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S.O.S PACIFIC(director: Guy Green; screenwriters: Robert Westerby/Bryan Forbes /from story by Gilbert Travers Thomas; cinematographer: Wilkie Cooper; editor: Arthur Stevens; cast: Richard Attenborough (Whitey), Pier Angeli (Teresa), Jean Anderson (Miss Shaw), Eva Bartok (Maria), Eddie Constantine (Mark), Clifford Evans (Petersen), Harold Kasket (Monk), John Gregson (Jack, the pilot), Cec Linder (Willy, co-pilot), Gunnar Möller (Hans Krauss); Runtime: 91; Universal; 1959-UK)
“Routine formula action fare”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A seaplane crash lands on the waters of some deserted South Pacific island and the six diverse passengers plus the pilot and the stewardess remove themselves from the wreck and take a dinghy ashore, where they will find things look hopeless.

The pilot, Jack Bennett (Gregson), is a disgruntled employee carrying on a love affair with the attractive stewardess, Teresa (Pier Angeli). Jack is dissatisfied with this second-rate airline and his co-pilot, Willy (Linder). Willy is finding it difficult to follow the captain’s orders and rebels. When the plane makes a fuel stop and picks up some more passengers on a small island, Willy doesn’t get the proper amount of fuel the captain asked for because he is anxious to get back to his home and quit this dreadful job. He doesn’t want to get stuck in this primitive island waiting for the bureaucrats to finally grant him all the fuel needed. A hurricane warning is issued. Because of the poor radio equipment that was not properly repaired by Willy, the message is cut off and they don’t know how serious the storm will be. Willy’s most fatal mistake was to purchase fire extinguishers that were cheap, but would comply only in appearance with the air safety codes. It was purchased at the price this airline run on a shoestring could afford, the only trouble was that they were the wrong type of extinguishers for an airplane, and if used they cause deadly fumes to be released. Of course there was a fire and the extinguisher was used by a passenger rushing into the cockpit to help out. Before he could be stopped by the co-pilot, the fumes killed the co-pilot and knocked the pilot unconscious.

The two original passengers from the flight are the prim and haughty Englishwoman, Miss Shaw (Jean Anderson), and a German physic’s professor, Krauss (Gunnar), who is on his way to Australia to accept a teaching position.

Petersen (Clifford) is a cop on assignment to arrest the brash captain of the Sea Spray, Mark (Eddie), for smuggling. His information that the captain is a smuggler comes from the Britisher, the very slimy Whitey (Attenborough), a weasel if there ever was one. Whitey is given an airline ticket to testify in court against Mark and if he does, he will then get his reward money. The handcuffed Mark when he gets a chance to be uncuffed by the cop who has to go to the bathroom, threatens Whitey by telling him what will happen if he testifies in court. This scares the living daylights out of the prevaricator. Mark is the one who mistakenly used the fire extinguisher and was forced to land the plane with the help of the revived pilot, who still had no strength in his hands to navigate it.

Maria (Eva Bartok) is the bon vivant world traveler, where every island she stops is paradise. She is a casual romantic friend of Mark’s but can’t get closer than that. Her role is never developed, as it is based on a generalization of what someone like her should be like.

The marooned passengers discover that they are on an island that has cattle sheltered in lead buildings and an empty fleet of ships docked around the side of the island. They soon realize that this is an island used as a nuclear-test site, and in a few hours a nuclear-test bomb will explode on the island.

The physic’s professor mentions that the next island, which is two miles away, has the detonators that will cause the chain-reaction for the bomb to go off and that if they can get to that island they can stop the explosion from occurring. One of the problems, is that Whitey is intimidated by Mark and doesn’t like it that the cop has uncuffed his prisoner. So when he gets a chance he steals the cop’s gun and the plane’s dinghy, taking it to the next island. The problem now, is that the professor can’t swim so he has to teach Mark how to detonate the reactors. In the meantime, Teresa goes diving into the water to find the toolbox in a search for the tools Mark will need to do his mission. She nearly drowns but is saved by Mark, and the two passionately kiss on the beach. This kiss is seen by the dismayed pilot.

The British film is routine formula action fare, with a few “predictable” surprises of heroism and villainy in the offering. What you have is familiarly known as a typical disaster B-movie, a precursor to all those other movies of this genre that were very popular with audiences from the late ’70s to the present. The film fits into the formula action mold that studios use over and over again, with the obligatory tense action scenes that call for a hero to be manufactured.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”