Like the poster says, five men and a girl on a mountain, add a plane crash, guns and money and you have a fun thriller.
The Looters (1955) is an interesting action film set in the Colorado Rockies, involving survivors of a plane crash, a box full of cash, two brave rescuers who find and help guide the survivors to safety, not only from the elements but also from each other, in a deadly battle over the money and the lovely Julie Adams.
The story begins as we meet Rory Calhoun of the Army mountain troops in his mountain cabin. He’s visited by an old Army buddy played by Ray Danton. “Buddy” might be too kind a word since Danton is creepy and arrogant; the way he reminds Calhoun how he saved his life in the war makes him sound more like a debt collector than an old friend. Danton says he needs a break from life and what better place to crash (uninvited) than Calhoun’s remote cabin. Calhoun and Danton go climbing the next day, an episode wherein we learn that Danton has a bit of a panicky, cowardly streak and Calhoun is heroic and unflappable under pressure.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the mountain, an airliner just happens to crash and the only survivors are the aforementioned Julie Adams as a pinup model who dreams of a normal life (and whose cover issue happens to be on the plane for everyone to ogle and pass around), Thomas Gomez, who pretends to be a wealthy stockbroker but only has shattered dreams and ones and fives in his wallet, and Frank Faylen as a Navy officer and decent guy (plus one dying man we hardly see except carried on a stretcher). There just happened to be a Treasury agent on board the plane carrying $250,000; Gomez finds that lockbox in the wreckage and concludes that his lucky day of surviving a plane crash has turned into a lottery win and a new start in life.
When Danton and Calhoun find the site, things get complicated as Danton grabs a gun, joins Gomez in a 50/50 split and holds the others hostage. They may have the weapons, but only Calhoun has the expertise to get them back down the mountain in one piece. The rest of the story has Calhoun and Danton trying to outsmart each other and either protect or attract Adams. Calhoun makes a great hero, cool and clever and not above some dirty tricks to get the upper hand. And Danton makes a great villain, slimy and conniving but smart enough to know his limits and to guess what Calhoun might try next. Poor Julie Adams is propositioned by Gomez too, but that one turns out to be more than a suddenly wealthy mature gentleman trying to entice the model; it’s the clue to a nice little O. Henry twist ending.
There also just happens to be artillery practice going on in the area, and naturally that has to be suspended while the search for the crash site goes on; that’s another little detail you can put in your pocket till the plot comes asking for it. As you can see there’s a lot here that just happens to happen and some of these things strain credibility, but it really didn’t matter to me since there’s a lot of fun action and drama to make up for it. The version of The Looters that I saw on YouTube was poor but I had a great time watching what reminded me of an early version of Cliffhanger (1993). All the way through, the plot and pace kept the suspense almost as tight as a rope you could rappel down a mountainside with (clearly I don’t know the first thing about mountain climbing but you didn’t think I would resist the metaphors). Here and there the pace slows where it makes sense, to look after a dying man on a stretcher, to camp out for a night or to allow for some shady attempts at deal making or backstabbing.
Call me shallow but there are worse ways to spend movie time than staring at the gorgeous combo of Julie Adams, Rory Calhoun and Ray Danton. They not only make for some nice eye candy but their easy screen presence and the angsty interactions the script gives them smooths the way through any other problems. Adams might spend a night in a tent with Calhoun but this movie was where she met Danton; they married soon after and remained so until 1978. The ending is spectacular; first I shook my head at how contrived the timing of those climactic events was, but I can say that The Looters has one of the all time best villain deaths I’ve ever seen. This was the first big picture from actor-turned-director Abner Biberman, who went on to tons of TV work on shows like The Virginian and Gilligan’s Island. He just happened to do a fine job with this action movie, setting a bunch of interesting actors against each other in an exciting story and in some amazing scenery. Fun discovery and as memorable to me as that tune Danton whistles all the way through.