Fred and Emily Hill are leading a boring life in London. They receive a big inheritance by a rich relative and now they can realize all their dreams. They leave for a cruise behaving as rich people….but this is the beginning of the end. Richness makes they soon forget their love and family.
In the amusing opening sequence, in silent movie style, the routine and regimented activities of Fred Hill (Henry Kendall) at work and his navigating the rush hour going home are choreographed to a musical score. The long rows of desks, the masses going down stairs at exactly 6 PM, the crowd of bowler hats, the umbrellas, the crushing indignities of transportation in the underground are highlighted. Fred annoys many around him as he ineptly tries to read a newspaper.Fred and his wife Emily (Joan Barry), are an average couple living a boring middle class life in London. Emily prepares steak and kidney pie every other day, and sews clothes on the dining room table to economize. He begrudges their lot while she accepts it. Their black cat believes his rightfully place is atop the dining room table, and Fred shoos him down with repeated annoyance.One day they receive a letter from an uncle, announcing they will receive a small fortune as an advance against a future inheritance. They believe that the unexpected extra money will bring them happiness. Fred takes leave from his job as a clerk and they leave on a rich people's world cruise.Fred first shows his susceptibility to sea sickness while crossing the English Channel.In Paris, the two go sightseeing. A montage of famous landmarks is shown with their heads flipping suddenly from left to right over and over.Both are scandalized by the topless women dancers at the Folies Bergère. Both of them drink too much. As they ride the hotel elevator, Fred sets his watch to agree with the floor number dial, and is very puzzled by the quick changes in the number. As he is about to get into bed, he stumbles and falls on his knees in a night prayer position.After sailing out of Marseilles they at first enjoy a cruise life: drinks, dancing, pool and deck games, strolling on the decks. However, Fred's sea sickness interferes day after day. When a steward enters the stateroom to offer him food, he is so nauseous the menu item names jump out at him.Comedy relief is provided by a spinster with thick glasses (Elsie Randolph) in search of a man, any man about the cruise ship, oblivious to how she is constantly making a fool of herself. (Hitchcock often features a plain-looking woman in glasses in his films.)Commander Gordon (Percy Marmont), a dapper, popular bachelor initiates conversations with Emily to get away from the spinster. Emily finds it easy to talk to Gordon. They soon talk about the characteristics of love and marriage. Gordon has never been in love. Emily says she finds it difficult to talk to Fred because she fears displeasing him with what she says, because she loves him so much. Gordon shows Emily photographs of himself sitting next to an empty chair in his house near Singapore. Emily draws a cartoon of herself sitting in the empty chair.Finally feeling well enough to appear on deck, Fred is immediately smitten with a German "princess" (Betty Amann) who meets him while retrieving the rope ring used to play deck tennis.The affairs developing are shown by increasingly pairing the lovers together in one shot, and how they sightsee separately in Port Said.Emily and Gordon's first kiss is broken by the abrupt stop of accordion music being played on the deck below as an argument breaks out.In an intensely awkward scene, Fred tries to kiss the princess, who is wearing a harem costume, and he can't figure out how to get around the veil covering her face.After Fred agrees to meet the Princess in stateroom 19, all numbers he sees turn into 19 in huge sizes.As the ship arrives in Singapore, each plans to abandon the marriage to run off with a newfound love.The collapse of the marriage is symbolized when the couple are riding in rickshaws going in opposite directions, get wedged together so that neither can proceed, and neither is willing to make way for the other.Emily leaves with Gordon for his nearby home. Gordon offers her a decent life, saying outright that her husband is hopeless and that she and Fred are horrible together.When Gordon reports that the Princess is a con artist, the daughter of a Berlin laundry owner, a common adventuress who often undertakes to relieve wealthy men of their money, Emily realizes she wants to protect Fred, because he's such an impractical wimp, and returns to Fred in his hotel room, where she finds the Princess and Fred preparing to leave for Burma.The Princess leaves the room after telling Emily that she's stupid not to leave Fred for Gordon.Fred and Emily take some time to try to talk things through. Fred's frustration is taken out multiple times on the janitor who enters the room to clean, by screaming at him to get out.Fred is told the Princess is a fake, a fact that is confirmed soon after. She has embezzled 1000 pounds from him and taken off for Burma alone. Warning Emily not to tell him, "I told you so", he advises her not to rub it in.Emily gets a touching farewell letter from Gordon, and the letter blurs out of focus as her eyes fill with tears.The couple are left with barely enough money to pay their hotel bill and to book passage home on a cheap tramp steamer.The ship suffers an at-sea collision while they sleep.In a scene shot entirely within the stateroom, they hear the collision noise, Fred is knocked out, and while Emily tends to Fred, shouts of "Abandon Ship!" are heard, followed by loud thumping noises of people running and scrambling onto lifeboats. When Fred recovers consciousness, they find their stateroom door is jammed tight, they can't leave, and no one pays attention to their knocks and cries for help. The sounds recede, the power goes off, water levels are slowly rising, they hug to comfort each other, and resign themselves to die together, vowing that they both were each others great love in life, after all.At first light, the ship has pitched somewhat so they see they can exit by the porthole, and find the ship derelict and drifting, the other survivors having all been rescued.They're in their night clothes, so they find in another stateroom something to put on, "in case somebody comes". They step over a dead crew member, find a brandy bottle and gulp down a drink. A black cat exits to the outer deck in front of them. Further sinking seems inevitable, so Emily talks about what to do: "Perhaps we should find a raft or something." Soon they sight a Chinese junk approaching.The Chinese crew of the junk boards quickly and begins to search for stuff that can be salvaged, paying scant attention to Fred and Emily, who transfer into the junk.Only a few moments later, the steamer gives a shake and a lurch, a warning that it may sink at any minute. The Chinese crewmen quickly abandon the steamer, transferring to the junk only the black cat and a few items, then slowly retreat from the sinking ship.One sailor, in the mad scramble, gets one foot caught in a rope, and dangles head down, attached to the sinking ship, and drowns while Fred, Emily and his comrades watch in helpless fascination. The large ship goes down.The junk's cook, a very pregnant woman, brings two bowls with food to Fred and Emily, which they first try to eat with chopsticks. They find the dish tasty and wolf it down one handful at a time. After they finish, they notice a black cat's pelt being stretched out to dry. They realize they've inadvertently eaten the cat!Some time later, they hear baby cries and see a group gathered at the kitchen door, so they figure the cook's baby has been born. The man who seems to be the father carries the crying baby in his arms and bathes it by simply pouring a bucket of cold sea water over it. Emily's maternal instincts are aroused and she becomes indignant at the rough treatment. "Leave them alone," advises Fred, "The Chinese breed like devils anyway."After several days aboard the junk, they approach land.They enter their old apartment, together and happy. Steak and kidney pudding and an ordinary life should do just fine from now on. Fred has really changed, since he takes the black cat down from the dinner table affectionately.In the last shot, the pair are seen arguing in a manner reminiscent of the scene prior to the arrival of the uncle's letter, only it is SHE who wants changes, like a bigger house, and HE is satisfied with the status quo.