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» » Surrender - Hell! (1959)

Short summary

An officer leads a band of Filipino guerrillas against the Japanese in anticipation of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's return.

Donald D. Blackburn would later go on to command MACVSOG during the Vietnam War.

Opening credits: DEDICATION This is a true story - - of gallantry, sacrifice and heroism against a relentless enemy. It is fitting that the facts now be revealed.

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Maximilianishe
    To write intelligently about an inexpensive cheaply-made or "B"-picture war docudrama whose subject is a soldier of WWII I suggest is difficult. One must separate the shortcomings of production from the efforts of the writers, directors and actors. Thus, "Surrender Hell" (1959) undoubtedly has more in common with other "B" pictures of the period 1939--1973 than it does with most studio-produced war films in this regard. Its hero is Don Blackburn, veteran United States' army lieutenant, who refuses to surrender when the Philippines fall under Japanese dictatorship during the War. Instead, he heads up into the hills, hoping to enlist guerrilla patriots whose mission will be to make life difficult for the conquerors until Gen. MacArthur's promise to return to liberate the islands from domination can be fulfilled. This he does by organizing and leading elements first of Filipino then of Filipino and headhunter tribesmen as well as a late-arriving small U.S. force, in courageous, dangerous and ultimately successful actions. Lack of funds forced the film's director, John Barnwell, who worked up the script from real-life Donald Blackburn's memoirs, Philip Harkin's "Blackburn's Headhunters", and Charles Martin's intelligent narratives in the script to employ static scenes, marching scenes and incorporated footage; his budget in other words only allowed him latitude to recreate some claustrophobic dramatic scenes and limited combat stagings. The argument of the film, which happens to be true, is that this one trained solider, an American, was the major creator behind strategic plannings, training of troops to use weapons and to be effective wartime raiders, and only toward the end the leading force behind two successful major confrontations with Japanese regular troops. The story resulting from these creative efforts I say is episodic, effective in its dramatic scenes and undoubtedly less successful in its depiction of the entire narrative of the guerrillas' growth and operations, despite (by then Colonel) Blackburn's having acted as the film's technical adviser. In fact, all the hero of the story had to do was get his men to keep quiet on command, instruct them in use of modern weapons and issue orders for attacks whenever the opportunity could be seized; and this he apparently did, in reality, with great success for several years. Francisco Buencamino Jr. provided unobtrusive music, with Filipino experts providing the film's other cinematographic and art direction contributions, which are I claim above average for their minuscule budget. Only several actors are credited in the film, Susan Cabot for a brief early role, Paraluman as Pilar in an extended and satisfying tragic performance, and Nestor de Villa as Major Bulao. But the body of the film revolves about the towering , brilliantly nuanced and legendary performance given by Keith Andes as future Colonel Donald Blackburn. His classically-trained speech, his ability to handle all acting situations and challenges and his astonishing success in keeping a continuity of his characterization secure across weeks of filming in demanding and varied locations I find to be remarkable in itself. That he was able to do this with a cast of ESL speakers and low- grade actors and technicians is all-the--more-admirable as an achievement. His honest work here I say eclipses even the very good performance in the same year by Gregory Peck in the high-budget "Guns of Navarone", a noted leading performance; his role therefore must go down as one of the least appreciated and most successful in film history. That one of the finest leading men of his generation was relegated to "Damn Citizen", "Model For Murder" and "Surrender Hell" is an indictment of movie moguls' artistic absurdity. That he was able to extract as much as he did from the material he was given to work with in these films as well as "Back From Eternity", "Split Second" and other films borders upon the miraculous. I recommend this film to those who enjoy fictionalized biography and WWII films; it has effective moments, good work by the Japanese leader in several scenes, and a good deal of memorable footage, thanks largely to Keith Andes professional superiority throughout the filming. He is unarguably more-than-memorable here in every respect.
  • comment
    • Author: Shaktizragore
    The title smacks of a John Wayne cry and that is the spirit in which this film, based upon a true story, is told. Keith Andes plays Don Blackburn, an American officer whose unit was overrun by the Japanese advance in the Philippines. Rather than fall prisoner he escapes to the hills and jungle to co-ordinate local resistance.

    Made in 1959, it seeks to bolster domestic confidence after the stalemate of Korea and anticipates the Vietnam debacle and has the flavour of a WW2 propaganda film even though it was made 14 years after the event. It has a limited budget and relies heavily on archive footage, static scenes, flash scenes, voice-over and rousing military music to stir the spirits.

    Susan Cabot provides some early glamour, and native dancing girls also provide some light relief. Otherwise this is standard fare of American grit, resolve and ingenuity whipping the natives into shape. The dastardly Japs naturally shoot a child dead, and Cabot has her dressed ripped from her as she then dives naked into the water to escape Japanese soldiers.

    We all know who wins in the end so dramatic tension is in short supply ,but as a stock tale of good (The Americans) v bad (The Japanese) ,and American know how helping the locals to vanquish the dastardly invaders ,it works well enough.
  • comment
    • Author: Went Tyu
    SURRENDER - HELL! is one of many American WW2 movies that headed off to the Philippines to shoot in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These low budget outings are invariably low-fi efforts, made in black and white and with a kind of grainy cheapness that works on occasion, bringing to mind the genuine newsreel footage of the Pacific War.

    This particular outing is just about average for the genre. It's watchable but forgettable, fast-paced but only involving on a basic level. American star Keith Andes finds himself stranded in the Philippines in the face of the advancing Japanese army and decides to drum up some local support for the cause as the rest of his army has fled. To this end he enlists the help of some local villages and even a random tribe of headhunters to fight the Japanese, gorilla-style.

    The film has a bit of everything. There's a little romance with some local colour and some cruelty from the Japanese, who enjoy shooting everything in sight. The action scenes are plentiful but rather crudely achieved and not always very convincing. It's mainly just two sides gunning each other until one wins. I had fun spotting a youthful Vic Diaz (a stalwart of Filipino cinema) in the cast.
  • Complete credited cast:
    Keith Andes Keith Andes - Col. Donald D. Blackburn
    Susan Cabot Susan Cabot - Delia Guerrero
    Paraluman Paraluman - Pilar
    Nestor de Villa Nestor de Villa - Major Bulao (as Nestor De Villa)
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