Five Gates to Hell

Five Gates to Hell is a 1959 American adventure film written and directed by James Clavell in CinemaScope. The film stars Dolores Michaels, Patricia Owens, Neville Brand, Ken Scott, Nobu McCarthy and Benson Fong. It was Clavell's directorial debut.

Five Gates to Hell
Five Gates to Hell poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Clavell
Produced byJames Clavell
Screenplay byJames Clavell
StarringDolores Michaels
Patricia Owens
Neville Brand
Ken Scott
Nobu McCarthy
Benson Fong
Music byPaul Dunlap
CinematographySam Leavitt
Edited byHarry W. Gerstad
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • September 23, 1959 (1959-09-23)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$300,000 approx[1]

The film was released on September 23, 1959, by 20th Century Fox.[2][3][4]


Several nurses including Athena Roberts, Joy Brooks and a Catholic nun, Sister Marie, and a surgeon, Dr. Richter, are taken captive in Indochina by a band of marauders led by Chen Pamok. He leads them to a jungle fortress guarded by five gates and heavily armed men and demands Dr. Richter treat the gravely ill Gung Sa, a warlord.

Chen becomes infatuated with Athena and, after she resists, she is raped. Richter diagnoses a malignant brain tumor and is told that, if his surgery does not save Gung Sa, he and the other prisoners will be put to death. When the patient survives, Richter is told the women will be kept as sex slaves but, as a reward, the doctor may choose one woman as his own. Although he is in love with Athena, he chooses Sister Marie, to spare her virtue.

Athena uses her wiles to lead a revolt, mowing down guerrillas with machine guns and leading an escape into the wild, Richter sacrificing his own life to help save theirs. Chen's men pursue and many from both sides are killed. Sister Marie, appreciating how protective the others have been of her, ultimately picks up a weapon to fight back. Athena is able to shoot Chen, who dies pledging his love for her.



The film was made by the production company of Robert L. Lippert who produced low budget films for distribution by 20th Century Fox. Lippert wanted to make a modern-day war film set in Asia. Clavell had just written the very successful The Fly (1958) for Lippert was hired to write the script. Lippert was struggling to find a director and Harry Spalding, who was Lippert's story editor, suggested Clavell. Lippert had enjoyed success with first time directors before, such as Sam Fuller, and agreed. Spalding said Clavell's first draft "was practically perfect".[5]

Irish McCalla was originally announced for the female lead.[6] The role went to Gerri Gaylor.[7]


Robert L. Lippert described the film as a "sleeper".[1]


  1. ^ a b Scheuer, P. K. (1959, Oct 26). "Lippert hails era of $300,000 hits" Los Angeles Times
  2. ^ "Five-Gates-to-Hell - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
  3. ^ "Five Gates to Hell (1959) - Overview". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
  4. ^ "Five Gates to Hell". Retrieved 2015-09-23.
  5. ^ Weaver, Tom (19 February 2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland. p. 320. ISBN 9780786482153.
  6. ^ "FILM LAND EVENTS" (1959, Jun 25). Los Angeles Times
  7. ^ "FILMLAND EVENTS" (1959, Jun 26). Los Angeles Times

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