Adventure story about a group of climbers who set out to ascend a notoriously difficult mountain in the Alps, each one with a different reason for going. Stars Glenn Ford.
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It's the first time in ten years this train has been on time.
TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS
It's so good to see you. It's been so long.
-Welcome back, fraulein.
-Sorry we were late.
-It doesn't matter.
-You look beautiful, Nicholas.
The world is older. Only Andreas is not older!
A HARMONICA GENTLY PLAYS
-How nice to see you.
We have your room all ready.
It is not like before the war, but we'll make you comfortable.
It's comfortable just to see you.
I wanted her to stay with me, but she said you'd never forgive her.
Her we would forgive, but not you!
Monsieur, Madame Delambre, Fraulein Alten.
-Welcome to our ivory tower.
You must be starved, come.
-She will want to go to her room first.
-Oh, yes. I forget.
-I'll see you tomorrow for tea.
-Of course. Thank you for meeting me.
I too shall see you tomorrow.
-Is everything arranged?
-Tomorrow I'll give you a full report.
No, Andreas. After dinner.
All right. I'll see you after dinner.
What have you been doing since the war, Fraulein?
Oh, struggling, working. Trying to get enough money to come back here.
Who are all these people? Who's that man I met?
Monsieur Delambre? A wealthy intellectual.
A writer, he says, and a mountain climber.
Those are just tourists.
-And the American?
-He doesn't talk much about himself.
His name is Ordway. He was a bomber pilot. He was shot down near here, and he came back.
-He plays the harmonica.
-Does he climb too?
He's very good, but I don't think he's serious about it.
The other one, Hein, he is really a climber.
-Why is he here?
-I think for the same reason that you are here.
Andreas has told you.
Do you think anyone had to tell us that someday you would come back to the White Tower?
There is one thing you must understand.
To try again to climb this mountain is not something you alone want, but that I also want.
When you wrote, I started to gather supplies right away.
What is it, Andreas? Tell me.
We cannot do it. It is not possible.
-Two alone cannot do it.
-I asked you to organise a party.
I've spoken to every guide in Kandermatt.
They refuse to come with us - all of them.
-They are afraid.
-Yes, but not only of the mountain.
They're afraid of you.
-It is true.
It is not what happened to your father. It is the way you feel.
-Are you afraid?
-No, I'm not.
If I can form a party, will you guide us?
No, Carla. I will not.
-My name is Carla Alten.
-How do you do?
-I understand you do some mountain climbing.
-I've been up a few.
-How would you like to climb the White Tower?
-They say it has never been climbed. Would you like to be in the first party to do it?
-What's the point? What have you got when you get up there?
Nothing. Everything. The top.
Haven't you ever thought about it?
-I guess I have thought about it...
-Do you think it's worth the energy?
That's one way of putting it.
If you're tired you'd better go to bed. Excuse me.
Wait a minute.
-That's quite an approach you have.
Yeah. My name is Carla Alten. How would you like to climb a mountain?
-How about that?
-Can you suggest a better approach?
Well, yes, I think I can.
My name is Martin Ordway. It's a beautiful night. How about a drink?
No, thank you. Goodnight.
-She climbs very well, doesn't she?
-Who is she?
-I don't know. Carla Alten.
-What was she saying?
Knubel, tell us, who is this girl?
-Your usual, Mr Ordway?
-Who is she?
-She's the daughter of Alessandro Alten.
-You don't know?
-Is he good?
He's one of the greatest of our generation.
As a student of mountain climbing, I would say, THE greatest.
-Where is he now?
He ascended the White Tower several years ago.
It's a famous story.
There were six in the party including Carla.
When the others could no longer go on, Alten went on alone.
They saw him disappearing up the final slope. Whether he made it or not, no-one knows.
He never came back.
To the survivors.
To climb the peak of the highest mountain.
To look down on a world of crawling men.
You know that, at last, your struggle...
Then you climb down again.
< Good evening, gentlemen.
Oh, there you are, my dear.
Tell me, Astrid, did you know this girl was the daughter of Alessandro Alten, the mountaineer?
Really? You said you were going to work this evening.
-Or do you have to climb a mountain first?
This book cannot be dashed off.
I am trying to sum up the whole magnificence of the White Tower in one short work.
A writer cannot manufacture a masterpiece like a machine.
-You understand that, don't you?
-Of course, dear.
Your wife - I hope you don't mind me saying so - she's a very beautiful woman.
Yes. Yes, she is.
Yes, she's very lovely.
I think I'll go for a bit of a climb tomorrow.
Nothing very strenuous. Just to get back to the feel again.
I guess you were right. My approach last night was not so good.
You've come up here to tell me that?
Oh, no. I'm going to see Nicholas Radcliffe.
His chalet is up there.
That's quite a climb.
You better sit down and rest.
On resting, it seems you are an authority. How did you get this far?
You make a pretty picture standing there.
Those mountains in back of you.
Too bad I'm not an artist.
What do you do in America?
I'm an architect.
-Have you been in Switzerland long?
-Then you're here either to study or on vacation.
Maybe I shouldn't ask questions.
No, that's fine. It's a good way to get acquainted. My turn's coming up.
-How long are you going to stay?
-I don't know.
Don't you have any reason to go back home?
Somebody waiting for you - a mother or a...sister.
No. No wife.
-My turn now.
-If you wish.
Why is climbing this mountain so important to you?
-My new approach is not to talk about that.
I answered all your questions.
It's really not so mysterious.
-You know about my father?
To climb the White Tower was the dream of his life.
He tried it many times.
When I grew old enough, he used to take me with him.
Just before the war, we tried again.
Nicholas and Andreas...
I'm sorry, I...
I thought after all this time I could talk about it.
They say it's a sickness with me.
Is it a sickness to have loved your father?
To have the same dream he had?
How many people do you need to climb it?
Four, at the very least. For the best chance, six. To start, anyway.
-There's a fella called Hein. Have you asked him?
-He'd be just the man.
-I don't like his looks.
He is a kind of a person. A kind I know.
So what? Maybe he can help you.
You should know what I mean. You fought in the war.
I understand you were shot down near here.
That's right. Just over those mountains.
-It was a lucky break.
-What do you mean?
Well, if that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have found this place.
Have you found peace here?
Is that why you came back?
I will only find it when I reach the top of that mountain.
Walk with me to the chalet.
Her father and I were close friends.
Is the idea practical?
-Climbing the White Tower?
-Of course not.
-Can it be done?
Men have been trying to do it now for 100 years, but they've failed.
All of them.
I think it CAN be done, but can WE do it? It's a different proposition.
I'm assuming that you're going to ask me. I'm not too old, am I?
-Of course you are not too old.
-I am really, you know.
-Still, I would like another try.
-Good. That makes two of us.
I'm sorry. I've been assuming that you are a victim too.
No. Not this trip.
Thank you very much.
Dr Radcliffe, are there rocks on the White Tower you haven't seen yet?
If you're asking if my interest in the climb is a scientific one - no.
Not at all.
Mr Ordway is about to ask why you want to go.
I wasn't interested in what your reason was or even if it was a good one, I just wondered if you had one.
-I do indeed have a reason.
-OK. See, I don't.
Who else can we get, Nicholas?
Well, there's Hein. I understand that...
-She's ruled him out. She doesn't like his looks.
-What about that little man with the whiskers?
Delambre? Well, he has done some climbing.
He drinks a little too much. He may not tackle anything this severe.
-How do you know?
He has a reason.
Thank you, mademoiselle.
That's wonderful for you, dear. You were going on a hike this morning.
-I shall be grateful to you forever.
-We shall have a difficult time.
-You want to come?
-I cannot tell you what it means.
They are discussing the route.
I think we should follow here.
Well, look who's here!
Let me help you with these.
-I knew you would come.
-You knew, my wife knew, only I didn't know!
Let's go inside.
Imagine, a woman, an old geologist and an erratic weakling on the most difficult ascent in Europe!
And to guide them, a Swiss peasant.
You seem anxious to go with them.
I know this mountain. One must have supplies, equipment, and a party of six even to get near the top.
After that it would be up to me.
Come on, let's give them a hand.
-I'll see you tomorrow, Carla.
You have found the rope?
I have my own at home.
-There's only one thing missing.
A three-ton truck to carry all this stuff.
Oh, Carla, have you met Mr Hein?
We were thinking if we could help...
Do you have any food that is more concentrated?
This will be very bulky to carry.
They are sold out in the village.
I have some. I can lend it to you.
-I'll get it.
-You're making a mistake.
-It is true.
With Hein, we'd have a better chance.
That's right. After all, he can't be that dangerous, can he?
If I invite him, will you come too?
I'm sorry, I...
-What have we here?
One for medicinal purposes and one for celebration.
-When we reach the top.
-And if you don't?
-Here we are.
-I'm only too happy. If there is anything else?
consider joining us on this climb?
-You do not have to merely because I lent you some...
But if you agree to come, we would be very happy.
In that case, I should be delighted. Thank you.
I'm afraid you don't understand.
To climb this mountain, this monstrous and beautiful mountain,
it's a thing I've wanted to do ever since we came to the valley.
Perhaps it's the inspiration you've been waiting for for your book.
-Your book. You are planning to finish it?
I have finished it - all but the last chapter.
-You've been saying that for so long.
-I shall go on saying it.
And I shall do it.
What is it you expect of a man?
That he create literature in a vacuum?
Can't you at least try to understand what I'm trying to do?
I want to feel again, fight again, come alive again.
You think you'll do that by breaking your neck on a mountain?
By breaking my neck.
On a mountain!
By standing on the edge of a precipice.
By spattering my brains out on the rocks below.
Oh, my dear. My dear, dear Astrid...
It's useless to talk if you don't talk sense.
It's useless for us to talk ever.
How much are they paying you?
I don't know. I didn't ask.
I'm the wife of a lunatic!
I will take you with me, my dear.
To the top.
This means an awful lot to you, doesn't it?
Say, look, on 22nd thought, I'd kind of like to go with you.
You found a reason?
Well, sure. I could use the exercise!
Is that OK? I mean, is it OK for me to go along just for the walk?
Certainly. Glad to have you.
I don't mean to the top, but I could help until the first camp.
Think you could make it that far?
I could try. Not much sense being here with everybody else away.
You could entertain Madame Delambre.
-Madame Delambre doesn't interest me.
-But I do?
Yes, you do.
We'd better get back and get some rest. You'll need it.
The weather is good.
It will hold for a while.
I'm glad you changed your mind, Martin.
-Life is a problem.
A man's attracted to a woman and he finds himself drawn into her life.
Doing things to please her that he has no interest in -
like climbing mountains.
-He becomes a weakling.
-Complicated, isn't it?
Oh! How about a little rest?
Lovely view of the village, isn't it?
You see my chalet on the hill?
-Are you lonely there?
-No more lonely than I was in London.
Anyway, loneliness gives one a chance to study human nature.
One's own human nature.
Any difficulties, gentlemen?
No, we're having a rest. Join us.
Thank you, but I'm not tired.
I've found that to stop too often only makes the muscles more stiff.
Do not forget that old mountaineers' song.
"To rest is not to conquer".
To rest is not to conquer.
This point is called the Dachenwelt.
To here it is a long, pleasant walk.
Suitable for timid old ladies and small children...and Americans.
Hey, wait a minute.
That pack of yours is a little crooked.
It'll start pulling on a long hike.
-I'm glad you came along, Martin.
-So am I.
-Yes, thank you.
-How do you feel?
-Fine. How about you?
I have an advantage. I wasn't tired to begin with.
Any bets on who collapses first?
Still with you.
-That the funnel?
-Yeah. Time enough for the funnel tomorrow.
Now we set up tents.
-All of them?
Tomorrow we leave one here for when we come back down.
What's the matter? Huh?
Is there enough stuff if I go on to the next camp?
Yes, there is enough.
-It would be impossible to come back alone.
So I'll go on up and wait for you until you come back from the top.
Can't you sleep?
It's a strange silence you can almost hear.
-It's not so much of a sound, it's more like a...
-A sense of presence - as though something were with us, following us.
Perhaps it's the selves we're trying to leave behind.
-Is that why you climb? Running away from something.
Alessandro Alten was a good friend and there's nothing I wouldn't do for his daughter. Reasonable?
Yes. I suppose it is.
You promised me down below you wouldn't ask me that.
I'm probably more polite down there.
No, you're right, Martin. There is something else.
Climbing a mountain can be related to one's whole existence.
A mountain can be a symbol of the obstacles one encounters in life.
To conquer it is to gain self-confidence and courage.
You understand that, don't you?
I think I do.
I know you do.
You understand it more the further you go.
-It is best now we climb only one at a time.
-One at a time?!
No-one should move until the person above can belay the ropes.
-But it's slower.
-A little slower,
but safer too.
As you say.
This thing would go faster if you got together and pulled me up.
I bet you make it.
All right, Carla.
-Not going to tie on, huh?
It's kind of nice and cosy.
That's all right.
-Are you all right?
-We're both all right.
-How is it, Doctor?
We're like a caterpillar, aren't we?
This part of the caterpillar's almost at the end of his rope.
< All right!
A rest is not to conquer.
To the right!
To the right and above!
It does not go.
It must go!
-It doesn't go.
-Nothing to hold on to above?
Yes, far above, but I couldn't reach it.
-Andreas says it's impossible.
-It is not impossible!
-It's not impossible.
All right. So it's possible.
It's all right.
-Come on up!
-Come up, he says.
-Wouldn't you like to rest a while longer?
-To rest is not to conquer.
Two for luck, huh?
-Take it easy, Nick.
-All right, old boy.
Nicholas is very tired.
-Really tired, I mean.
Hold it! The rope is stuck.
Thank you, my dear.
-Are you all right, Nick?
Oh, yes. Fine.
-Now, Andreas, if you'll lower me down.
-It's time I got started back.
-Oh, no, Nicholas.
It's no good, my dear.
But it's easier from here.
-You want to get to the top?
You'll never get to the top with me along.
Andreas, tell them.
- Yes, it is true. - Thank you, Hein.
-You have no right to say it.
-On the contrary, Hein has a perfect right.
He risked his life to get me onto this rock.
He may have to risk his life again.
Truly, my dear, it's better this way.
I'll wait for you in my tent down below.
Prepare a victory dinner.
Where's my pack? Martin, you'd better take these.
You may need them.
And here's a warm sweater for you.
You may go further than you think.
Face it, my boy.
-I'm ready, Andreas.
-I'm coming with you.
< I'm sorry, Herr Doctor, I insist.
-Good luck, Paul.
-Thank you, Doctor. Sorry you're leaving us.
-Goodbye, my dear.
Goodbye, my boy.
Take care of her.
With two of us, we should be over the steep parts in an hour. Then Herr Radcliffe can go on alone.
I shall be back in three hours. Maybe even sooner.
Shall we get started? We have far to go yet today.
-We wait here for Andreas.
-But we will lose the best hours of the day.
All right. So we lose them.
Mr Ordway, do not be offended, but I must tell you something.
-You have come along with your hands in your pockets.
You have reserved the right to continue while you enjoy it, or to turn back when you don't.
But this is no tea party, Mr Ordway.
Or even an ordinary mountain climb.
It is a war. To win it we must fight and keep on fighting.
-We fight by leaving our guide behind?
-No. By pushing on.
Radcliffe was weak. He held us back. Now we make up for it.
Andreas will catch up. We'll mark the route.
-You will not go?
-Have you any objections if I go on alone?
-In that case...
I'm going too.
If I may.
It's better if we're to separate that we do it two by two.
-You realise there will be less protection from the rope?
As you say then.
We go up the funnel to the upper terrace, then to the ridge.
If we cannot reach the ridge before dark, we'll make camp and flash a light to you.
I suggest that you do not wait after three for your guide.
Well, he did fix it for us.
-Yup. We're alone.
What did Nicholas mean - "face it"?
What he said when he left. Face what?
What is reality?
He said you can find it on this mountain.
I don't know.
You know what George Mallory said
-when they asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest?
"Because it is there."
-Isn't that a definition of reality?
-Of course it's there.
I don't know.
Why have you continued?
-It's pretty obvious, isn't it?
-Because of me?
You will come all the way then?
-Yeah, if it keeps up this way.
-And if it doesn't keep up like this?
Well, then I'll go home.
This is what I call getting close to reality.
Say, your hands are dirty.
Hein was right. To you this is only a tea party.
Look at him. There he is.
He's going to end up carrying Delambre on his shoulders.
Aren't you kind of glad he came along?
Are you crazy? That guy knows his mountains. He can climb. I bet he's as good as your father was.
-Please don't compare him with my father.
He's got a lot of rope. Maybe he'll hang himself!
I fought against people like Hein when it was very hard to fight them,
and I shall go on fighting them wherever I find them.
But you have to climb this mountain first.
Did you ever love anybody else besides your father?
-Did you ever find a man you thought you could marry?
-No, I have not.
-Do you ever expect to?
Well... How about me?
That is, if I were more like your father.
-I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
-It's all right.
Will you marry me?
You think I'm crazy and I know you are.
We would make a lovely couple.
I might as well go to sleep.
-I'm sorry I'm late.
-No. That's all right.
How far do you suppose they went?
-I don't know. Do you want to rest?
-No. We'll keep on till we find them.
We were beginning to think you had lost the way.
Did you think so or hope so?
Didn't you find the markers we left for you?
Paul, are you all right?
-How did you get along?
Delambre did very well,
but I'm afraid I set quite a pace.
Did I go too fast, do you think?
Paul, eat your dinner.
I'm not hungry.
He's tired. We should leave him behind tomorrow.
-It's obvious. He will hold us up.
In the beginning, when there is much to carry, a large group is useful.
-The party should stay together.
What's the difference? Why don't we all go back?
Are you serious?
We'll go on. All of us.
-You are the leader.
-We are a group, Mr Hein.
We climb together because we cannot climb alone.
We have no leader and we need none.
And if we disagree?
We discuss it and decide.
Well, I have never before tried to vote myself to the top of a mountain.
Then this may prove to be a very enlightening experience for you.
Why don't you turn in and get as much rest as you can?
No. Not yet.
I think I ought to work on my book for a while.
Time to get up.
Andreas and Hein went to look around. It's very foggy.
-I'm making breakfast...
Remember what I said about us all going back?
Well, I meant it.
I did, but I don't anymore.
And what do you think now?
I think that it's important that we go on.
I think it's important to both of us.
Then you've found a reason.
Yes. I guess I have.
Breakfast is almost ready.
It's pretty awful.
Like trying to find a beetle in a wood.
-Aren't you cold with just that on?
-Is it bad up on the ridge?
-It is lifting. Blowing again.
Ja. But whether the wind will blow clear or with a storm, one cannot tell.
He must have fallen asleep again.
Paul. Hey, Paul.
-Sorry. I thought you were asleep.
-I'm not asleep.
-We're getting ready to leave.
Oh, yes. Yes, it's time.
-Is anything wrong?
What should be wrong, my friend?
Come on, Paul. I'm going with you.
Paul, I brought you some tea.
This will wake you up.
Aren't you well?
I'm not hungry.
Paul's acting kind of funny.
It is mountain sickness, perhaps.
-Was he sick last night?
-No. I heard nothing.
These idiots, these weaklings. There's always something wrong.
You mustn't upset yourselves because of me.
I'm not going to keep you from your mountain top.
Are you feeling better?
Quite better indeed.
You see how I get about, gentlemen?
Like a ghost on a cliff.
-Will you go now?
It is ridiculous. He wants us to go.
I want to go. Mr Ordway wants to go,
if I am not mistaken.
So there is your majority vote.
I want to go on more than you do,
but if we keep breaking up, we have no chance at all.
There is a way to climb. It is done by people together.
Give me your hand. I know you don't want to,
but give it to me anyway.
Whether I climb this mountain or not is no longer important.
But you and your Martin should climb it. That is very important indeed.
You it will free from a great torture.
What that torture is, I don't know.
To Martin it will give the strength to believe again
and to struggle again.
If you two succeed, it'll be not only for yourselves, but for me
and for everyone.
You may think of me what you like,
but to let me keep you from going on...
This you cannot do to me.
Will you go now?
You will go? Please.
All right, Paul.
We will go.
Where is the other bottle?
I've hidden it away.
Today we go up the ridge to our last camp.
Tomorrow, if the weather is good, we will try for the top.
The latest we will be back here is the day after tomorrow.
Will you promise that you will not leave here under any circumstances?
You will not leave?
Better get some sleep, Paul.
-We'll be back before you know it.
-From the top.
-From the top.
We'd better go quickly.
Keep the rope tight. Keep close together.
-Where are the others?
-Looking for shelter.
Give me the rope.
It's time for you to watch.
Whole nations may die.
But mankind - man himself...
he will never die.
He will climb on...
What do you say now, Astrid?
I know what you'd say.
How right you are.
But we know why it's uninspired.
What a happy woman you'll be.
My failures are complete.
We can't climb in this, can we?
Up, no. Down, yeah.
-He's going to Delambre.
-How can he?
The ridge has been exposed to the wind. The snow will not be deep.
Shouldn't we take a vote?
There is no need to be sarcastic. It is my duty and you will lose nothing by it.
Today we cannot try for the top.
The snow will not be hard until tomorrow at the earliest.
By bedtime, I shall be back.
And if you are not?
-I shall be.
-Tomorrow is Sunday.
I know. It is also the last day for which we have food.
You will wait for me here?
Of course, Andreas.
My herd are scattered over the mountain like lost sheep.
It is very difficult.
-That is foolish.
To smoke at this altitude.
It's foolish to BE at this altitude without a plane.
No sign of Andreas yet.
-He'll be back.
-You realise he is not coming back, don't you?
You think Delambre's in trouble?
He is not coming back regardless of Delambre.
-Because he is a superstitious peasant
and he won't climb on Sunday, and he hasn't the willpower.
-Oh, why don't you stop?
-I shall bore you with my opinions no longer.
Perhaps you would like to know my decision.
I'm going for the top tomorrow whatever.
Not without us, you're not.
I'm going alone.
If you wish to go also, there's nothing to stop you.
Except, perhaps, the mountain.
Willpower is an important thing. The will.
The will to conquer.
You guys never give up, do you?
Why argue? You can't reason with a man like that.
How much is a guy supposed to take?
Don't do anything now we're so close to the top.
That's the only thing that's important to you.
Well, getting to the top isn't going to help you.
You need to find something that's more important than the mountain or your father. That'll never happen.
-Don't say that.
-Well, it's true, isn't it?
Our superman has left us.
-There's nothing you can do about it!
-Yes, there is.
He's going to climb that mountain with us.
-We cannot go without Andreas.
-This is a personal thing now between him and me.
-He's not getting away with it.
-Please be careful.
-Wait! Take my glasses.
-You might need them.
A long hard climb, is it not, Mr Ordway?
Ahead is a snow bridge. It will not support the weight of a man.
I shall no longer be able to accommodate you with footprints.
I am going alone, Ordway.
We're going together.
You think I need your help?
Yes, and I need yours.
-Take the rope.
We started together, we'll finish together.
No, we will not finish together. I will finish alone
and you will not finish at all.
Shall I tell you why? It is because I am strong
and you are weak.
It is because I have the will and you have not.
I am climbing for a principle.
A principle of superiority that will live and fight and conquer again.
You... You are like all the rest. You are not climbing for anything.
Give me your hand.
What's the matter, superman?
There's only one.
Snow blindness. Best we get him down right away.
No. Keep on going. You can make it from here.
Give me your ribbon.
Please go on, Carla. You can make it.
-Best we get him down.
-Keep going, Carla.
You can make the top.
No, Martin. The top is not important anymore.
-Not too hot.
-No, it's good.
-Come on. Lie down.
Say, Carla, I was thinking...
That moment when you decided I was more important than that mountain,
you sure you'll never regret it?
Say, Nicholas, if an American marries an alien,
-can he take her to the States?
-Yes, but she'd need a good character.
I never did ask you. Have you got good character?
It's not bad.
Today is Thursday. Last train day to Geneva until Monday.
Four days is a long time to wait when two people want to get married.
-Yes, but they'll never make it.
-The train is never on time.
-What are we waiting for?
Think we'll make it?
We'll make it because it is there.
Adventure story about a group of climbers who set out to ascend a notoriously difficult mountain in the Alps, each one with a different reason for going. As the expedition progresses, the climb becomes more treacherous, and hopes of reaching the peak fade. As lives are lost and spirits become low, the group decide to turn back - but one man is determined to reach the summit at whatever cost.