Five Gates to Hell (1959)

98 mins | Drama | December 1959

Director:

James Clavell

Writer:

James Clavell

Producer:

James Clavell

Cinematographer:

Sam Leavitt

Production Designers:

Lyle Wheeler, John Mansbridge

Production Company:

Associated Producers, Inc.
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HISTORY

James Clavell's onscreen credit reads, "Written, produced and directed by James Clavell." Five Gates to Hell marked Clavell's directorial debut. Clavell had spent five years as a POW in a Japanese camp, according to the Var review. The opening cast credits are in slightly different order than the closing credits and the opening credits read, "Introducing Gerry Gaylor, Shirley Knight, Greta Chi, Linda Wong and Irish McCalla." Although this film marked the screen debuts of Knight, Chi and Wong, McCalla and Gaylor had appeared in films previous to Five Gates to Hell . Although a HR production chart places Nico Minardos in the cast, he does not appear in the released film. The Var review notes that locations were filmed in mountains above Malibu, CA. ... More Less

James Clavell's onscreen credit reads, "Written, produced and directed by James Clavell." Five Gates to Hell marked Clavell's directorial debut. Clavell had spent five years as a POW in a Japanese camp, according to the Var review. The opening cast credits are in slightly different order than the closing credits and the opening credits read, "Introducing Gerry Gaylor, Shirley Knight, Greta Chi, Linda Wong and Irish McCalla." Although this film marked the screen debuts of Knight, Chi and Wong, McCalla and Gaylor had appeared in films previous to Five Gates to Hell . Although a HR production chart places Nico Minardos in the cast, he does not appear in the released film. The Var review notes that locations were filmed in mountains above Malibu, CA. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Sep 1959.
---
Daily Variety
21 Sep 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 Sep 59
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 59
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jul 59
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 59
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Oct 59
p. 437.
New York Times
10 Dec 59
p. 51.
Variety
23 Sep 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Supv ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Men's ward
Women's ward
Nurses' uniforms
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Medical adv
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening 9 December 1959
Production Date:
mid June--early July 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
23 September 1959
Copyright Number:
LP15050
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
98
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19407
SYNOPSIS

In 1950, at a French army hospital in French Indochina, nurse Athena Roberts, the level-headed daughter of an American diplomat, anticipates her last day on the job before joining her father in Hanoi, while nurse Joy Brooks, a cynical Englishwoman who holds the entire camp in contempt, eagerly awaits a weekend leave in Hanoi. As Dr. John Richter, the homesick surgeon, prepares to operate on a patient, the hospital is besieged by a band of bloodthirsty guerrillas led by Chen Panok. After savagely killing Dr. Richter's patient, Chen takes Richter, his colleague Dr. Jacques Minelle and all the nurses prisoner and leads them into the jungle to treat Gung Sa, the ailing warlord and leader of the guerrillas. Knowing that Chen and his men despise the Christian religion, Chioko, one of the nurses, dresses Sister Marie, an emotionally frail nun, in a nurse's uniform to conceal her identity. Before leaving, the guerrillas crucify Sister Magdalena, the one remaining nun. Upon reaching the guerrillas' fortress, which is regarded as impenetrable because it is guarded by five gates, Richter examines Gung Sa and announces that he needs two days to conduct a series of tests. Chen, enthralled by the blonde Athena, orders her to his room, where he offers her gifts and informs her that he wants her as his woman. After Chen offers Athena time to consider his proposal, Joy encourages her to accept his offer, asserting that God intended women to use sex for their survival. When Richter decides that Gung Sa must be operated upon, the warlord instructs his minions to burn the medics if they fail. After determining that Gung ... +


In 1950, at a French army hospital in French Indochina, nurse Athena Roberts, the level-headed daughter of an American diplomat, anticipates her last day on the job before joining her father in Hanoi, while nurse Joy Brooks, a cynical Englishwoman who holds the entire camp in contempt, eagerly awaits a weekend leave in Hanoi. As Dr. John Richter, the homesick surgeon, prepares to operate on a patient, the hospital is besieged by a band of bloodthirsty guerrillas led by Chen Panok. After savagely killing Dr. Richter's patient, Chen takes Richter, his colleague Dr. Jacques Minelle and all the nurses prisoner and leads them into the jungle to treat Gung Sa, the ailing warlord and leader of the guerrillas. Knowing that Chen and his men despise the Christian religion, Chioko, one of the nurses, dresses Sister Marie, an emotionally frail nun, in a nurse's uniform to conceal her identity. Before leaving, the guerrillas crucify Sister Magdalena, the one remaining nun. Upon reaching the guerrillas' fortress, which is regarded as impenetrable because it is guarded by five gates, Richter examines Gung Sa and announces that he needs two days to conduct a series of tests. Chen, enthralled by the blonde Athena, orders her to his room, where he offers her gifts and informs her that he wants her as his woman. After Chen offers Athena time to consider his proposal, Joy encourages her to accept his offer, asserting that God intended women to use sex for their survival. When Richter decides that Gung Sa must be operated upon, the warlord instructs his minions to burn the medics if they fail. After determining that Gung Sa has a malignant tumor and faces certain death, the married Richter realizes that he has nothing left to lose and so he tells Athena, who is in love with him, that he has feelings for her. Once the operation is completed, Chen assembles the nurses and declares that they will now serve as sex slaves to his men. Turning to Richter, Chen offers him first pick of the women, and to protect Sister Marie's virtue, he chooses her. Chen then claims Athena, and when she resists his advances, he brutally rapes her. Determined to break out of the fortress, Richter schedules another operation on Gung Sa as a cover for the escape. While Richter drugs the guard in the operating room, Chioko flirts with another and Athena distracts Chen by pretending to seduce him. When Chen responds to Athena's charms, she seizes his gun, shoots him, then flees. As the nurses assemble in the courtyard, Richter and Minelle are gunned down by the guerrillas. Kneeling, Athena tenderly kisses Richter farewell, then picks up a machine gun and kills several of the guerrillas. Greta, a German nurse whose late husband was a solider, then instructs the nurses in the handling of machine guns and grenades. Pulling himself up from the floor, Chen runs into the courtyard, his machine gun blazing, and in their haste to flee, the nurses leave several guns behind and plunge into the cover of the jungle. After making camp that night, Joy cautions the women never to reveal that they were sexually assaulted and then discloses her own fate as an outcast after the Japanese captured her during World War II and forced her to work in a house of prostitution. The next day, the women make their way to a bridge. When two guerrillas unexpectedly appear from the jungle and lunge at them, Suzette, the desperately unhappy matron nurse, pulls the pin from a grenade and accidentally detonates herself. Suzette's demise startles the guerrillas, allowing the women to overtake them. When a shaken Joy chastises Marie for standing by while the others fight for their lives, Marie resolutely picks up one of the dead guerrilla's guns. As the nurses trudge down an abandoned road, Chen, who has tracked them through the jungle, spots them from a ridge above and roars that Athena will pay for her lies. When Chen leads his men in a charge, the nurses resolve to climb the mountain to freedom, and Athena hurls several grenades at Chen, slowing him down. Some time later, the women come across a deserted village whose only occupant is an old, dying woman. When one of Chen's scouts locates the women, Athena vows to remain behind and kill Chen, prompting the others to decide to stop running and face their tormentors. The women urge Marie to continue on to freedom, but after she declares that she is unworthy of the habit and cannot face going home, the women agree to let her stay if she will don her habit once more. As Chen nears the village, Athena, crazed with vengeance, taunts him. One by one, the women are downed by the guerrilla's gunfire until only Marie and Athena are left standing. Marie then defiantly confronts Chen, thus sacrificing her own life so that Athena can find a gun to defend herself. After peppering Chen with a blast of bullets, Athena contemptuously stands over his dying body as he proclaims his love for her. Athena then determines that Joy and Greta are still alive, and while she dresses their wounds, she confides that she is pregnant with Chen's child. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.