Hell and High Water (1954) starring Richard Widmark, Bella Darvi, Victor Francen, Cameron Mitchell, Gene Evans directed by Samuel Fuller Movie Review

Hell and High Water (1954)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Richard Widmark as Capt. Adam Jones in Hell and High Water (1954)

Widmark Dives for Darvi

watch, action and cold war heroics. But whilst it delivered what I expected that doesn't mean what it delivered was good and to be honest there were numerous times I found myself trying to restrain laughter at some ham-fisted dialogue and macho BS. In many ways it reminds me of the wartime action movies I grew up watching and still love despite the corniness of the action. Except I didn't see "Hell and High Water" as a child and it makes a huge difference because I don't have the nostalgic memory of once finding it exciting to allow me to ignore some obviously corny scenes and dialogue.

After an atomic bomb is detonated near the northern circle a group of independent business men and scientists recruit former Naval captain Adam Jones (Richard Widmark - The Frogmen) to lead a submarine exploration to an isolated island where they believe atomic weapons are being built. But a crew of former sailors and a makeshift sub leads to various problems especially when they encounter a red submarine and to complicate matters they have the pretty Denise (Bella Darvi), assistant to Professor Montel (Victor Francen) aboard leading to a variety of testosterone issues.

Richard Widmark and Bella Darvi in Hell and High Water (1954)

Whilst we have this interesting build up which sees a fictional atomic bomb going off and then Professor Montel going missing what it all builds up to is some unoriginal submarine drama. What I mean by that is when they encounter an enemy submarine we have a close shave as they are fired upon followed by a scene where they have to conserve air as they hide out on the sea base. It is a series of scenes which with the exception of a romantic element could have been done with stock footage from any other submarine movie because it is a cliche. When that is done with and they get to the island we then get more cliche action which feels like it has been made in a hurry as an after thought.

Now being unoriginal isn't so much an issue but being corny is and unfortunately "Hell and High Water" is often corny. When Denise enters the submarine and we have a multi-lingual objection to her she miraculously speaks various languages in a painfully stilted manner. Then there is the scene which sees the men trying to conserve air and we get a romantic episode between Adam and Denise, not sure whether kissing conserves air or not. But the funniest is that as they lay there on the sea bed they are bailing water out of the torpedo room, goodness knows where they were putting all the water or where the never ending stream of buckets come from. Add some terribly corny and often macho dialogue and it is a case that often it becomes laughable.

Unfortunately because we have a mix of the cliche and corny the acting often feels over the top with Richard Widmark giving us not only a Captain who only cares about being paid but also one with a chequered past during his days in active duty. He is also a typically tough good guy who gets the woman which talking of which Bella Darvi is stunning but whether intentional or not her stilted delivery of dialogue is off putting. And then of course we have the crew most significantly Cameron Mitchell as Brodski who fancies his chances with Denise and attempts to learn French to charm her which of course is terrible in a "Del Boy" sort of way.

What this all boils down to is that if I had seen "Hell and High Water" as a child I am sure I would have loved it and probably still would, turning a blind eye to the numerous issues. But as someone who watched it for the first time as an adult it is all the bad stuff which dominated it making it incredibly corny despite being exactly what I expected.