Set during the Malayan Emergency in the early '50s, the film is about three friends who fought the Japanese in Malaysia during World War II but end up on opposing sides in the Communist insurgency following the war. Ferris (Holden) becomes a prosperous rubber plantation owner with his mistress Dhana (Capucine), while the third, former guerrilla Ng (Tamba), goes to Moscow to obtain an education, and returns an even more committed revolutionary than during the war.
Ferris's friendship with Ng makes him and his holdings immune from attack, and he tries to steer clear of the conflict, but he is inexorably drawn in when Dhana is arrested and sentenced to death for carrying explosives for the insurgents. As an additional complication, Candace Trumpey (York), the daughter of the British Resident whom Ferris had met at the end of the war, offers herself as a hostage and falls into Ng's hands; he threatens to kill her if the sentence on Dhana is carried out. Ferris offers to give Ng a safe passage out in exchange for Dhana's life, but he is given only seven days to do so.
This film features examples of:
- Adaptational Nice Guy: At the start of the film, Ferris is shown witnessing the execution of Japanese prisoners of war. While not exactly a "nice guy" thing to do, this is still softer than in the source novel, where he is described as actively participating in the rape and execution of female Chinese traitors in camps.
- Brownface: Capucine is wearing some sort of brown tan to play the half-white, half-Asian Dhana (as opposed to Yellowface).
- Frame-Up: Dhana is set up by the Communists, who place hand grenades in the hollowed-out durian fruit she was carried.
- Hollywood Costuming: All the fashions and hairstyles are from The '60s, when the film was made, rather than The '40s and The '50s, when the movie is set.
- Title Drop: Ferris is given seven days to save Dhana and help Ng, so he of course is told that he has up until "the seventh dawn" to do so.