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|Robert Mitchum||Russ Lambert|
|Linda Darnell||Clare Shepperd, alias Clare Sinclair|
|Jack Palance||Cappy Gordon|
|Roy Roberts||Charley Malloy|
|Fortunio Bonanova||Mandy, hotel owner|
|Sandro Giglio||Cable Car Conductor|
|Reginald Sheffield||Mr. Woburn, English tourist|
|Margaret Brewster||Mrs. Woburn, English tourist|
|Rodolfo Hoyos Jr.||Vasco|
|Richard Vera||Pablo, Vasco's son|
|Maurice Jara||Fernando, groom|
|Judy Walsh||Maria, bride|
|Salvador Baguez||Officer Hernandez|
|Milburn Stone||Edward Dawson|
A mob bookkeeper (played by Milburn Stone) is confronted, shot, and killed by the utterly ruthless hitman Cappy Gordon (Jack Palance), under orders from the notorious gangster Vic Spilato, who is currently under investigation by the U.S. Senate. Cappy then heads for San Cristóbal, a bustling town in an unspecified Latin American country, with plans to deliver a similar fate to Spilato's estranged girlfriend, the singer Clare Shepperd (Linda Darnell), who is trying to escape her past connections with Spilato.Meanwhile, Russ Lambert (played by Robert Mitchum), an American prizefighter with a lethal right-handed punch, also heads to San Cristóbal to take his mind off his recent, accidental killing of an opponent in the ring. Lambert prepares to fight a local challenger named Rivera. At the same time, Clare, under the alias "Clare Sinclair," seeks out a bar-owner named Felipe who was once criminally connected with her gangster ex, and sells him a valuable pair of earrings. Clare watches as Lambert wins the match against Rivera and finds herself attracted to Lambert, though she has mistakenly bet on Rivera. Soon afterward, Cappy's hunt for Clare ends, and he expresses his love for her, promising to spare her life if she will run off with him. Instead, Clare flees for Felipe's bar and threatens to expose the owner to Cappy, unless Felipe will persuade Lambert to meet her at the isolated Posado de Don Pascual. Felipe does so and Clare and Lambert meet there, tentatively beginning a relationship with romantic possibilities, though Clare does not tell Lambert about her stormy past.Clare and Lambert take an aerial tramway to La Cumbre ("The Summit"), an idyllic but almost completely secluded mountaintop village, and they enjoy a stroll through the town, unaware that Cappy is pursuing them. They watch a sexually provocative dance, performed by a young man and woman, whose older husband, Vasco (Rodolfo Hoyos Jr.), drags her off in a jealous rage, kills her, and is consequently arrested. Upset by the event, Clare and Lambert head toward a hotel where they spend the night, since no more aerial cable cars are available that night to take them from La Cumbre back down to San Cristóbal and since this is the only transportation in or out of La Cumbre. Lambert and Clare kiss, and Lambert reveals his awareness of her history with Spilato.When Clare is alone at the hotel, Cappy violently barges into her room and makes her promise to meet him later at the hotel lounge, where, he claims, they will reunite and run away together. Clare deceives the hitman, though, culminating in the first encounter between Lambert and a superficially friendly Cappy, who has been using the alias "Mr. Walters" at the hotel. Cappy closely follows Clare and Lambert onto the next available cable car, which is also being used by local police to transport Vasco, the murderous husband from the previous night, back down to San Cristóbal.High above a deep abyss, one of two main cables suddenly snaps in the middle of the cable car's journey, jolting the car to a halt and sending the car's engineer plummeting from the roof of the car to his death. Clare, Lambert, Cappy, Vasco, and several other passengers are all stranded in midair, and the remaining cable begins to wear away, threatening to send them all hurtling to their doom. There is a possibility that one of the passengers could swing from the broken cable to a nearby cliff, and then run back into the town of La Cumbre to send for two emergency lifts. These lifts, which are much smaller than the cable car, can be guided right alongside the car, but they can only carry so much weight; in fact, the conductor calculates that three passengers will have to be left behind and will surely die when the second cable breaks, probably within the next few minutes.Vasco volunteers for the perilous task and the two police officers escorting him allow him to do so because Vasco's young son is also with them in the cable car and can be held as collateral. Vasco, however, swings into the cliff too hard, causing him to smash into the rocks and perish. But Lambert volunteers for the task next and succeeds. He returns with the first of the two emergency lifts, but, before Clare and others can board it, Cappy suddenly grabs a police handgun and kills one of the officers. He then attempts to board the lift with only himself and Clare, but Lambert attacks him and the gun falls out of his grip. Cappy and Lambert then fight until, finally, one of Lambert's expert punches sends Cappy tumbling over the railing to his death. The remaining passengers are successfully loaded onto the two aerial lifts and transported away, seconds before the torn cable is severed completely, dropping the cable car into the abyss.