This is a UK production set in the American Northeast during a rather nasty flood. A group of convicts are put to work reinforcing a levee with sandbags. The levee however gives way and everyone is sweep into the rushing waters. Two convicts, Howard Keel, Cyril Cusack and an injured guard, Harry Corbett all make it to safety. They are joined by local, Anne Heywood. The four take shelter from the rising waters on the top floor of Heywood’s home.
Keel immediately starts building a raft. He has no intention of returning to prison. He has murder on his mind. Keel got a life sentence for murdering his business partner, John Crawford’s wife. The two had been having an affair and when she had turned up dead, all the evidence pointed at Keel. Crawford and Keel had been partners in a river tug outfit located just down the river.
Corbett does his best to protect the girl Heywood, from the unwanted attentions of the oily Cusack. Cusack arms himself with a large blade and hints that Corbett will get his soon. Keel finally gets his raft done only to have Corbett swipe the thing in order to get away from Cusack.
The rising waters soon push the rest of the house off its footings and into the river. Keel, Cusack and Heywood manage to survive by holding onto a piece of the roof that breaks off and serves as a raft. As luck would have it, they find a small boat and transfer to it. Keel soon grows tired of the rat, Cusack, and his constant attempts at Heywood. He fires the rodent off the boat at the first bit of land they come to, before continuing towards his “date” with Crawford.
Heywood realizes that Keel is not the vicious murderer she had thought him to be. Keel simply wants the truth to come out about the crime he was sent up for. Keel lands Heywood at a safe spot and carries on. Guard Corbett has made it to safety and contacts the local law, Eddie Byrne. He tells Byrne that Keel intends to murder Crawford if he can reach him. Byrne hands Corbett a revolver and assigns him a couple of National Guardsmen to escort him to Crawford’s place.
Now we find out that Cusack has knifed a would be rescuer, and stolen his small motorboat. Cusack plans on reaching Crawford before Keel. Cusack intends a bit of blackmail. He believes Crawford to be the real murderer as well. Cusack is sure Crawford will pay for the warning about Keel, as well as for Cusack to keep his silence about the murder. Heywood has also reached the local law. A quick word with Byrne has the Sheriff send Heywood and a couple deputies racing to Crawford’s in case Corbett might need help.
Guard Corbett and the two National Guardsmen have by this time reached Crawford’s tug boat pier. Corbett warns Crawford about Keel’s break out, and his planned attempt on Crawford’s life. Soon Cusack comes puttering out of the rain in his little motorboat. Everyone mistakes him for Keel, and Cusack collects several bullets before being collared. Heywood arrives with the extra men, everyone now just sits and waits for Keel to put in an appearance.
Keel however is already there, and has been watching everything for the last 20 minutes. He sneaks under the dock and enters Crawford’s office. He gets the drop on the man and proceeds to give Crawford a most vicious beating. He cannot however bring himself to kill Crawford. He turns himself in to Corbett. Corbett, who has been busy questioning Cusack, tells Keel that enough questions as to his guilt have been raised, that a new trial is likely.
There are some fairly intense moments in the film and Keel is surprisingly good in a non-musical role. What throws the viewer off to a degree, is the rather ineffective American accents used by the UK members of the cast. It would have worked better being set in the UK.
Having said that, the film as a whole works quite well. There are several noir touches throughout, murder, revenge, infidelity being the foremost. And the raging waters do well at replacing the alleys and dark streets of an urban setting. Both are empty to the man on the run.
The look of the film also works with D of P Christopher Challis, supplying a nice assortment of black and grey tones. The four time BAFTA nominated Challis did some top fight work with The Small Back Room, Footsteps in the Fog, Chance Meeting, Never Let Go, Sink the Bismark, Arabesque, Villain and Evil Under the Sun. They’re all good examples of his work.
The director, Charles Crichton, is best known for the films Hue and Cry, The Lavender Hill Mob and A Fish Called Wanda. He also touched on suspense with Hunted and The Third Secret.
Written by Gordonl56
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