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HELL BELOW ZERO (director: Mark Robson; screenwriters: Richard Maibaum/Alec Coppel/Max Trell/from the novel “The White South” by Hammond Innes; cinematographer: John Wilcox; editor: John D. Guthridge; music: Clifton Parker; cast: Alan Ladd (Duncan Craig), Joan Tetzel (Judie Nordahl), Basil Sydney (John Bland), Stanley Baker (Erik Bland), Joseph Tomelty (Capt. McPhee), Niall MacGinnis (Dr. Howe), Jill Bennett (Gerda Petersen); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Irving Allen/Albert R. Broccoli; Sony Pictures Entertainment; 1956-UK)
The pace is sea sickening slow and the adventure tale remains incomprehensible.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Warwick Film Productions, based in London, owned by the New York-born brothers Allen and Albert Broccoli, in the 1950s turned out a couple of films every year on Brit locations for American studios, in this case Columbia, and the studio and the American film crew received tax breaks from Washington. This modest sea adventure fits the bill. It stars the American Alan Ladd and the director is the Canadian-born Mark Robson(“Peyton Place”/”Earthquake”/”Von Ryan’s Express”), while most of the cast were Brits. It’s based on the novel “The White South” by Hammond Innes, and is written by Richard Maibaum, Alec Coppel and Max Trell.

An American adventurer from NYC, Duncan Craig (Alan Ladd), cheated out of $10,000 by his crooked partner for an investment in a gold mine in Cape Town, South Africa, has eyes on his flight to Cape Town for an airline passenger, Judie Nordahl (Joan Tetzel), whose father was partners in a whaling ship with John Bland (Basil Sydney) and mysteriously died overboard in Antarctica. Duncan beats up his wastrel partner and signs on as a first-mate to join Judie and her dad’s gruff business partner, John Bland, as they board a whaling ship at Cape Town to seek answers of the so-called suicide leap to death by Judie’s dad. Judie rightly believes her dad was murdered by Erik Bland (Stanley Baker), her ex-fianc√© and the son of her father’s business partner. When they finally meet Erik, that truth is revealed when Erik targets Judie and Duncan for death in the frigid waters of the Antarctic.

The pace is sea sickening slow and the adventure tale remains incomprehensible, as it leads to an unconvincing and contrived climax, a fight to the death between the murderer and the American hero on an ice floe.

Ladd offers an uninteresting bland performance. Tetzel doesn’t show why she was cast as the love interest when she seems pre-occupied with other things. Baker is the obvious villain, with too little to do. Only Jill Bennett as an unlikely whaling captain packs something of a wallop for this misfire adventure pic.

It was filmed at London’s Pinewood studio and generously used old whaling stock footage.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”