Hell and High Water (1954)

Hell and High Water (1954)

“Each man has his own reason for living — and his own price for dying.”

When the Chinese are suspected of building a secret atomic base on a Pacific island, a former Navy captain (Richard Widmark) is hired to man a submarine taking a famous French scientist (Victor Francen) and his beautiful young protege (Bella Darvi) to investigate the situation.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Cameron Mitchell Films
  • Cold War
  • Richard Widmark Films
  • Sam Fuller Films
  • Scientists
  • Submarines

Writer-director Sam Fuller’s seventh feature-length film was this Cold War-era submarine flick described by DVD Savant as “the damndest, most adolescent expression of confused anti-war, pro-war, peacenik, gung-ho insanity to come from a major studio.” Having recently rewatched Fuller’s excellent The Steel Helmet (1950) and Fixed Bayonets! (1951), I’ll admit I was disappointed to see what a mess of cliches is on display here; it seems Fuller was much better off leaving women out of his wartime flicks, given that Darvi is simply relegated to a standard 1950s role as a woman so sexy she can’t possibly be a smart, multi-lingual scientist — can she?

Naturally, she’s instantly coveted by boorish Cameron Mitchell:

… but (spoiler) she only has eyes for Widmark (because of course, she has to be interested in someone on board, right?). The action scenes are beautifully filmed but otherwise standard submarine-drama, anti-Commie fare. I find it challenging to know what else to say about this film, which Fuller completists will be curious to check out but others can simply skip.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Joseph MacDonald’s CinemaScope cinematography

Must See?
Nope; you can skip this one unless you’re a Sam Fuller completist.


One thought on “Hell and High Water (1954)

  1. Rewatch (first seen a few decades ago). Not must-see.

    Fuller himself didn’t particularly like this movie, though he also said “it isn’t a stinker”. He did it as a favor to Darryl Zanuck since Zanuck went to his defense when J. Edgar Hoover got his panties in a twist over Fuller’s ‘Pickup on South Street’ (!).

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