The movie was adapted by Michael V. Gazzo, Alfred Hayes and Carl Foreman from the play by Gazzo. It was directed by Fred Zinnemann and features a strong musical score by Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann was asked by Fox to rescore his prelude for the film as the original was considered "too terrifying".
The movie was a rarity for its time in its frank depiction of the impact of drug addiction. The setting is a housing project apartment. Johnny Pope is a soldier who returns from the Korean war, where a stay in a military hospital has left him secretly addicted to morphine. His emotional distance (and his tendency to stay out all night) alienate him from the apartment's other residents: Johnny's pregnant wife Celia, and his brother Polo. Celia is convinced that Johnny is having an affair, but of course the truth is far worse. Johnny and Polo's father John Sr. arrives in town and stays with them in the small apartment, further complicating a tense situation and leading to a dynamic and dramatic climax.
This was William Hickey's film debut.
Carl Foreman was blacklisted at the time of the film's release. The Writer's Guild of America added his name to the film's credits in 1998-- 14 years after his death.