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After the S.S. Banos explodes in the middle of the ocean, a lone survivor in a life raft is shot at by an unseen assassin, and the survivor sinks. Later, at a dock in South America, an exact replica of the Banos is loaded with stores of food and other supplies. When former Banos radioman Clegg, who survived the explosion, demands a promised payment from the new captain, Tregnor, Tregnor insists that he collect from his partner, Kroll, at the Los Rios Hotel in San Brejo. At the Los Rios Hotel, meanwhile, American Sam Wilton is warmly greeted by his old friend, proprietor Manuel. Sam asks Manuel's help in obtaining a false passport so he can leave the island. Sam explains he received a gunshot wound in the shoulder from his boss, a jealous plantation owner who thought Sam paid too much attention to his wife. Also staying at the hotel are American tourists Fred and Kate Dilts and European Elsa Yeager, who is relieved to be reunited after eight years with her father, former Communist prisoner Dr. Yeager. Yeager was brought to the island by the Russian Kroll, who arranged the reunion. Later, Kroll refuses to pay Clegg because Clegg accepted money for killing the captain and crew of the Banos . After Clegg reveals that he knows that Kroll and Tregnor, whom he calls Captain Scarface, are headed for the Panama Canal, Kroll draws a gun. Clegg, already armed, shoots Kroll first and escapes with the money. Drawn by the gunfire, Sam chases Clegg and is joined by Manuel, who shoots Clegg before he can escape over a wall. Manuel, who has learned that Sam needs to leave the country because he is wanted by the police for exchanging gunfire with the plantation owner, now falsifies the dead Kroll's passport, thereby allowing Sam to impersonate Kroll so he can board the Banos . The next morning, Sam's fellow passengers, the Dilts, are curious because they notice that the crew of the Banos is entirely different from their first voyage, and that the porthole in their cabin has changed its physical location. Elsa goes to Kroll's cabin and is surprised to find Sam there instead. Although ignorant of the true nature of Kroll and Clegg's affiliation, Sam holds her at gunpoint until he convinces Elsa that he is harmless, then warns her that she and her father are in danger. Tregnor, meanwhile, has taken Yeager to a secret radio room below deck that contains elements of an atomic bomb. There, Tregnor demands that Yeager, an atomic scientist imprisoned by the Communists after World War II and forced to work on their behalf, help him detonate the bomb at an appointed time. When Yeager refuses, Tregnor threatens to harm Elsa. Yeager is greatly disturbed and later, after Elsa urges him to talk with Sam, realizes that Kroll was a Communist agent who obtained his release in order to fulfill a plot to destroy the Panama Canal. As Tregnor had never met Kroll, he believes that Sam is the Russian agent. After Yeager reluctantly agrees to help Tregnor, Tregnor's first mate, Perro, locks Elsa in her cabin as insurance. Sam, meanwhile, tells Fred and the other American passenger, Everett Crofton, about Tregnor's Communist plot and they plan to overtake the radio operator. The next morning, Kate is fatally bitten by a poisonous snake lurking in a shipment of bananas. Tregnor becomes suspicious of Sam after he quickly identifies the snake as a fer de lance and handily kills it with a machete, skills more common to a South American than a Soviet. Perro then beats Sam until he finally admits his true identity. Sam escapes, however, after Tregnor is distracted by an inconsolable Fred, who attacks him because Tregnor refused to bring a doctor onboard to save his wife. When the despairing Fred jumps overboard, several crewmen shoot him and mistakenly report that they have killed Sam. Late that night, Sam awakens Tregnor and, with a machete at his throat, demands to be taken to Yeager. As Tregnor laboriously removes cargo to gain access to the secret room, he explains that the original Banos was torpedoed and sunk, but that the news about it was never broadcast because Clegg had been the ship's radioman and was paid not to signal. When Tregnor turns and attacks Sam, Sam kills him with a blow from the machete. After freeing Elsa, Sam awakens Crofton and they knock out the radioman, allowing Crofton to signal an American Navy destroyer, which takes over the Banos and arrests the remaining crewmen. Having saved the Panama Canal from certain destruction, Sam, the Yeagers and Crofton go ashore to visit Panama City.