The story begins with a hangman breaking down when faced with carrying out the execution of a condemned man. The hangman begins to tell his story to the governor and the majority of the plot is then played out in the form of an extended flashback - although many scenes take place in which the supposed narrator is not actually present.
Eddie (Portman) owns a London barber's shop and leads an apparently humdrum life. However, under an assumed name he has a second identity, known to no-one but his assistant Ron (Bill Owen) – he is in fact one of England's public hangmen, called on periodically to travel to prisons around the country to perform executions.
One evening Eddie goes into his local public house for a drink and a bite to eat and is kind to a stranger who comes in to shelter from the heavy rain. This is the bedraggled Frankie (Todd), an aimless, world-beaten drifter. (As Frankie never says a word about her past, there are implications that she has some kind of shady history, and may even have been a prostitute; it is surmised that some of the deleted footage may have made this more explicit.) The pair fall in love and are soon married and, as Eddie's father has recently died, leaving him the family barge business on the River Thames, he hands over the barber's shop to Ron and assumes control of the business, setting up home with Frankie on one of the barges.
Eddie hires a Scandinavian seaman Olaf (Reed) to work for him, and the arrogant Olaf loses no time in openly flirting with Frankie. Although somewhat attracted to him, she tries her best to deny these feelings and be the loving and dutiful wife. This however is made more difficult by the fact that Eddie is forced to travel to other towns from time to time for two or three days at a time to fulfill his prison-service obligations and as he does not wish to come clean about these he tells Frankie that he must attend important business meetings, leaving her to increasingly struggle to rebuff Olaf's advances.
When Eddie is next called away, Frankie begs him to either not go or take her with him, but as neither is an option for Eddie, she is left alone and pleads with elderly bargeman Bill Shackle (Edward Rigby) to stay with her that evening. Shackle is unable to grant her request due to other commitments and Olaf is quick to make himself at home in the cabin and begin drinking.
When a condemned man is given a reprieve Eddie returns unexectedly the same evening and discovers Frankie and Olaf in this compromising situation. A fight ensues between the two men, during which Eddie is knocked overboard and fails to resurface. The police arrive and Olaf is arrested for murder as it is presumed that Eddie's body has been carried away by the tide. In despair, Frankie commits suicide by shooting herself. However, Eddie has managed to swim ashore and takes refuge with Ron.
Olaf is convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. Eddie is summoned to carry out the execution, and he at first sees it as an opportunity to avenge Frankie's death. When the time comes however, he is unable to go through with it and confesses his identity to the prison staff. He returns to the barber's shop and when Ron comes to work the next morning he finds Eddie's dangling body and dials nine-nine-nine.Eric Portman as Eddie
Ann Todd as Frankie
Maxwell Reed as Olaf
Bill Owen as Ron
Edward Rigby as Bill Shackle
Jane Hylton as Doris
Eliot Makeham as Mr. Bigley
Margaret Withers as Mrs. Bigley
John Turnbull as Superintendent
Maurice Denham as Inspector
Milton Rosmer as Governor
Ann Todd, Sydney Box and Compton Bennett had just enjoyed a huge success with The Seventh Veil (1945). It was the first film of a new 14-picture quarter-million pound contract between Todd and J. Arthur Rank.
Filming started in February 1946. It was the first notable role of Maxwell Reed who had been in The Company of Youth.
Shooting was difficult with none of the three leads getting along.
Post production was also difficult because of censor objections. Among the scenes altered were a rape scene, gory details of a fight, and a death cell scene.
The film was moderately successful at the British box office but failed to recoup its relatively high cost.
The difficulties with the censor led J. Arthur Rank to refuse to finance a project of Box's, The Killer and the Slain.