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After chartering a small boat from the mainland, Steven Conway makes his way to isolated Saber Island off the California coast, home of an all-boy military academy run by ex-marines, where his estranged son Steven has accidentally died. When Conway attempts to rent a room from shopkeeper Joe Nibley, an instructor makes several excuses to refuse his request, but the persistent Conway wins out. However, as Conway tries to dine at the only restaurant on the island, owner Harry Nesbit will not serve him. Soon after, while watching recruits march, Conway is nearly killed when a boat hoisted above him falls only inches from his head. These threats steel Conway's determination to investigate Steven's death and prompt him to visit officer-in-charge Maj. Redfern Kelly's office, where secretary Jennifer Evans accuses Conway of neglecting Steven, reminding him that the boy died over four months ago. Conway explains that he was on a construction job in Pakistan at the time, then grills her about the island's seclusion. Jennifer claims the school is for reprobates whose parents are often barred from seeing their children, thus necessitating a strict no trespassing policy. When Kelly refuses to show Conway his son's file because the boy's mother forbade any contact between father and son, Conway explains that his now deceased ex-wife was wealthy and used every legal means to keep him from the boy. Kelly finally gives him the file, but when Conway asks to speak to Crip Hastings, the only witness to his son's accident, Jennifer calls Kelly out of the office, and after kissing him, urges him not to let Conway speak to the boy. Conway then asks to see his son's grave and suggests that his remains be moved to a family plot, but Kelly denies the request and claims the site, on nearby Bonefish Island, is inaccessible because the school's boat is in disrepair. Meanwhile, recruits Bud Starkweather, Charley Boy Cable and Billy Jack Barnes ingratiatingly invite the shy, orphaned Hastings to join their gang and then coach him on how to recount the "accidental" death. Later, Hastings tells Conway that Steven was an athlete who boasted about his father's accomplishments. When Conway asks about his son's death, however, Kelly ushers the boy out of the room before he can answer. After discovering that his boat's engine has stalled, Conway goes to the restaurant where Harry explains that the school is for "solid platinum brats" who have been expelled from every other school and reminds Conway that some wealthy mothers assume that the $10,000 tuition must mean the school is superior. As Harry continues that some "decent" boys end up at the school by mistake, an instructor points a loaded gun at the men and orders Harry to keep quiet. With help from Joe's daughter Lorinda, Conway finds an engine and gas tank for one of the disabled boats and leaves for Bonefish Island, where he discovers Steven's dilapidated gravestone covered in weeds. While Conway returns across the channel towards Saber, an unidentified sharpshooter peppers his boat with holes and Conway narrowly escapes the gathering sharks. Once on land, after Conway insists on talking to Hastings alone, Kelly secretly orders instructor Hack Marlowe and Vince Perley to kill Conway. That evening, soon after Hastings tells an unconvinced Conway that Steven accidentally fell from a dormitory roof, Bud, Charley and Billy Jack beat up Hastings for speaking with Conway. Later at the restaurant, Conway joins Jennifer at her table, where she coyly opens up to Conway, claiming that she is tired of her affair with the married Kelly and suggesting that she might be interested in Conway instead. Hoping that she will finally reveal the truth, Conway buys her several drinks while Jennifer fondles his knee. Suddenly Kelly, Marlowe and Perley order Jennifer to leave and warn Conway that if he provokes a fight, they will have to take action. Noticing that a rifle has been positioned by his side, Conway tells Harry that the men are trying to provoke him into picking up the weapon, thus giving them a reason to kill in "self defense." When Kelly orders his men to empty the rifles and then accuses Conway of picking a fight, Conway uses the butt of a rifle to fell Perley. Although diminutive in stature, Conway was a Marine, and prevails in the ensuing battle with Marlowe and a knife-wielding Kelly. Later, Conway finds a badly beaten Hastings, who admits that Bud, Charley and Billy killed Steven while initiating the boy into the school. Marlowe was supervising when the boys beat Steven with a baseball bat, which slipped and hit his neck. Hastings regretfully tells Conway that he had no one he could trust to tell about the incident. As Conway leaves the room, Bud, Billy and Charley attack him with a bat, but Conway delivers a harsh punch to one of the boys, takes the bat and orders them to flee. After taking Hastings to Joe, who has agreed to protect the boy, Conway returns to his room to find Jennifer, who has been instructed by Kelly to tell Conway that she broke up with the major and wants to leave the island. After launching a boat together, Jennifer explains that Kelly created the cover-up to avoid jeopardizing the school's hefty profits. Suddenly, Kelly, piloting a large speedboat, overcomes their small craft and Jennifer jumps in the water assuming Kelly will save her. Kelly, however, ignores her cries and tries to hit Conway several times, but misses. While sharks attack Jennifer, Kelly makes one more pass to finish the job. Conway covers the boat in gasoline, ignites it and jumps into the water, watching as Kelly and his boat burst into flames. While Conway swims to the island, Joe shoots at the water to scare away the sharks. Days later, mainland authorities load the handcuffed Marlowe and Perley on a boat along with Steven's remains, while Conway, having resolved his son's death, asks Hastings if he might adopt him and start a new family together.