Hell Below Zero (1954) starring Alan Ladd, Joan Tetzel, Basil Sydney, Stanley Baker directed by Mark Robson Movie Review

Hell Below Zero (1954)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Alan Ladd and Joan Tetzel in Hell Below Zero (1954)

Just Below Average

When Judie Nordhal (Joan Tetzel) receives a phone call from her father's business partner that her father died during a whaling trip off the coast of Africa she jumps on the first plane out of England to Africa as she is not convinced it was an accident. It is on the plane she meets Duncan Craig (Alan Ladd) and adventurous soul who is heading to Africa for a business deal which when it falls through offers to help Judie uncover what happened to her father. But matters are complicated by Judie's former boyfriend Erik (Stanley Baker) who is not only the son of her father's business partner but if rumour is to be believed was behind her father's death.

I don't do this as a rule but let me list the faults which occur in "Hell Below Zero". Firstly there is the less than convincing way the actors are shot in front of screens, not once does it come close to looking believable. Then there is the slowness as even when director Mark Robson is concentrating on the main storyline he is dragging it out as if he had read the story and thought there was only enough for a 30 minute movie. On top of that there is the action and some of the fight scenes in this are the clunkiest I have come across with punches clearly not landing whilst those action scenes involving miniatures fail to convince too.

But all of the above and some other faults I didn't mention make "Hell Below Zero" frustrating as it could have been okay. I say okay as the story of Duncan not only romancing Judie but also helping her find out who killed her father was only ever going to be routine at best but here it is let down by what feels like everyone involved just doing their job rather than caring, rather than trying to make something decent.

The upshot of all this is that the most memorable scene in "Hell Below Zero" comes early on as we watch Judie jump out of the shower when the phone rings. It is a titillating scene from views through the frosted glass to shots of butt cheek and her dressing gown flying up. But it shouldn't be that way, this movie should be more memorable for what is right rather than for those cheeky scenes and the fact that Joan Tetzel looked beautiful from start to finish.

What this all boils down to is that "Hell Below Zero" when it occasionally gets things right is an okay movie but more often than not it gets things wrong be it the fake action scenes or the even faker scenes of actors standing in front of screens which means it ends up not even average. And on top of that this is a movie which features whaling and some documentary style scenes will not sit comfortably with some who might watch it now.