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Hell Below Zero

Hell Below Zero(1954)

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The factory ship Baker of the Bland Nordahl Whaling Company radios Cape Town that Capt. Bernd Nordahl has been lost overboard. When informed, both Nordahl's daughter Judie and his business partner, John Bland, decide to travel to the Antarctic to investigate. On board the flight to Cape Town, Judie is befriended by former Navy officer Duncan Craig. Judie confides her suspicion to Duncan that her father may have been murdered and that she is taking one of the whaling ships to the factory ship to make inquiries. After one of his business deals turns sour, Duncan learns that Judie will be aboard the Kista Dan whaler and signs on as first mate to Capt. McPhee. Judie, surprised and pleased to find Duncan on board, reveals that Bland believes her father committed suicide due to the company's poor season, but she remains skeptical. Later, Duncan discovers the ship's physician, Dr. Howe, in his cabin, drunkenly searching for liquor. Howe insists that Nordahl was murdered by Bland and his son Erik, who is Judie's fiancé, in order to gain complete control of the company. The men are interrupted by Bland, who orders Duncan to keep away from Judie. Angered to learn about Judie's engagement to Erik, Duncan remains cool and aloof to her the following day, to her bewilderment. That evening, the Kista Dan is struck by a fierce storm, sending Duncan and McPhee on deck to help the crew secure loose barrels and several crates of dynamite. A yard arm breaks loose and knocks McPhee out and Duncan carries him below. As Howe tends to the captain with Judie's help, Bland places Duncan in command. When Judie learns that Howe has told Duncan about Erik, she informs the doctor that the engagement had been broken long ago and then confronts Duncan, who is relieved. Several days later, the Kista Dan makes its rendezvous with the other seven ships of the Bland-Nordahl fleet in the ice-laden waters of the Antarctic. Bland, Judie and Duncan escort the ailing McPhee on board the factory ship Baker , where they are met by Erik. Judie asks about her father, but Erik maintains that no one saw him fall overboard. As acting captain of the Kista Dan , Duncan insists on making an official inquiry, but none of the Baker crew divulges any information. Howe then discovers that a man is being held in the brig and steals Erik's key to the small cell, where he finds seaman Sandeborg. Under pressure from Duncan, Sandeborg confesses that he saw Erik attack Nordahl before throwing him overboard. Duncan and Howe are then attacked by Erik's men, whom they overpower, but upon attempting to escort Sandeborg topside, they are unable to prevent Erik from surreptitiously killing the seaman and fleeing. The following morning, Duncan reports to Bland and accuses Erik of murdering both Nordahl and Sandeborg, but a pod of whales is sited and Bland orders the men to work before taking any action regarding Duncan's charges. Bland places Erik in command of the Kista Dan and sends Duncan to the whaler Southern Truce to serve as first mate to Capt. Gerda Peterson. Later, Gerda assures the skeptical Duncan that the Southern Truce is the best whaler in the fleet, then welcomes aboard Howe and Judie, who were unwilling to remain on the Kista Dan with Erik in command. Duncan grudgingly comes to respect his female captain's skill over several days of whaling and enthusiastically takes over harpooning after Gerda is slightly injured. When the Southern Truce runs aground in ice in a heavy fog and damages its propeller, Duncan radios for help from the Baker . Bland orders the Kista Dan to assist the Truce , but Duncan and Howe remain skeptical that Erik will help. Duncan then radios Cape Town and makes his accusations against Erik, knowing that Erik will overhear the broadcast and be lured to the Truce . Shortly afterward, the crew of the Truce hear the Kista Dan 's horn, but Erik purposely rams the smaller ship in the fog. In an attempt to prevent another attack, Howe fires a harpoon into the Kista Dan 's cargo of dynamite, but the doctor is pulled overboard by the harpoon ropes. Both ships begin to sink and Duncan orders everyone overboard onto the ice floe with survival equipment, and radios Cape Town of the ramming. That night Erik and a few of his men attack Duncan's tent and steal the radio. The next morning Duncan rushes Erik's tent, only to find it empty and the radio destroyed. Realizing that Erik has learned where the rescue ship will arrive, Duncan and Judie set off after him. Along the way they discover a number of Erik's dead crew. When Duncan and Judie at last confront Erik, he begins firing at them. Duncan runs out of bullets and Judie distracts Erik, who wounds her with his last bullet before attacking Duncan, who eventually throws Erik off the edge of the ice into the freezing water. Duncan then helps Judie to the rescue ship.