A violent action picture about the horrors the Japanese Army visited upon locals while occupying the Philippines during World War II, this excruciatingly bad movie is set on the island nation circa 1942. After a brutal Japanese commander annihilates a guerilla platoon led by American Lt. Barry Mann (John Garwood), leaving a badly burned Barry for dead, Barry survives to torment his Japanese oppressors. He also longs to reconnect with Maria (Liza Lorena), his beautiful Filipino lover, whom we knows will never look at him the same way now that he’s so disfigured he looks like Vincent Price in, well, pretty much any movie in which Vincent Price was disfigured. There’s also a perfunctory subplot involving Barry’s best friend, fellow American solider Jack (William Smith), who loves Maria but won’t say so out of loyalty to Barry. Oh, and just for good measure, Barry bonds with a hunchbacked young boy who embraces Barry as a fellow social pariah. Incompetently written and blandly filmed (by two credited directors), A Taste of Hell features wall-to-wall dubbed dialogue, so the disjointed movie feels like a workprint that’s missing half the key scenes. One can (almost) imagine the intense revenge flick the filmmakers might have deluded themselves into believing they were making, but what they actually made is an ugly mixture of tedium and violence lacking credibility, drama, or tension. Smith, the muscular veteran of a zillion bad movies, looks great glowering his way through various manly-man scenarios, but the bad dubbing and discombobulated storytelling render his performance inert. As for Garwood, who rarely speaks once he slaps on the burn makeup, he doesn’t so much act his role as mime it, and he doesn’t even do that particularly well.
A Taste of Hell: SQUARE