As depicted in the film, the perimeter of the area surrounding the base was protected by strongpoints fortified with bunkers and artillery, each named for a woman, and these were further protected by minefields and wire. According to modern sources, the base was strategically placed by the French to lure the Viet Minh army commanded by Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap away from its guerrilla tactics and into a battle. The French believed that their more sophisticated weapons and aircraft would prevail. The French presumed that the high mountains surrounding the valley would prevent the enemy from moving in large artillery, but by disassembling their equipment, the Viet Nimh successfully transported their equipment through jungles and over mountains. By additionally concealing them in caves overlooking the fortress, the Viet Nimh rendered it safe from attacking aircraft. The fall of Dienbienphu on 7 May 1954 was a major defeat for France, triggering national mourning and the abandonment of Indochina, and marking the end of the first era of the Vietnam War.
       According to several reviews, Warner-Pathé newsreel stock shots of the real event are intermixed with dramatic footage in the film. Sep and Oct HR news items reported that the battle scenes were shot on location at the Janss Ranch in Conejo, CA, and that sequences set at the Hanoi airfield were shot at the Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank. Although an Oct HR news item adds Gene Roth to the cast, he did not appear in the final film. Irene Montwill, who appeared in the role of "Jacqueline," was listed on the CBCS as Lisa Montell. Montwill later changed her name to Lisa Janti. Although he did not appear in the final film, a Sep 1954 DV news item stated that Warner Bros. negotiated with Jacques Bergerac for a top role. Jump into Hell marked the film debut of actress Pat Blake, who later changed her name to Patricia Blair.
       Although the promotion of De Castries is a historical fact, according to the MPH review, the real-life De Castries had received some negative press by insisting on his promotion, which was an event the film refrained from depicting. In general, reviewers felt that the film did not do justice to the real event. MPH reported that “the titanic struggle” involved thousands of men, “not just a handful as might be gathered from this presentation.” The HR review summed up: “If the film falls into enemy hands, they undoubtedly will use it as a propaganda argument to delude their dupes into thinking that in democratic armies the lives of fighting men are romantically and foolishly squandered.”
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Mar 1955.
---
Daily Variety
9 Sep 1954.
---
Daily Variety
30 Mar 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
6 Apr 55
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1954
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 55
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
10 May 1954.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
7 May 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Apr 55
p. 386.
Variety
30 Mar 55
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Irene Montwill
Alberto Morin
Trudie Wyler
Joe Romantini
Antonio Russo
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Ward
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
Planes and facilities courtesy
Tech adv
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 May 1955
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 6 May 1955
Production Date:
23 September--late October 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 May 1955
Copyright Number:
LP6471
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1 or 1.66:1
Duration(in mins):
90 or 92-93
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17194
SYNOPSIS

On 13 March 1954, in the midst of Communist Indo-China, Viet Minh rebels launch a full-scale assault on the French-controlled valley surrounding the fortress Dienbienphu. Colonel Christian De Castries, the French commander of the 13,000 men stationed there, discovers that a Chinese officer has been providing the enemy with explicit information regarding their number and weapons. Outnumbered by the attackers, De Castries radios Hanoi for help. In France, the first to answer Hanoi’s call for volunteers is desk officer Capt. Guy Bertrand, who spent three years in a World War II German prison camp and resents that he has never seen action. During a layover in Hanoi en route to Dienbienphu, Bertrand hopes briefly to see his lover Gisele, the neglected wife of Maj. Maurice Bonet, an officer stationed at Dienbienphu. At Paris’ Orly field, Bertrand meets three of the other volunteers: middle-aged Capt. Jean Callaux, whose alluring, social-climbing wife Simone has pushed him into volunteering, hoping that it will result in his promotion; Lt. Heinrich Heldman, a Nazi-hating German forced to serve in Rommel’s army, who, as a post-war French Legionnaire, saved hundreds of French lives and feels compelled to prove his allegiance to democracy; and young League of Nations worker Lt. Andre Maupin, who wants to escape his overshadowing mother and test the knowledge he learned at St. Cyr. The Dienbienphu airstrip, the only access to the French-controlled region, has been overtaken, and consequently, the men parachute to their destination. When Callaux lands in enemy territory, he is dragged to safety by Bertrand. At the fort, Bonet urges De Castries to evacuate with his troops and introduces the leader of a Thai tribe who has ... +


On 13 March 1954, in the midst of Communist Indo-China, Viet Minh rebels launch a full-scale assault on the French-controlled valley surrounding the fortress Dienbienphu. Colonel Christian De Castries, the French commander of the 13,000 men stationed there, discovers that a Chinese officer has been providing the enemy with explicit information regarding their number and weapons. Outnumbered by the attackers, De Castries radios Hanoi for help. In France, the first to answer Hanoi’s call for volunteers is desk officer Capt. Guy Bertrand, who spent three years in a World War II German prison camp and resents that he has never seen action. During a layover in Hanoi en route to Dienbienphu, Bertrand hopes briefly to see his lover Gisele, the neglected wife of Maj. Maurice Bonet, an officer stationed at Dienbienphu. At Paris’ Orly field, Bertrand meets three of the other volunteers: middle-aged Capt. Jean Callaux, whose alluring, social-climbing wife Simone has pushed him into volunteering, hoping that it will result in his promotion; Lt. Heinrich Heldman, a Nazi-hating German forced to serve in Rommel’s army, who, as a post-war French Legionnaire, saved hundreds of French lives and feels compelled to prove his allegiance to democracy; and young League of Nations worker Lt. Andre Maupin, who wants to escape his overshadowing mother and test the knowledge he learned at St. Cyr. The Dienbienphu airstrip, the only access to the French-controlled region, has been overtaken, and consequently, the men parachute to their destination. When Callaux lands in enemy territory, he is dragged to safety by Bertrand. At the fort, Bonet urges De Castries to evacuate with his troops and introduces the leader of a Thai tribe who has offered to lead them to safety, but the colonel strongly believes that they must stand their ground, whatever the outcome. Acting on reports that the strongholds protecting the fortress boundary are under heavy attack, De Castries sends out reinforcements. The subsequent fall of several strongholds nearly convinces De Castries to retreat, but the arrival of a monsoon, which he hopes will slow down the enemy, gives him renewed hope. At the end of April, a package from Hanoi containing mail, champagne, and two stars for newly promoted General De Castries, is dropped by parachute. After the package falls into enemy hands, Callaux and two other men sneak out and retrieve the bundle by killing the Viet Nimh in their foxholes. Shortly afterward, two Viet Nimh posing as soldiers from one of the outposts kill a French sentry and infiltrate the secured area. Heldman is shot while trying to stop them from planting explosives, and despite his pain, he kills them with a grenade and disables the explosive before it detonates. As ammunition, water and other supplies run low inside the fortress, Callaux volunteers to lead a patrol to a river in Communist territory to acquire some water. The night before the mission, Callaux receives a letter from a friend, who inadvertently reveals that his wife has been unfaithful. Realizing that Simone is only interested in his money, he amends his will, leaving everything to a young orphaned daughter of a recently-killed Legionnaire. Callaux then makes arrangements for the will to be flown to Hanoi for filing aboard a helicopter carrying wounded men from the fort. In the morning, Callaux and two soldiers reach the river, but after one of the soldiers steps on a spike hidden by the enemy, all three men are shot. Carrying a container of water, Callaux drags himself to waiting colleagues, who pull him behind the lines. He dies smiling as he watches the helicopter bearing his amended will fly safely off to Hanoi. After Bonet is ambushed by Viet Nimh, he surrenders to save himself, but is shot by the enemy just as Bertrand arrives with reinforcements. Determined that Bonet will not die a hero's death, Bertrand risks his own life to save Bonet, who dies later at the fortress. After fifty-six days of fighting, the Viet Nimh exhaust the fortress defenses and tunnel in. Now out of ammunition, the French defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat. De Castries radios to his superiors that the men will fight to the end and orders Bertrand and Maupin to escape and deliver to Hanoi vital papers destined for France. During their escape, the Frenchmen encounter Thai villagers who lead them safely through the territory. Before leaving, Bertrand pauses for a last look at the valley where his colleagues sacrificed themselves for democracy. Reminded of a quotation by Seneca, Bertrand reflects that the men at Dienbienphu were only killed, not defeated.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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