Hell and High Water (1954)

103 mins | Drama | February 1954

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HISTORY

Before this film's written credits, an offscreen, voice-over narrator states: "In the summer of 1953, it was announced that an atomic bomb of foreign origin had been exploded somewhere outside of the United States. Shortly thereafter it was indicated that this atomic reaction, according to scientific reports, originated in a remote area in North Pacific waters, somewhere between the northern tip of the Japanese Islands and the Arctic Circle. This is the story of that explosion." In his review of the film, NYT critic Bosley Crowther misquoted the foreword, implying that the film was based on a true story in which announcements about an explosion had been made by the White House and Atomic Energy Commission. According to a 24 Feb 1954 Var article, the mistake happened because the studio sent Crowther, who wanted to quote the foreword, a final shooting script of the picture, in which the White House and Atomic Energy Commission were mentioned, rather than a cutting continuity.
       According to an Apr 1953 HR news item, Charles Boyer was originally cast as "Prof. Montel." Hell and High Water marked the feature film debut of French model Bella Darvi, whose stage surname was a combination of the first names of Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck and his wife Virginia. According to a May 1954 DV article, the film was banned in France "on political grounds." The article noted that France had also banned Soviet films with political themes, and that "a number of European countries are sensitive to films with political themes and refuse them exhibition permits rather than rouse ... More Less

Before this film's written credits, an offscreen, voice-over narrator states: "In the summer of 1953, it was announced that an atomic bomb of foreign origin had been exploded somewhere outside of the United States. Shortly thereafter it was indicated that this atomic reaction, according to scientific reports, originated in a remote area in North Pacific waters, somewhere between the northern tip of the Japanese Islands and the Arctic Circle. This is the story of that explosion." In his review of the film, NYT critic Bosley Crowther misquoted the foreword, implying that the film was based on a true story in which announcements about an explosion had been made by the White House and Atomic Energy Commission. According to a 24 Feb 1954 Var article, the mistake happened because the studio sent Crowther, who wanted to quote the foreword, a final shooting script of the picture, in which the White House and Atomic Energy Commission were mentioned, rather than a cutting continuity.
       According to an Apr 1953 HR news item, Charles Boyer was originally cast as "Prof. Montel." Hell and High Water marked the feature film debut of French model Bella Darvi, whose stage surname was a combination of the first names of Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck and his wife Virginia. According to a May 1954 DV article, the film was banned in France "on political grounds." The article noted that France had also banned Soviet films with political themes, and that "a number of European countries are sensitive to films with political themes and refuse them exhibition permits rather than rouse the ire of either the U.S. or Russia." On 24 Dec 1954, however, HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column stated: "Despite elimination of the anti-red angle from Hell and High Water , film is breaking records in Paris." The picture was nominated for an Academy Award nomination in the Special Effects category. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Feb 1954.
---
Daily Variety
2 Feb 54
p. 3.
Daily Variety
19 May 54
p. 1, 4
Film Daily
2 Feb 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 53
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 54
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 53
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 53
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 54
p. 3, 5.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 1954
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
6 Mar 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Feb 54
p. 2173.
New York Times
2 Feb 54
p. 20.
New York Times
9 Feb 1954.
---
Newsweek
22 Feb 1954.
---
Pix
17 Apr 1954.
---
Time
22 Feb 1954.
---
Variety
3 Feb 54
p. 6.
Variety
24 Feb 1954.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
MUSIC
Spec lyrics
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1954
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 February 1954
Production Date:
late June--mid August 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 July 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3950
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
103
Length(in feet):
9,285
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16624
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1953, the worldwide scientific community is stunned when French scientist Prof. Montel goes missing, and after four weeks, the authorities believe that he voluntarily traveled behind the Iron Curtain, as four other scientists are suspected of having done recently. Meanwhile, former U.S. Navy commander Adam Jones arrives in Tokyo after receiving a mysterious package containing $5,000. Jones is taken to meet Hokado Fujimori, who ushers him into a secret room buzzing with activity. There, Jones meets Montel and a consortium of international scientists, businessmen and statesmen, who explain they suspect that Communist forces are building an atomic base on an island somewhere between Japan and the Arctic Circle. Montel states that as private citizens, they can conduct their investigation without political interference. Montel then offers Jones another $45,000 if he will head a submarine expedition, during which the sub is to follow a Chinese freighter, the Kiang Ching , that has been making deliveries to the area under observation. Although he is reluctant to use the Japanese submarine that the consortium is overhauling, Jones agrees, providing that he can hire his former crew. Soon after, Jones and his men, plus an international group comprising the rest of the crew, labor to refit the Japanese submarine. The day before Jones is to make a running test, however, Fujimori insists that they leave, as the freighter has just departed. Jones protests, asserting that they have not tested the torpedo tubes, but Fujimori prevails, and Montel boards with his assistant, the multilingual and beautiful Prof. Denise Gerard. The crew is outraged, as they were unaware that Montel's assistant was a woman, ... +


In 1953, the worldwide scientific community is stunned when French scientist Prof. Montel goes missing, and after four weeks, the authorities believe that he voluntarily traveled behind the Iron Curtain, as four other scientists are suspected of having done recently. Meanwhile, former U.S. Navy commander Adam Jones arrives in Tokyo after receiving a mysterious package containing $5,000. Jones is taken to meet Hokado Fujimori, who ushers him into a secret room buzzing with activity. There, Jones meets Montel and a consortium of international scientists, businessmen and statesmen, who explain they suspect that Communist forces are building an atomic base on an island somewhere between Japan and the Arctic Circle. Montel states that as private citizens, they can conduct their investigation without political interference. Montel then offers Jones another $45,000 if he will head a submarine expedition, during which the sub is to follow a Chinese freighter, the Kiang Ching , that has been making deliveries to the area under observation. Although he is reluctant to use the Japanese submarine that the consortium is overhauling, Jones agrees, providing that he can hire his former crew. Soon after, Jones and his men, plus an international group comprising the rest of the crew, labor to refit the Japanese submarine. The day before Jones is to make a running test, however, Fujimori insists that they leave, as the freighter has just departed. Jones protests, asserting that they have not tested the torpedo tubes, but Fujimori prevails, and Montel boards with his assistant, the multilingual and beautiful Prof. Denise Gerard. The crew is outraged, as they were unaware that Montel's assistant was a woman, but her earnestness and Jones's insistence that women are not bad luck persuade the crew to accept her. The voyage is uneventful, despite a fight between "Ski" Brodski and a drunken crew member over Denise, until Jones realizes that they are being tracked by another submarine. They contact the sub, which is Chinese, and are fired upon when the Chinese are unsatisfied by their explanation that they are on a scientific expedition. Jones orders their sub to dive, and during the confusion, Montel's hand is caught in the hatch, and Jones is forced to amputate his thumb. The Chinese sub also dives to the bottom, and the subs "run quiet" in order to avoid detection. During the following hours, as the heat builds and the oxygen runs out, the crew grows sluggish and Montel becomes weak from shock and loss of blood. Unwilling to lose his fee for returning Montel to Tokyo, Jones decides to risk surfacing, even though the Chinese sub will be able to shoot torpedoes at them and they will be unable to retaliate. After blowing off the accumulated hydrogen, which could have caused a massive explosion, the sub begins to surface, and the Chinese pursue it. Jones decides to ram the other sub, and after two attempts, manages to cripple the enemy and escape. Later, while Montel is recuperating and Jones and Denise are falling in love, the sub follows the Kiang Ching to an island, onto which Jones and Montel lead a patrol. Montel is puzzled to find relatively low levels of radioactivity, and suspects that they are on the wrong island. There are many soldiers and gas tanks, however, and during a gun battle, one of Jones's shots ignites the tanks. After capturing a Chinese soldier, the patrol reaches the sub, and Jones determines to return to Tokyo. Montel vetoes his decision, however, and orders him to continue to Kevlock Island, where the Chinese soldier, who is a pilot named Ho-Sin, was headed. Montel and Denise are disgusted by Jones's mercenary declaration that he is only interested in the $50,000, but he nonetheless follows Montel's orders. On the way to Kevlock, the sub is tossed by a storm and Montel is injured during a fall, then, because he cannot accompany Jones on a patrol of Kevlock, Montel insists that he take Denise to gather data. Jones reluctantly agrees, and Denise records an astonishing level of radioactivity. While they are hiding from Chinese soldiers, Denise is forced to shoot and kill one of them, and Jones drags her safety. Aboard the sub, Jones reveals that he saw an American B-29 bomber on the island's airstrip, and, needing to obtain more information, sends cook Chin Lee, dressed as a prisoner, to question Ho-Sin. Ho-Sin reveals that the Communists intend to drop an atomic bomb on either Korea or Manchuria and blame the United States, but before Chin Lee can escape, Ho-Sin deduces that he is a "plant" and beats him to death. Although Montel wants to return to Tokyo with the information, Jones refuses to allow the Communists to "pin the rap" of the bomb explosion on the U.S., and plans to go alone to the island, from which he will signal the sub when the B-29 takes off. The sub will then surface and shoot all available guns at the plane in the hope of destroying it. The next morning, before Jones can leave, Montel sneaks onto the island, where he assumes the lookout position. When Jones yells at Denise for allowing the elderly man to go, she tearfully reveals that Montel is her father. Upon receiving the signal from Montel, the sub surfaces and blows up the airplane, although the plane crashes into the island, rather than the ocean, and the island is destroyed. Knowing that her father died for the cause he believed in, Denise holds her head high, and Jones remembers Montel's remark that "each man has his own reason for living and his own price for dying." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.