Review: Flight to Fury (1964) – A Jack Nicholson Retrospective

Click here for the introduction and the first review in my Jack Nicholson Retrospective.

And I’m back!

The sixth film in the Jack Nicholson retrospective is a unique one as it’s the first film where Mr Nicholson not only stars, but is also credited with writing the screenplay. (His sole previous writing credit was for 1963’s Thunder Island)

Though it seems that the writing process Mr Nicholson undertook was rather a strange one as, according to an interview with director Monte Hellman did with Cinephile:

We took a ship to the Philippines and (Jack) wrote the script for Flight to Fury on the ship. He’d go down to the lobby… and write each day, getting feedback and information from whatever passengers were kibitzing at the time!

Urgh… Let’s hope crowd-sourcing a screenplay worked in Mr Nicholson’s favour.


Set in the Philippines, Flight to Fury follows the battle of wits between six disparate characters who survive a plane crash into the unforgiving Filipino jungle. Among the survivors are Joe Gaines (Dewey Martin), the heroic hunk; Jay Wickham (Jack Nicholson), a smooth-talking mystery man; and Destiny Cooper (Fay Spain), the alluring mistress of Lorgren (Vic Diaz).

Together they must overcome their personal differences and the dangers of the undergrowth in order to survive in the wilderness. But the allure of a valuable cache of precious diamonds may prove too tempting for some.

Filmed back to back with Nicholson’s other 1964 release, Back Door to Hell (which was weirdly released only 10 days after this one); Flight to Fury is a fairly straightforward story that can’t quite reach a level that might be considered engaging.

Lasting only 73 minutes, it’s not until the 30 minute mark that the plane crash even takes place. Prior to this the film merely plods along, trying to engage the audience in the lives of both Gaines and Wickham as they meet for the first time.

To be fair Nicholson is easily the best character in this film, (not surprising since he wrote it!). In his role as the moustache twirling sociopath, this is the first time I felt the hint of the creepy threat that I know he will eventually play in The Shining.

Indeed there are moments where you wish it was Nicholson who was playing the protagonist, rather than Martin, who comes across as rather caricature-ish in his attempt to be average man turned hero.

That said, such poor attempts at acting can easily be ignored come the third act. The stakes increase considerably, with Spain’s femme fatale being a highlight, as bullets and desperation fuse into the core of every conflict.

Flight to Fury ends up being another weak film in the Jack Nicholson pantheon; but is fortunately made up for by another inkling of the great actor he will eventually become.

Overall Score:


Next time: My Review of Back Door to Hell (1964)

Photo Credits: Fandango, RareFilm,

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