The Good

Who doesn't love seeing Jack Nicholson (albeit in a smaller role) in action?

The Bad

Clocking in at 69 minutes and having no extras is an insult.

Layered with dialogue and some interesting action scenes, the 69 minute Back Door to Hell DVD contains a very inspired war film. The movie focuses on three men who have been sent to the Philippines to spy on the Japanese and provide the US with important information before they attack. Well, things don't go as planned and the three soldiers Craig (Jimmie Rodgers), Burnett (Jack Nicholson) and Jersey (John Hackett) soon find themselves behind enemy lines and in some interesting situations.

Even more interesting is how this movie seems to question the very idea of war. While I wouldn't go so far as to describe Back Door to Hell as an antiwar film, I think people will be surprised to see that a movie from 1964 raised such questions.


No extras came with this DVD.


Anamorphic - Widescreen (1.85:1). Truthfully, I don't think that this movie looks like it was shot in with the widescreen (especially anamorphic) format in mind. In fact, this movie, even though the shots are classically composed, seems a lot smaller than most war films. None of this detracts from the movie and I think it's minimalist look helps it.


Dolby Digital. English (Stereo and Mono). Spanish - Mono. Close Captioned. Subtitled in English and Spanish. The sound, like the style of this film is very simplistic. In fact, so heavily laden with dialogue and introspection was this film, that at times I forgot I was watching a war movie. The audio isn't that large overall but it serves it's function and the assets for this movie seem like they have been kept up quite nicely.


Jack Nicholson and Jimmie Rodgers share this front cover along with with some fighter airplanes. Nicholson gets a bigger picture even though he isn't the star of this film. The back cover also features a big shot of Jack Nicholson scaling a wall, as well as three pictures from the film. There is a succinct description of the story, a cast list and technical specs.

Final Word

As I am currently reading a book on Roger Corman, I am also coming across many of Jack Nicholson's early films because Corman had a hand in giving him some of his first roles. Interestingly, while it seems hard not to see Jack Nicholson as the star that he is, his career was certainly not going the way many probably think it was when he did Back Door to Hell. In fact, it really wouldn't be until Easy Rider that Jack Nicholson caught fire as an actor. That said, one can see here how he commanded the screen before he realized how easily he could play the man making the peanut gallery remarks.

Back Door to Hell plays as a lower budget, interesting war film.

Back Door to Hell was released December 19, 1964.