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The Secret of the Purple Reef

The Secret of the Purple Reef(1960)


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When the fishing vessel known as the Cloud vanishes off the coast of Antigua, taking with it Capt. Robert Christopher and a crew of eight, Mark Christopher, Robert's brother, who left the cloistered life of the island years earlier, returns and is chastised by Grandmere, the family matriarch, for deserting the family. The Cloud disappeared on a clear, calm night, and since no remains of the vessel have been found, the insurance company has refused to settle the claim, ruling that foul play may be involved. Grandmere, furious because the family name has been besmirched, admonishes Mark to exonerate his dead brother's name. With his younger brother Dean, Mark goes to talk with Tobias, an old fisherman friend of the family who lost a son on the Cloud . When they arrive at the coast, however, they find Tobias being assaulted by three thugs. Tom Webber, the assailants' employer, goads them on until the brothers arrive, at which point he feigns indignation over his men's aggressive behavior. When Mark questions Webber about his involvement with the Cloud , Webber claims that he booked passage on the craft after his own freighter, the Dagger , foundered at Purple Reef. Webber states that Robert ferried him and his crew to shore before heading out on their fateful, last voyage. After Webber and his thugs leave, Tobias declares that Webber lied and that he has had visions of evil descending on the Cloud at Purple Reef. Sailing out to the reef to investigate, the three find the hulk of the Dagger snagged offshore. Just then, Webber and his boat speed by, peppering gunshots at Tobias and warning him to mind his own business. Back onshore, Tobias tells Mark that he knows where Webber's engineer, an old drunk named Ashby, is hiding and leads him there. At his hut on a deserted beach, Ashby warns them against trying to salvage the Dagger and then asks them to visit Webber's partner, Rue Ambois, who works at the Flamboyant Casino in Palmer. Upon docking at Palmer, Mark leaves Dean to tend the boat while he meets with Rue at the casino. After Rue expresses surprise that Ashby would be working as an engineer aboard the Dagger , Mark returns to the docks and finds Twine, one of Webber's thugs, ransacking the boat after knocking Dean unconscious. As Webber watches from a distance, Mark throws Twine over board. Tobias, meanwhile, is sailing his own boat around Purple Reef, where he discovers that the Dagger has sunk and spots an abandoned dinghy carrying a crate of dynamite. After towing the dinghy to shore, Tobias stashes the dynamite in some ruined outbuildings on the reef. Twine and two other thugs observe Tobias' actions, and after rowing to shore, knock him unconscious and drag him into the sea to drown, towing the boats behind them. After they depart, Ashby, dressed in a diving suit, emerges from the water and pulls Tobias to safety. At the Flamboyant Club, meanwhile, Rue asks Webber where the Dagger was headed when it sank, and after he replies Tampa, she senses that he is hiding something from her. Stranded on the reef with Tobias, Ashby confesses that he dynamited the Dagger for Webber, who now wants to kill him. Worried about Ashby, Rue sends for Mark and admits that Ashby is her father and having escaped from an American prison years earlier, would never have signed on a freighter bound for Tampa. Their meeting is observed by Twine, who reports back to Webber. Mark then sails to Antigua to question the commissioner, the last man who saw Robert and his crew after they dropped Webber and Ashby ashore and then headed back out to sea in their dinghy. When Mark learns that Ashby has disappeared, he begins to believe that the commissioner concluded that the men in the dinghy were Robert and his crew, unaware that the Cloud never made it to Antigua. Mark and Dean proceed to Webber's villa, where Mark accuses him of sinking the Dagger . After Webber claims that he lost $15,000 when the Dagger sank, Mark beings to suspect that Webber bought and sold the Dagger several times using assumed names, thus inflating its value and making a profit on the insurance settlement. Now fearing for Rue's safety, Mark offers her refuge at his family's home in St. Kitts. As Rue hurriedly packs her suitcase, Webber comes to the club and shoots her in the back. Unaware of Rue's fate, Mark and Dean sail out to the reef, where they find Tobias and Ashby, who admits that Webber scuttled the Cloud and killed its crew. Ashby then explains that Webber had instructed him to ram the Dagger onto the rocks and that he had booked passage on the Cloud so that its crew would witness the accident. Ashby was delayed, however, so when the Cloud sailed by the reef, the Dagger had not yet reached it. Knowing that the crew could testify that the Dagger was still afloat at the time of the alleged accident, Webber killed them all. As Ashby concludes his tale, Webber and his thugs arrive. In the ensuing shootout, Dean is wounded, and as Tobias tries to carry him to safety, he is stabbed by Twine. Before dying, Tobias pierces Twine with his own dagger. After the other thugs are killed, Webber and Mark pummel each other in the surf, and as Dean hobbles to the beach, Mark overpowers Webber.