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In Los Angeles, nine passengers board the Silver Queen, a plane piloted by Bill Brooks bound for Panama City. Bill's human cargo consists of Crimp, a detective determined to return his prisoner, the anarchist Vasquez, to a South American capital to collect a $5,000 dollar reward; wealthy Judson Ellis, who is eloping with his secretary, Alice Melbourne; the elderly Professor Henry Spengler and his wife Martha; Tommy, a gang chief's small son; his chaperone Pete, a gunman; and Peggy Nolan, a woman of the streets. When a heavy storm forces the plane down in a dense jungle, the voyagers' true natures emerge as Bill and his co-pilot Joe labor to repair the craft. Under the twin threats of an impending attack by natives and the realization that the group may be permanently stranded, Crimp becomes a menacing bully and Ellis reveals himself to be a spoiled, cynical drunk, whereas Vasquez demonstrates the humanitarianism which drove him to anarchy. As the days wear on, Peggy becomes a substitute mother to little Tommy, thus winning Bill's respect, and Alice slowly realizes that she is in love with Joe. On the twenty-third day, the plane is repaired, but it can only carry five passengers. With the native drums threatening attack, Crimp and Pete disappear into the jungle and are slain by Indians. As the drums grow more ominous, Vasquez seizes the gun and proclaims that because the return to civilization means certain death to him, only he is objective enough to decide who will escape. Thus, the elderly professor and his wife, who are at the end of their lives, remain behind, as well as Ellis, who is shot as he grabs for the gun. As Vasquez, the professor and Martha gaze skyward, Tommy, Peggy, Bill, Alice and Joe ascend the skies to safety to begin new lives.