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After five inmates of northern California's Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary volunteer for a dangerous medical experiment, they are transferred to a military hospital. The convicts, who have been promised their unconditional release upon completion of the test, are first injected with a metallic substance and then exposed to radioactive isotopes. The test, which will lead to a hoped-for cure for a fatal blood disease, is conducted without apparent incident. Later, however, one of the volunteers, racketeer Barry Morgan, grabs a pair of scissors that have fallen out of nurse Lt. Joan McKenna's pocket and stabs his best friend, Eddie Ganz, to death. After Morgan's violence is declared a side effect of the testing, the experiment is canceled, and Joan is forced to resign. That same day, a distressed Dr. Ross Williams, the creator of the test, arrives at the hospital and is introduced to Joan's wheelchair-bound brother Dick, who suffers from the fatal blood disease. Moved by Dick's encouraging words, Ross determines to investigate the Alcatraz experiment to deduce why it failed. Ross is baffled by Joan's description of Morgan's sudden fit of violence, and after asking Dr. J. P. Finley, the sympathetic administrator of the test, to delay the destruction of the isotopes, he pays a visit to Assistant District Attorney Walton. Although Walton insists that the case has been closed, he directs Ross to Morgan's casino. Morgan refuses to allow Ross to examine him, however, and is indifferent to the doctor's pleas for compassion. After Morgan arranges for him to win at the roulette wheel, Ross is beaten up by one of Morgan's thugs. Sure that Morgan is hiding something, Ross takes Joan to Alcatraz and questions inmate Max Henry, an acquaintance of Morgan and Ganz, about the convicts' friendship. Henry reveals that he, Morgan and Ganz were involved in an attempted escape at Leavenworth Penitentiary, and were sent to Alcatraz together. As Ross and Joan are about to leave the prison, Henry shows them his postcard collection, which includes a card from Lake Tahoe, addressed to Ganz and signed "Ethel." While Ross and Joan head for Tahoe, Morgan hears about their visit to Alcatraz and sends his partner, Duke Shaw, to trail them. In Tahoe, Ross and Joan find out from a real estate agent where the house pictured in Henry's postcard is located and where the owner, Ethel Ganz, works. When Ross tries to talk with Ethel, however, he is knocked out by Duke and two thugs and dumped in the woods. Later, while Ross telephones Finley to ask for another delay in the destruction of the isotopes, Joan tracks down Ethel. Ethel reveals to Joan and Ross that, before going to prison, Ganz, her stepfather, hid $250,000 in stolen money in their old summer house. After Ethel takes him to the remote house, Ross speculates that Morgan knew about the money and, as soon as he found out its location, killed Ganz. Suddenly drawing a gun on the doctor, Ethel confirms Ross's theory, adding that she found the money after months of searching. At that moment, Morgan arrives with his thugs and reveals that he is married to Ethel and that they plotted Ganz's murder together. Morgan tries to convince Ross to give up his pursuit, but Ross refuses to back down and is shot and killed by the ex-convict. Later, however, Finley tricks Morgan into exposing himself by pretending to radiate him with the isotopes and then accusing him of the crimes. When Morgan tries to strangle Finley in the hospital, he is caught by Walton, who, upon hearing of the phony test, arrests him for murder. With his research now verified, Ross is honored posthumously for his selfless courage, and Joan happily anticipates Dick's full recovery.