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Movie Review

To Hell and Back

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
10 to Adult
War Docudrama
1 hr. 46 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Relevant Issues
Cover Graphic from “To Hell and Back”

War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Featuring: Audie Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Charles Drake, Jack Kelly, Gregg Palmer, Paul Picerni
Director: Jesse Hibbs
Producer: _____
Distributor: _____

Based on WWII Hero Audie Murphy’s autobiography of the same title, this film has a central character similar to Sergeant Alvin York—a poor rural kid who had to learn to shoot straight in order to put food on the table. While it doesn’t have the explicit Christian witness that “Sergeant York” does, it’s the story of the most decorated soldier in U.S. history and it features Murphy playing himself. It held Universal’s box-office record for 20 years, until it was topped by “Jaws”.

Murphy’s difficult early life, in a family abandoned by his father, is shown; and this helps to explain his later leadership skills. From being rejected by several branches and specialties of the service and nearly barred from combat duty, grade-school dropout Murphy rises through the ranks to a battlefield commission and a promise of being sent to West Point. Most of the familiar characters from the written biography—including Kerrigan (Jack Kelly, TV’s “Bart Maverick”) and “Horseface” Johnson (Marshall Thompson, “No Man is an Island”)—are here, but some events and some characters have been merged into composites.

Murphy is shown continually risking his life “above and beyond,” although the film contains only a few of his many exploits. The language and many other elements have been sanitized compared to the book version; there’s almost no profanity. There’s a lot of combat action and many casualties; but the acting is “old-style” with people just falling over, no screaming by the wounded, and almost no special-effects blood. The actual sufferings and deprivations of a footsoldier are only faintly hinted at; there are no scenes of intestinal flu, frozen feet in winter etc. Johnson and Kerrigan are shown with prostitutes while on pass; but it’s handled as tastefully as possible, with no on-screen sexuality. What the viewer will remember most is the infantrymen’s bravery and devotion to duty. Whether this film is appropriate for children under age 10 or so depends on what else they’re used to watching.

Anyone seriously interested in Murphy’s story should get the book as well as see the movie.

Viewer Comments
This is an amazing story of the most decorated soldier ever. Murphy was awarded every medal possible in just three years of military service, and all by the age of 19! He was well respected by the other men in his unit, yet was very humble. Murphy’s example of what he accomplished in life despite his background of being abandoned by his father, his mother’s death, and dropping out of school at age 12 to care for his family is proof that young men need not turn to crime because of poverty and unfortunate circumstances. It is sad though, that after all this success, he never really found happiness outside the military. My Ratings: [3½/3½]
Debbie James, age 41