Mark Conrad, a debonair Anglo-Austrian former playboy and junk owner, now an alcoholic down-and-out, is expelled from Hong Kong. He is placed on an ancient ferry boat, the Fa Tsan (known to its crew as the Fat Annie), despite the protests of the pompous owner, Captain Cecil Hart.
He travels to Macau, but is refused entry for the same reason he was expelled from Hong Kong. He engages the captain in a card game and wins the right to 'live' on board. His charming manner endears him to the crew and to an attractive teacher Liz Ferrers, a regular passenger.
The ferry is nearly wrecked in a typhoon, but Conrad wrests command from the cowardly and drunken captain and saves the ship. Drifting out of control near the Chinese coast, they are boarded by pirates, led by Chinese-American Johnny Sing-up. Sing-up reveals that Hart is a former conman who won the ship in a crooked card-game.
Conrad becomes a hero when he saves the ship, and is allowed to stay in Hong Kong. He is tempted to continue his budding relationship with Liz, but decides to resist it until he has 'beaten the dragon'.
- Curd Jürgens as Mark Bertram Conrad
- Orson Welles as Captain Cecil Hart
- Sylvia Syms as Miss Liz Ferrers
- Jeremy Spenser as Miguel Henriques, 1st Officer
- Noel Purcell as Joe Skinner, ship's engineer
- Margaret Withers as Miss Carter
- John Wallace as Hong Kong Police Inspector
- Roy Chiao as Johnny Sing-up
- Shelley Shen as Foo Soo
- Louis Seto as Tommy Cheng
- Milton Reid as Yen, Sing-Up's Partner