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Jump into Hell

Jump into Hell(1955)

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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 Los Angeles Examiner 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 May 7, 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-Path newsreel stock shots of the real event are intermixed with dramatic footage in the film. September and October Hollywood Reporter 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 October Hollywood Reporter 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 September 1954 Daily Variety 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 Motion Picture Herald 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. Motion Picture Herald reported that "the titanic struggle" involved thousands of men, "not just a handful as might be gathered from this presentation." The Hollywood Reporter 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."