The Walls of Hell (1965)




Directors: Eddie Romero, Gerardo de Leon

Starring:   Jock Mahoney (Lt. Sorenson), Fernando Poe, Jr. (Sgt. Nardo), Michael Parsons (Papa), Arsenio Alonso, Carpi Asturias, Angel Buenaventura, Paul Edwards, Jr. (correspondent Murray), Cecilia Lpez (Tina).

"Gateway to the bloodiest battle of the Philippines. The Japanese Imperial Navy plans their last stand of WWII in the thick walls and narrow streets of the walled city of Intramuros in the Philippines. American soldiers team with brave Filipino freedom fighters to fend them off and free the city."   (Source:


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

February 1945. The Japanese leader Yamashita had agreed to make Manila an "open city".  But the 16,000 Japanese marines, believing they would be killed if captured, agreed to fight to the death and disobeyed Tomoyuki Yamashita's orders.  They entrenched themselves in the 300 year old walled city of Intramuros with walls 30 feet high and up to 45 feet thick.  There were 20,000 Filipino civilians in the walled city. The American attacked was spearheaded by the First Cavalry Division and the 36th Infantry regiments.  The Americans poured in some 10,000 artillery shells an hour into the walled city.  It took three weeks to take the Intramuros.  In the battle, no Japanese marines survived. 

A correspondent named Murray arrives at headquarters and speaks with the Major in charge.  Murray tells the Major that he wants to go to the front lines: to be with Lt. Sorenson and his men.  The Major suggests that he pick a safer location, but Murray insists.  The Major has Corporal Cruz take Murray to the front.  Murray's reception is somewhat cold, but the correspondent is not discouraged.  Sorenson's men are mostly Filipino with a few Americans. 

A group of Sorenson's men chase a Japanese soldier and kill him.  By the dead body, they find an opening in the ground used by the enemy to go back and forth to harass Sorenson's men.  Up out of the hold comes a Filipino man named Sgt. Nardo.  He says that he is on the side of the Allies.  He was captured in 1942 and then released.  He served in a guerrilla group under Colonel Strong.  Nardo tells the men that the Japanese are holding 1,000 Filipino hostages, among them Nardo's mother and two sisters.. He wants the help of Sorenson's men to evacuate the hostages.  Nardo is taken to speak with Sorenson.   Headquarters grants permission for the project. 

The Major and his staff question Sgt. Nardo further.  He is satisfied with the answers and tells Nardo that the army will provide supporting artillery barrages for the evacuation project.  Nardo learns that Soreson's pregnant Filipino wife Tina was killed when Sorenson's unit attacked a Japanese convoy in which Tina was held as a prisoner. 

A Japanese squad armed only with bayonets tries to infiltrate into Sorenson's forces, but they are all killed.  Sorenson loses a number of his men in the attack.  A report comes to Sorenson that Tina is alive and is being held as a prisoner with the other hostages. 

Tina is taken out with a small group for "questioning".  As they walk with their captives, the group comes under artillery fire.  The Japanese escorts are killed along with some of the Filipinos, but Tina survives.  She is put back with the hostages. 

Sorenson gets into a physical fight with Sgt. Nardo over his criticisms of the leader of the unit.  The other men eventually separate the two of them.  Nardo is upset because he knows that hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipinos will be killed in the continued artillery bombardment of Intramuros. 

The artillery shelling begins.  Nardo learns that Sorenson will try to get the hostages out by himself.  He speaks with Sorenson and gets him to agree that the whole unit will cooperate in attacking the prison.  They start the assault on the prison and begin sending out hostages ten at a time.  This proves to be no easy task as there are still many Japanese troops in the area.  Sorenson's men start losing a lot of men in the many confrontations with Japanese marines. 

Sorenson finds Tina among the evacuees.  They are very happy to see each other, but she cries to Sorenson that she lost their baby.  Sorenson has his soldiers take her to safety even against her wish to stay with her husband. 

The American army arrives to join the fighting.  Sgt. Nardo and Sorenson are watching as one of their key men dies.  The recently arrived American commander of the new group of American soldiers shouts to them:  "All right guys.  Get the lead out!  Don't you know there's a war on?" 


Pretty good movie.  It covers an important battle of WWII, the battle to take the walled district of Intramuros in Manila from the Japanese.  It takes awhile for the project to save 1,000 Filipino hostages to get going, but once it does the action is good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

Historical Background:

1945  --  The Battle of Manila

February 3  --  advance troops of the 8th Cavalry free 3,500 allied prisoners from the University of Santo Tomas.

February 5  --  the rest of the Japanese guards at the University surrender.

The Japanese made their last stand in Intramuros.  The Intramuros was among the oldest districts of the city of Manila (capital of the Philippines).  It is located along the southern bank of the Pasig River.  In Latin, intra muros means "In the walls", because the district is surrounded by thick, high walls and moats built during the Spanish Period.

Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji was in charge of holding Manila.  He decided to disobey Yamashita and fight to the very last man.  He got together a group of sailors, marines and army troops to defend the city.  One of the best places was Intramuros.  The resulting battle was one of the worst cases of urban street fighting of WWII.  As the Japanese started to lose badly, many of them started killing Filipino citizens in what became known as the Manila Massacre.  In all 100,000 Filipinos were killed.  The Americans suffered only 1,010 deaths. 

Feb. 27  --  the Japanese formally hand over the Philippines to the Americans.



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