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A seaplane en route to Tahiti with three convicts--Harry, a white American, Marcel, a Frenchman, and Charlie, a Negro American--makes a stopover on a tiny volcanic island in the South Pacific. The pilot deposits his fourth passenger, young Father Perreau, the replacement for aging, bad-tempered Father Matthew Doonan, whom the natives consider slightly insane because of his devotion to a mountain-top hospital he has built for children afflicted with leprosy, and who has eased his frustration with drink. The convicts are recruited to make repairs at the hospital, and Harry falls in love with a beautiful, blind nurse, Camille. One day the volcano erupts and threatens to destroy the entire island. The governor orders everyone evacuated but decides there will not be time to rescue the hospital children. By promising the three convicts paroles, Father Doonan gets them to volunteer for a rescue mission while Father Perreau nurses a broken leg. After being parachuted onto the mountain top, Father Doonan and his volunteers round up the children and personnel and begin the long, tortuous descent of the mountainside. During the trek, Harry and Camille are married by Father Doonan. As the volcano continues erupting, the journey becomes more perilous, and Marcel perishes in a quicksand mire. Later, Father Doonan and Charlie become trapped on a narrow ledge when a footbridge collapses. Harry leads the others to the safety of the beach and a waiting schooner and then races back to rescue Father Doonan and Charlie. It is too late, however, and all three men die as the island blows itself out of the sea with an ear-shattering explosion.