Desperate Cargo is a 1941 American film directed by William Beaudine and based on the 1937 Argosy magazine serial Loot Below by Eustace Lane Adams. The film stars Ralph Byrd and Carol Hughes. The supporting cast includes Julie Duncan and Jack Mulhall. [Note 1]
On the Caribbean island of Puerto Nueva, a disparate group of individuals await a Boeing 314 Clipper, the "Caribbean Clipper" that will take them to Miami. Tony Bronson (Ralph Byrd) is the new purser for the flight who disrupts the robbery of New York journalist Jim Halsey (Jack Mulhall) at their hotel.
Halsey is a passenger on the same Trans-Caribbean Airlines flight, flying to America to begin an assignment for his newspaper that will ultimately have him stationed in the Orient. Having some money left, Halsey fixes Tony up on a double date with two entertainers in a "sister act", Ann Howard (Julie Duncan) and her partner, Peggy Morton (Carol Hughes). The pair have only just been informed that their show in New York has been cancelled and are stranded in Puerto Nueva, without the fare to leave. Ann uses her feminine wiles to con Tony into arranging free passage for them on the Clipper. Nonetheless, Tony falls in love with Ann, and Jim proposes to Peggy.
Among the other passengers are Madden (Johnstone White), Ryan (Richard Clarke), Desser (Paul Bryar) and "Professor" Carter (I. Stanford Jolley), their ringleader and a former pilot who flew Clippers for the airline. Their plan is to hijack the aircraft in mid-air, rob the passengers and steal a shipment of $500,000 in the safe on board. Carter will then land in a remote area of the Caribbean Sea where the gang and their loot will be picked up.
When they take over the aircraft by killing the navigator and co-pilot, Carter has the passengers locked in their quarters and the crew locked in the cargo compartment. After landing, although the gang has the money from their captives, the safe is locked and only Tony can open it. Ryan is ordered to force the purser to open the safe but in a struggle for Ryan's gun, Tony shoots him, and makes his escape, jumping from the aircraft. Swimming over to the cargo hold, he frees the pilot, Capt. Hank MacFarland (Kenneth Harlan) and the rest of the crew, then returns to the cockpit where Carter threatens to burn the Clipper. Tony overpowers him, and holding the rest of the gang at gunpoint, allows MacFarland to regain control of the aircraft. Jim and Tony are finally reunited with their sweethearts as the Clipper heads to Miami, where the police are waiting to apprehend the gang.
Principal photography, under the working title of Dangerous Cargo, took place from mid to late May 1941. Although set on board a Boeing 314 Clipper, nearly all the shots were interior views, filmed on a sound stage.
Desperate Cargo was a B film "potboiler" that was an early example of the disaster film where a disparate group of characters are faced with a dilemma. In a more recent review, Catherine Yronwode saw many redeeming characteristics in the film, including the casting of a number of interesting actors, such as silent screen stars Kenneth Harlan as the airliner pilot and Jack Mulhall as the second male lead. "All in all, this was a great little movie of its type. Sure, it could have been better – a shorter set-up and more tension in the final scenes, a staccato musical score to heighten the drama, a cuter and more compliant lead actress – but it is certainly worth a viewing." 
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