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Billy Budd (1962)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Drama, History  |  12 November 1962 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 2,822 users  
Reviews: 48 user | 17 critic

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.



(based upon the play: "Billy Budd"), (based upon the play: "Billy Budd"), 4 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Claggart - Master of Arms
Edwin Fairfax Vere - Post Captain Royal Navy
The Dansker - Sailmaker
Paul Rogers ...
Philip Seymour - First Lieutenant
Julian Radcliffe - Second Lieutenant
Steven Wyatt - Gunnery Officer
Ronald Lewis ...
Enoch Jenkins - Maintopman
Lee Montague ...
Squeak - Assistant to Mr. Claggart
Thomas Heathcote ...
Alan Payne - Maintopman
William O'Daniel - Maintopman (as Ray McAnnally)
Arnold Talbot - Maintopman
Neil Kincaid - Maintopman
Alfred Hallam - Captain of Marines
Niall MacGinnis ...
Nathaniel Graveling - Ship's Master, Rights of Man (as Niall McGinnis)
Victor Brooks ...
Amos Leonard - First Mate, Rights of Man


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


MUTINY...the word the navy dreaded most! See more »


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

12 November 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Verdammten der Meere  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Herman Melville had been writing poetry for 30 years when he returned to fiction with "Billy Budd" in late 1888. Still unfinished when he died in 1891, it was forgotten. Melville's biographer accidentally stumbled upon it when going through a trunk of the writer's papers in his granddaughter's New Jersey home in 1919. Melville's widow worked to help complete it, and it was finally published in 1924. Over the years other unsatisfactory versions were published, but it wasn't until Melville's original notes were found that the definitive version was ultimately published in 1962. Ironically Peter Ustinov's film version was released the same year. See more »


[Billy and the Dansker have just witnessed a flogging]
Billy Budd: What was his crime?
The Dansker, sailmaker: Any one of many possible reasons.
Billy Budd: You mean you don't know what he did?
The Dansker, sailmaker: Flogging. The only solution to every problem. I warrant even the culprit himself doesn't know! It was just... his... turn!
See more »

Crazy Credits

As the actors' names appear on the screen, the character each plays introduces himself See more »


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

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User Reviews

Wonderful story of the sea, and a great companion to Melville's original
3 September 2001 | by (China) – See all my reviews

If you've read the Melville story, this film will be a delightful surprise, especially in contrast to what usually happens to film adaptations of literature. For those of you who've never heard of Herman Melville, it's no matter. This film can stand on its own without reference or support from its original source.

A cheerful, innocent young man with wide eyes and blonde hair is conscripted from his commercial schooner to serve aboard an English Royal Merchant ship, which is akin to being Shang-Hai'd, but without the knock to the head. Everyone on both his old and new ship loves Billy Budd, an affable, competent young seaman who can fathom no sinister purpose in man nor beast, until he meets the master-at-arms of his new vessel.

I don't want to give away any more of the story, so give this lovely film a try if the premise interests you.

30 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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