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Hell Below Zero (1954)

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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 225 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 5 critic

Duncan Craig signs on a whaling ship, partly because his own business deal has fallen through, partly to help Judie Nordhall find her father. Rumor has it that her father may have been ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Title: Hell Below Zero (1954)

Hell Below Zero (1954) on IMDb 5.9/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Duncan Craig
Joan Tetzel ...
Judie Nordhal
Basil Sydney ...
Erik Bland
Joseph Tomelty ...
Capt. McPhee
Niall MacGinnis ...
Dr. Howe
Jill Bennett ...
Gerda Petersen
Peter Dyneley ...
Susan Rayne ...
Philo Hauser ...
Ivan Craig ...
Paddy Ryan ...
Cyril Chamberlain ...
Paul Homer ...
Kista Dan Radio Operator


Duncan Craig signs on a whaling ship, partly because his own business deal has fallen through, partly to help Judie Nordhall find her father. Rumor has it that her father may have been murdered by Erik Bland, son of her father's partner and her one-time lover. Duncan and Erik find themselves on rival whaleboats and, ultimately, on an ice floe. Written by Ed Stephan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Actually filmed with the whaling fleet in the raging Antarctic! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

15 January 1954 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Hell Below Zero  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When the film premiered in Hollywood in 1954, Alan Ladd gave a few mounted actual whale teeth to special guests on opening night. He was actually on the ship during some of the filming. The tooth "trophies" are highly collectible today. Each has a plaque identifying them as coming from the movie. See more »


During scenes set in the Antarctic, at supposedly below zero (Celsius) temperatures, we never see breath vapor. See more »


Referenced in Cubby Broccoli: The Man Behind Bond (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Fun adventure yarn
16 April 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Ladd plays one of the role model characters for Han Solo, as an adventurer who'll do anything to pick up a chick.

Except he's sort of a cross between Skwalker and Solo, thus making him more three dimensional than the character torn asunder into two characters.

Here, he goes into the South Seas near Antarctica, in a grand story of whaling. There is intrigue, as a woman believes her father, a whaling captain, was murdered by her fiancé.

The fiancé is evil incarnate, and it's very obvious early. Which make the scene where Ladd and MacGinnis ask him to save them, very ludicrous. It makes their characters look very stupid. Knowing they are witnesses against him in a murder, they divulge to the evil fiancé, Stanley Baker, that their ship is stuck in ice, and only Baker's icebreaker ship can free them. Knowing this, one would think that Ladd would be smart enough to tell the radio operator to send a message that Ladd and MacGinnis fell overboard, probably with some others, and are not among the survivors, in which case they would be rescued. However, they stupidly set themselves up, as well as the others, for a ramming job.

Along the way, revelations come a few at a time. And it woks well here.

What works even better is the use of the minor characters. MacGinnis and Bennett lead the way as some very interesting characters. Perhaps the least interesting are the "lackeys" who are willing to help Baker commit murder, knowing they are expendable witnesses. More and more revelations about Baker's evil persona come as the plot unfolds. He truly is evil incarnate.

The whaling scenes, and the scenes with the crews, along with the afore mentioned supporting characters, are what make this a top movie, as is usually what makes a top movie.

The action scenes are a bit of a cross between the old style realism of stumbling and shoving, and the modern ignorant comical choreography that probably works well in a Japanese kung fu movie, because the Japanese kung fu movie is based on personification, but looks stupid when dealing with dramatic characters in an action adventure. We see more "cause and effect" than the actual fighting, which really looks the best in adventure films, because it involves no "staged" look. The chips fall where they fall. In fact, at the end, when they are in the bitter cold, the two main characters probably shoot their guns "too well" for characters whose fingers are probably frozen, and whose guns have frozen mechanisms. It would be amazing if they did hit anything.

I have some nit picks with the movie. I'd like to have seen some of the characters survive, ones we know will die with pathos, but their deaths are not contrived. They are in one of the most dangerous occupations in one of the most dangerous areas of the world, even today.

This is a good film We care about the characters, and the adventure is great. If you don't enjoy this, then then there's no way you could enjoy 99% of the movies made since 1970, with characters we could care nothing about, and with dull, stupidly staged action sequences. This is a real film.

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