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Billy Budd (1962)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, War | 12 November 1962 (USA)
Billy is an innocent, naive seaman in the British Navy in 1797. When the ship's sadistic master-at-arms is murdered, Billy is accused and tried.

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(based upon the play: "Billy Budd"), (based upon the play: "Billy Budd") | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Julian Radcliffe - Second Lieutenant
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Steven Wyatt - Gunnery Officer
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Lee Montague ...
Squeak - Assistant to Mr. Claggart
Thomas Heathcote ...
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William O'Daniel - Maintopman (as Ray McAnnally)
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Arnold Talbot - Maintopman
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Neil Kincaid - Maintopman
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Alfred Hallam - Captain of Marines
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Victor Brooks ...
Amos Leonard - First Mate, Rights of Man
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Storyline

H.M.S. Avenger is headed into battle against the French fleet during the Napoleonic Wars, and the dark shadow of two recent mutinies in the English fleet concern Captain Vere. He relies on his cruel and often sadistic Master-at-Arms John Claggert to maintain what he believes to be tenuous order and discipline aboard the ship. When a new seaman, Billy Budd, is pressed into service from a passing merchantman, his innocent, happy-go-lucky attitude quickly endears him to both his messmates as well as the ship's officers. However, his charismatic naivete seems to bother Claggert, whose perverse depravity makes him resent Billy's good-natured purity, especially after the teenager's promotion to fore-top captain. The mean-spirited Claggert unfairly plots to put him on report and ultimately perjures himself when he accuses Billy of conspiring to mutiny. Written by Gabe Taverney (duke1029@aol.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Men!.. The Mutiny!...The Might!... Of Herman Melville's Classic Adventure of the High Seas! See more »

Genres:

Adventure | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

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Release Date:

12 November 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Verdammten der Meere  »

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When the film opened in Britain in November, 1962, there was no mention of DeWitt Bodeen in the screenplay credits or the film's advertising; the screenplay was credited to Peter Ustinov and Robert Rossen. However, whenever the film has been shown on British television (it has been televised on only a handful of occasions in the UK), the credits have instead named Bodeen as Ustinov's only collaborator and made no mention of Rossen. See more »

Goofs

After the trial, the captain speaks with Budd below decks. In some shots Billy's head cast a long shadow on his left shoulder. In others, a short one. Then his head's shadow is on his right shoulder. See more »

Quotes

Captain Vere: Master-at-Arms, you possess too much knowledge for such a lowly post.
Master At Arms Claggert: Why, thank you, Sir.
Captain Vere: [impatiently] It's no flattery, Mr. Claggert. It's a melancholy fact!
See more »

Crazy Credits

and introducing / Terrence Stamp See more »

Connections

Featured in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A forgotten masterpiece
29 August 1999 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Billy Budd, a merchant sailor dragooned into service aboard a British warship, loves everyone around him and is loved by everyone around him. Everyone, that is, except the ship's master-at-arms, John Claggart, who sees human affection as a threat to him and his ability to do his duty as a maker of war. Billy seems to have only one flaw; he cannot speak coherently when in the grip of strong emotion, and Claggart mercilessly exploits this weakness with tragic results.

I've not read Melville's original story "Billy Budd, Foretopman" and cannot say how it compares with the great novelist's work. But this movie stands in its own right as one of the hardest-hitting dramas of its time. The conflict between law and justice, created and demanded by the circumstances of naval service in the age of sail, was never so well explored. Instead of taking the easy path of caricaturing all the ship's officers as brutal tyrants, director Peter Ustinov portrays them as men trapped into acting against their own desires. This helps lift BILLY BUDD head and shoulders above such solid but pedestrian shipboard historical dramas as DAMN THE DEFIANT! Lastly, BILLY BUDD shows that forgiveness can sometimes be harder to bear than scorn or hatred.

Outstanding performances are the order of the day. Terence Stamp's acting as Billy Budd seems natural, unforced, and human despite the nearly incredible innocence and naivete of his character. Robert Ryan is coldly malicious and calculating as the master-at-arms. Ustinov gives another great performance in a career of great performances as the conscience-tortured Captain Vere, sparking great chemistry with his fellow officers played by David McCallum and John Neville.

Many a movie since my childhood has brought a tear to my eye, but I have not *sobbed* at a movie in the past fifteen years, except once: at the end of BILLY BUDD. It is moving, passionate and poignant. Don't miss it.

Rating: **** out of ****.


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