During the 1950s, a Texas oilman is visiting oil rich Venezuela. There he meets some old friends who own several oil derricks. Unfortunately, one of the derricks is on fire and the owners don't have any professional trained in extinguishing oil derrick fires. Despite the oil derrick being located offshore, the blaze could get out of control and cause an explosion which could affect the other 6000 oil derricks in the area. The locals still remember the great fire that engulfed the nearby town during a similar incident back in 1939. Fortunately, the visiting Texas oilman, Vic Scott, is an expert in extinguishing oil derrick fires. During WW2, Vic had been an underwater demolition expert with the U.S. Navy. He is approached by his Venezuelan oilmen friends, Miguel Orlando and his adopted son Lago Orlando, with a request to help put out the fire at their oil derrick number seven. This dangerous task involves an underwater controlled explosion, using nitro. Vic agrees to help but he meets ...Written by
Ten years before John Wayne did the Hellfighters another film that was clearly based on oil fire fighter Red Adair was made by Cornel Wilde on location in Venezuela. Maracaibo starred Wilde and Mrs. Wilde Jean Wallace together with Abbe Lane, Francis Lederer, Joe E. Ross and Michael Landon.
Although there was the usual rough house in the Wayne film, Maracaibo for the first two thirds is a second rate romance. The film gets really good only when the oil fire fighting gets started. The reason for that was that Wilde was trying to showcase Jean Wallace who plays a romance novelist. She and Abbe Lane, a girl who's been around vy for Wilde. Lane has history with Wilde, but she's also engaged to marry Lederer who plays a deaf and dumb oil millionaire who signs throughout the film and his words are interpreted by Landon, an orphan kid who Lederer raised.
Maracaibo did not have the budget Hellfighters did and it shows. Still producer Wilde got good results for actor Wilde and the rest of the cast. I must also point out a nice performance by Joe E. Ross in the sidekick role to Wilde.
The location shooting added to the authenticity of the film. If he had cut out the romance and say made Jean Wallace a female oil fire fighter in that male preserve this could have been a classic. As it is it's an average good action film.
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