To Hell and Back (1955) Review

Director: Jesse Hibbs

Genre(s): Action, Biography, Drama, War

Runtime: 106 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The main draw of To Hell and Back is to see Audie Murphy play himself, an American hero of World War II who fought in several campaigns of the European theater. The picture starts with its star as a poor, rural Texan, who joins the U.S. army as a way of helping support his family. Other than the Murphy-as-Murphy factor, this film plays out like a fairly typical grunts’-eye-view war movie.

Most viewers will probably choose to watch To Hell and Back for Murphy and the recreation of his heroics. On this level, the flick works pretty well. There’s a reasonable amount of battle scenes, but their realism is mixed. They’re explosion-heavy and oft-muddy, capturing what small-unit combat must feel like to a fair degree. On the other hand, the violence often seems sanitized, although small amounts of blood show up once in a while.

Other cons related to To Hell and Back are the pointless romance scenes, which add nothing, and the fact that the family sequences towards the beginning feel a bit schmaltzy, but they’re over soon enough. Most of the supporting characters are pretty interchangeable, which hampers the drama. Understandably, the horrible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that Murphy suffered from post-war is left out, as the movie concludes with the end of World War II.

To Hell and Back sometimes feels like an advertisement for the American military, considering the lack of PTSD-related content and other factors, but it would be a mistake to let that deter one from watching it. I listed quite a few negatives for the film, yet the “gimmick,” if you want to call it that, at the center of the flick, Murphy playing himself, is strong enough to make it worth a watch. The humble heroism on display here keeps it afloat.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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