29 user 26 critic

Hell and High Water (1954)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 6 February 1954 (USA)
0:48 | Clip
During the Cold War, a scientific team refits a Japanese submarine and hires an ex-Navy officer to find a secret Chinese atomic island base and prevent a Communist plot against America that could trigger WW3.


Samuel Fuller


Jesse Lasky Jr. (screenplay) (as Jesse L. Lasky Jr.), Samuel Fuller (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Richard Widmark ... Capt. Adam Jones
Bella Darvi ... Denise Montel
Victor Francen ... Prof. Montel
Cameron Mitchell ... 'Ski' Brodski
Gene Evans ... Chief Holter
David Wayne ... Tugboat Walker
Stephen Bekassy Stephen Bekassy ... Neuman
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 (LAlawMedMBA@aol.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


An Atom Bomb of Super-Charged Excitement! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


During the making of Steven Spielberg's 1941, the Director asked Samuel Fuller to come out to the parking lot to see his car. When they got there Spielberg opened the boot, telling Fuller that he always carried a print of his favourite movie with him; the print he carried was Hell And High Water. See more »


The deck gun on the submarine differs in the close-up and the distant views. See more »


Prof. Montel: Each man has his own reasons for living, Mr. Jones, and his own price for dying.
See more »


Referenced in What's My Line?: Richard Widmark (1954) See more »


Music by Edmund Goulding
[used in the score as a theme for Denise]
See more »

User Reviews

A solid but unremarkable schoolboy level wartime action drama
28 October 2007 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

When yet another atomic scientist goes missing behind the Iron Curtain, a private submarine expedition is put together to trail a freighter suspected of being able to lead the crew to what is believed to be the place where the Chinese are conducting nuclear research in preparation for a war. Former submarine commander Jones is contracted to lead the exhibition with a ragtag crew and a submarine in need of maintenance time that is not available to him. With Professor Montel technically in charge with his (female) assistant Professor Gerard by his side, the boat sets out on the mission of observation but with the ever present threat of danger in the hostile waters.

A bit of a romp this one as it revels more in the gaudy sweep of the telling rather than the tension from narrative detail. The plot doesn't really matter so much as it is a simple device for the voyage. Along the way we get personal conflicts, crew tensions and underwater stand-offs as well as some fire-fights. At no point was I hooked but it is rather entertaining in the way that school-boy adventure stories are – full of tough men, sacrifice and action. In this regard it suits the people making it and Fuller directs with simple but bright colours – easy to understand and engage with even if they are too simple to be real. So it is with the characters and plot but it still works. The romantic side of the story is a flop and I didn't see why a female character couldn't just be a character and had to be a love interest (well, obviously I understand why this decision is made, but I didn't see the value of it in the story).

The headlining of Richard Widmark is rarely a bad thing and he fits this tough action drama with his stern delivery and commanding presence. There is no doubting that Darvi is sexy and a good presence when it comes to being coy and flirtatious however when more is asked of her she is found wanting as she lacks the range. The rest of the cast fit in well around them – nobody brilliant of course but everyone able to be at the level required by the material.

Not that intelligent or complex a film but a solid enough wartime action film which will do the job if that's all you're looking for.

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English | French | Italian | German

Release Date:

6 February 1954 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hell and High Water See more »


Box Office


$1,870,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
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Technical Specs


| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »

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