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HELL AND HIGH WATER(director/writer: Samuel Fuller; screenwriters: story by David Hempstead/Jesse Lasky Jr./J. MacDonald; cinematographer: Joseph MacDonald; editor: James B. Clark; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Richard Widmark (Captain Adam Jones/R.J. MacDougal), Bella Darvi (Denise Montel/Prof. Gerard), Victor Francen (Prof. Montel), Cameron Mitchell (‘Ski’ Brodski, Sonar Operator), Gene Evans (Chief Holter), David Wayne (Dugboat Walker), Stephen Bekassy (Neuman), Richard Loo (Fujimori), William Yip (Ho-Sin); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Raymond A. Klune; 20th Century Fox; 1954)
This is a tepid film by Sam Fuller standards, but still has enough salt in it to burn.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An early CinemaScope sea chase film set during the Cold War and filmed mostly aboard a submarine. It’s directed by the salty Samuel Fuller, who keeps it conventional but adds some dosages of his pessimism to keep things rolling along as he questions the motivations and loyalty of those who take up a cause. The studio suits were more interested to see if Fuller’s long tracking shots and rapid camera movements would work in such a claustrophobic setting. They realized CinemaScope was a good weapon to use against the small television screen that was increasingly becoming a part of every home in America, as there was in the 1950s a real competition for the entertainment dollar that frightened the studio honchos.

This is a tepid film by Sam Fuller standards, but still has enough salt in it to burn.

A privately-financed mission by a dedicated French scientist and his international patriotic colleagues who hire ex-Navy officer Captain Jones (Widmark) and a mercenary crew, consisting mostly of those handpicked by the captain who loyally served under him during WW11, to follow a Red freighter from the Tokyo waters to an undetermined Arctic island. Jones will get $50,000 upon completing his mission to deposit the nuclear prize-winning professor, Dr. Montel (Francen), and his young pretty woman assistant, Dr. Denise Gerard (Darvi), on that island. The professor suspects the Reds are ready to launch an atomic bomb and hopes to stop them.

Since this mission is secret and civilian, Jones sneaks into Tokyo under an assumed name. He’s ushered into an underground hideaway where the one in charge of the mission, Fujimori (Loo), tells him his friend, the one who sold him on the mission, Captain Taylor, was killed when his airplane was shot down by the Reds. Professor Montel was supposed to attend a nuclear conference in Vienna, but never reached there. The newspapers speculate he either went over to the Russians or just vanished on his own. The professor plans to use his voluntary disappearance to follow through on what he believes he must do at any cost. His team of wealthy idealists obtain a Japanese sub from WW11 and in two weeks refurbish it as well as they can, as their mission is to take the scientists to their destination so that they can save the world.

In pursuit of the freighter, the sub which didn’t have enough time to fix the torpedoes, naturally runs into a Chinese Red sub firing upon it. The sub is loaded down with atomic weapons and Jones realizes his sub is no match for it. The captain uses his naval skills to escape and finds time to help amputate the thumb of the professor, when he had it get stuck in a closing hatch as the sub was quickly submerging from the enemy. During the freighter chase the captain finds time to romance Denise, who it turns out is the professor’s daughter. He also has his hands full keeping the men from fighting over the sexy scientist. But things get serious again when another island further north has a secret Red military base and airstrip. Montel orders the balking captain to go there and complete the mission, or else he won’t get paid.

Heroics take over when the crew reaches the second island and discovers an American B-29 is to be used by the Reds to drop an atomic bomb on either Korea or Manchuria, as the Americans will be blamed and WW111 will start.

Fuller uses Widmark as his alter ego showing how he doesn’t give a darn about politics, but is willing to risk his life for a cause because he believes the idealistic Montel is sincere and to boot Widmark has fallen for his daughter.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2003 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”