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Hell and High Water (1954)

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A privately-financed scientist and his colleagues hire an ex-Navy officer to conduct an Alaskan submarine expedition in order to prevent a Red Chinese anti-American plot that may lead to ... See full summary »



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Title: Hell and High Water (1954)

Hell and High Water (1954) on IMDb 6.3/10

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Capt. Adam Jones
Bella Darvi ...
Denise Montel
Victor Francen ...
Prof. Montel
'Ski' Brodski
Gene Evans ...
Chief Holter
Tugboat Walker
Stephen Bekassy ...
Richard Loo ...
Hakada Fujimori


A privately-financed scientist and his colleagues hire an ex-Navy officer to conduct an Alaskan submarine expedition in order to prevent a Red Chinese anti-American plot that may lead to World War III. Mixes deviously plotted schoolboy fiction with submarine spectacle and cold war heroics. Written by Lew Amack (

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »




| | |

Release Date:

6 February 1954 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Inferno  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This was Twentieth Century-Fox's fifth CinemaScope production. See more »


When the landing party is making its escape from the second island, Captain Jones' hat falls off as they are getting in the dingy. The actor is clearly a dark-haired double for Richard Widmark. See more »


Captain Adam Jones: Look, uh, look before we go any further... exactly what country do you men represent?
Prof. Montel: We represent many countries... as private individuals. We are scientists, former statesmen, businessmen. All volunteers. Acting independently for a common cause. Against a common enemy.
See more »


Featured in The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

a canny madness..
30 April 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When James Bond reached the big screen in the early Sixties Ian Fleming's baddies - the Russians - were diplomatically changed into Third Force characters playing off the super-powers against each other usually to rack up loot or feed a madman's ego. In the bristling up-and-atom Fifties it was a different tale. With McCarthyism breathing down its neck Hollywood had a vested interest in slagging off the Reds without fear or favour giving rise to - among others - two fascinating collaborations between Sam Fuller and Richard Widmark. Fuller claimed though to eschew ideology in favour of tough tabloid human-interest while Widmark, a noted liberal but not a 'joiner', ducked and dived in the flow of things to keep his career afloat. PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET was a dark urban thriller in which a pickpocket inadvertently pinches top-secret microfilm. He's not a patriot and his subsequent actions are mercenary but the murder of a friend finally triggers personal revenge. Interestingly the Commie spy's also a mercenary, being easier to combat dramatically, I suppose, than a set of alien ideas.

When HIGH WATER took to the waves CinemaScope was in, spreading its wings on a mushroom-cloud explosion near the Arctic circle, an earnest voice-over suggesting It's All True. A busy reel of 'Scope travelogue zaps us around the world (there's a momentary clip from THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN with Maggie McNamara at the edge of frame) as the media buzzes with the sudden disappearance of Professor Montel, top man in his nuclear field - has he 'gone over' ? "Like something out of Inner Sanctum" ex-Cmdr Adam Jones observes on being summoned to a secret meeting in the dead of night (a nice in-joke: Widmark acted in countless radio shows before movie-fame). Get that name, a potent mix of the First Man and the First American Sea-Dog but like the pickpocket this Jones is no flag-waver. He's hired for cash by a civilian consortium of scientists headed by Montel (he didn't defect) to investigate suspicious activity around said Arctic - the film's crafty way of turning the Cold War hot, potentially, without appearing to do so. No governments are officially represented on this "peaceful expedition" and the only Americans involved are the mercenary Jones and his "key men" from World War II. Even the submarine they're using is an old Japanese "sewer-pipe". Jones does insist, against objections, on arming the vessel - not as a political gesture, you understand, but just to cover everyone's butt. So off we go into a delirious farrago of unabashed clichés - the one girl on the sub, the skipper's guilty past (he lost a ship through disobeying orders), the Chinese equivalent of "the good German" etc. knowingly marshalled by Fuller to lively effect mainly within the boat (just as well as the surface-scenes against lurid backcloths are on a par with the worst moments in BEN-HUR).

Montel's on board as expedition-leader along with his fetching assistant Denise who's rejected at first as a 'jonah' by the superstitious matelots but soon wins them round with a gracious plea for tolerance - the brimming eyes probably did the trick. "That's no female - that's a scientist !" Denise can speak umpteen languages but doesn't know what a 'pass' is. She soon finds out, the sailor-boys lining up to make her acquaintance, the jovial Ski with his fake tattoos and a drunken crewman who gets physical till the skipper knocks him cold. "A last-minute replacement," he tells her. Not one of his key men, obviously. Despite occasional frictions with both eggheads Jones does a nifty job of seducing Denise in a quite sexy bunkside dalliance bathed in infra-red during a cat-and-mouse, no-sounds encounter with a Red sub. Chin Lee the cook (who appears out of nowhere via Central Casting) has no English but entertains the crew with comic parodies of popular songs in fluent pidgin-American. When a Red Chinese officer is captured during a contretemps on their island-objective Chin is enlisted to pose as another prisoner to find out what they're up to. He insists on being beaten up by the skipper in person beforehand to make it more convincing - "It won't hurt if you do it" - something rather dark going on here. He secures the vital information but is killed by the Red. They intend dropping a bomb on Korea and Manchuria from a plane with American markings - as they would, of course. (The ultimate paranoid nightmare). Jones' patriotism surfaces - "They're gonna lay the biggest egg in history and we're taking the rap for it. I don't like that !" Quite so. He thereupon orders up every gun the old bucket can muster to knock the Gooks out of the sky. Montel, the man of reason, protests "this insanity" but knows the movie's got him beat and sacrifices himself for the greater commonsense. "Each man has his own reason for living and his own price for dying." (The script got rather fond of this line and tended to repeat it). Mission completed, the world is saved (for the moment) but not without an extra twist of pathos I won't reveal even at this great distance because it's rather good.

By the Sixties the climate had changed sufficiently to allow the nuclear-disaster cycle where someone presses the button - always by accident or delusion and always from our side - and the world comes apart. Widmark returned to Arctic waters as producer and star of THE BEDFORD INCIDENT in which a hawkish destroyer-captain, like a modern Ahab, obsessively stalks and hustles a trapped Russian sub to the point of no return. No girls here, no jokes, no colour and 'Scope. And this time round absolutely no-one gets to "head for home."

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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