Jump Into Hell (1955): David Butler’s Drama about Vietnam during French Regime

David Butler’s drama of the French Indo-China War, Jump Into Hell, depicts the last days at Dienbienphu as the French make a brave but futile attempt to defend the fortress.

Before Vietnam became America’s military and moral dilemma, the country was known as Indo-China and the French imperialism resulted in an arduous battle against the Communists.

“Jump Into Hell” concerns four commandoes who are parachuted into Indo-China at the request of the desperate commander at Dien Bien Phu.  Through flashback, we see the motivations for each of the quartet volunteering for the dangerous mission.

The fort commander sends a message to France for additional officers to help defend the position against the Communists.  Volunteer officers parachute into the besieged fortress.  After 56 days of fierce fighting, the Communists overrun the French position.  Only two survivors of the volunteers manage to escape.

The combat sequences (some of which are borrowed from newsreels) add interest to a story that is weak in characterization.

The movie fails to establish that more than 10,000 French troops participated in the battle.  In actuality, the battle at Dien Bien Phu (located on the North Vietnam/Laos border) was between French troops (as well as those Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians fighting on their side) and the 60,000 troops under the command of Viet Mihn General Vo Nguyen Giap.

The battle lasted from March 13, 1954 to May 7, 1954, when the French stronghold was overrun.  As a direct result of this major defeat, France agreed to the independence of Vietnam at the Geneva Conference that year.


Producer: David Weisbart.

Director: David Butler

Screenplay: Irving Wallace