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Fox Lorber presents
The Walls of Hell (1964)

"This war business is something new to me. I'm really just a small town newshound."
- Murray (Paul Edwards, Jr.)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: December 20, 2001

Stars: Jock Mahoney, Fernando Poe, Jr., Mike Parsons
Other Stars: Oscar Roncal, Paul Edwards, Jr., Cecilia Lopez
Director: Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence)
Run Time: 01h:28m:25s
Release Date: December 04, 2001
UPC: 720917529820
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The Walls of Hell (also released as Intramuros) is based on the real-life story of a pitched battle in the Philippines in 1945, at the end of World War II. A troop of Japanese Marines, unwilling to surrender, takes the walled city of Intramuros by force, holding one thousand men, women and children hostage. Sergeant Leonardo Maglaya (Fernando Poe, Jr.) manages to escape from the city and seek help. Under the unconventional command of Lieutenant Jim Sorenson (Jock Mahoney), a hybrid team of U.S. Army and Filipino soldiers fights to rescue the civilians—including Sorenson's wife, Tina (Cecilia Lopez).

The Walls of Hell was produced in the Philippines, directed by local film industry veterans Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero, best known for the low-budget horror movies their studios churned out in the 1950s and 1960s. This project was clearly aimed at a larger, more mainstream audience, with production values to match, given the film's tight budget. There's always something smoking or burning, some onscreen reminder of the carnage of war. Hardware assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense provides some realistic detail, location shooting (often using natural light) lends environmental credibility to the action, and there's an unrehearsed, unstaged quality to the battle scenes that works very well most of the time. Innocent bystanders duck mortar fire and crude missiles as they attempt to go about their daily lives, and soldiers in battle panic, seem unsure of themselves and occasionally lose their footing—the effect may not have been intentional, but it is definitely convincing.

The production is less successful when it comes to acting and plot. The international cast includes second-string Hollywood performers (Jock Mahoney was one of a long line of Tarzans) as well as actors familiar to the domestic Filipino audience. Unfortunately, the filmmakers' attempt to play in the United States and the Philippines gives the finished product a schizophrenic, incoherent quality. A brave young newspaper reporter named Murray (played by Paul Edwards, Jr.) is introduced as an All-American boy as the film opens, but he soon disappears from sight for long stretches, only to resurface at its conclusion. The Filipino performers, including Oscar Roncal, Ely Ramos, Jr., and Fred Galang, seem generally to be better actors than their Hollywood co-stars, but their characters are strong, two-dimensional, nearly silent heroes who are almost indistinguishable from one another. The filmmakers do give some screen time to the Filipino perspective on the United States' interventionist policies, voiced primarily by Sergeant Maglaya; but in the end, the emotional connections and military credit belong almost exclusively to the Hollywood stereotypes, as does most of the stilted, macho dialogue.

The realism of the film's milieu is ultimately not enough to overcome its stylistic shortcomings—the stock-music score rarely seems to fit the action, some key sequences are edited in a confusing manner, and there's never much room for doubt as to which side will emerge victorious. But it's a different film than most viewers have seen from the Philippines, and aficionados of obscure war movies may want to check this one out.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Fox Lorber presents The Walls of Hell in its original 1.33:1 full-frame theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer is rendered in 30-fps interlaced format, probably to accommodate a VHS release from the same master, but the black & white image exhibits some crisp detail and no analog video artifacts. The source print exhibits some significant damage and heavy flecking in spots, not surprising for a low-budget film from thirty-five years ago, and there are numerous odd wobbling and warping defects that appear to date from the original production. It's not in great shape, but it looks better than one would expect, and that's a step in the right direction for Fox Lorber, a studio known for poor transfers in the past.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The Walls of Hell is presented in its original monaural soundtrack format, encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 for ProLogic direction to the center speaker. The audio sounds very dated, with high levels of hiss and muddy, clipped dialogue, and low-end bass content is sorely missed—tinny explosions are the order of the day. The digital transfer seems accurate enough, but no one would mistake this for a recent or restored soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: D


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Fighting Rats of Tobruk, The Queen of Sheba, The Barbarians, Submarine Attack (Torpedo Zone), The Raiders of Leyte Gulf, Mission to Death
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD-ROM Weblink
Extras Review: Fox Lorber decorates The Walls of Hell with 16 picture-menu chapters and a handful of standard but interesting extras. Two screens of Film Facts outline the film's basis in real history, as well as its origin and recent "rediscovery" after thirty years, and filmographies are provided for star Jock Mahoney and directors Eddie Romero and Gerardo de Leon. A page of DVD production credits covers the team responsible for the disc's production, and a DVD-ROM Weblink leads to the Winstar Video website.

The disc also includes a collection of trailers for six obscure, low-budget war pictures and historical epics. They're all in 1.33:1 full-frame format, heavy on the hyperbolic title cards and serious-minded narration (often used to disguise the dubbed dialogue!) The trailer for Mission to Death is in color; all the others are in black & white, including The Fighting Rats of Tobruk, The Queen of Sheba, The Barbarians, Submarine Attack (Torpedo Zone), and The Raiders of Leyte Gulf. I doubt most American film buffs have even heard of most of these films, let alone seen them, and these blood-and-thunder trailers are quite entertaining in their own right.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

The Walls of Hell is a fairly standard low-budget war picture about the tail end of World War II as fought in the Philippines, notable mostly for its on-location realism. Fox Lorber's DVD features a decent transfer and a few worthwhile extras, though the film's appeal may be limited.


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