On the H.M.S. Defiant, during the French Revolutionary Wars, fair Captain Crawford is locked in a battle of wills against his cruel second-in-command Lt. Scott-Paget whose heavy-handed command style pushes the crew to mutiny.
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Defiant's crew is part of a fleet-wide movement to present a petition of grievances to the Admiralty. Violence must be no part of it. The continual sadism of Defiant's first officer makes this difficult, and when the captain is disabled, the chance for violence increases. Written by
The tune to which the sailors dance the hornpipe is Cock O' the North, by an unknown composer. There is no printed record of it prior to 1816, but it is quite possible that it was known as a folk tune during or prior to 1797. See more »
As the second sailor is buried at sea you can see a rope tied to the body leading back along the ship. Obviously so they can haul the dummy back on board after the scene ends. See more »
[Scott-Padget turns back to the Captain as he begins to exit]
You may have the power of life and death over every man about this ship, sir, but I warn you: if we come through this voyage safely...
[Crawford looks up from his work]
To have followed Admiralty instructions may not be quite be enough.
[Crawford smacks his desk, jumps up and approaches Scott-Padget]
I will say this to you only once, sir: I will not be bullied or threatened and I intend to be obeyed! Your friends in London mean...
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Opening credits prologue: SPITHEAD, ENGLAND 1797 See more »
I am quite surprised that this film only has a rather ordinary score of 7.1 at this time, as it's one of the best naval films I have seen--and perhaps the best one about this period in history. Exceptionally good acting and writing make this a definite must-see.
The story itself is based very, very loosely upon various mutinies and strikes that occurred in 1797 aboard British war ships. In the film, crew members were pushed to do this desperate act due to their sadistic treatment at the hands of some of the officers (in particular, Dirk Bogarde's character). However, in reality, the strikes and mutinies occurred for far less noble reasons--such as for higher pay or to spread the spirit of the French Revolution to the British navy. Still, despite this discrepancy, the film is top entertainment.
The film begins with the Captain (Alec Guinness) preparing to return to sea with his very young son on board his first assignment. While Guinness seems like a decent sort of man, you immediately are taken aback by the violent press gangs that secure replacement crew members by kidnapping hapless Brits. In addition, once the cruise begins, you can't help but hate Bogarde as the second in command. While he is competent, he's also a sadist and power-hungry. Again and again, he ignores the Captain's orders and abuses the crew--pushing the men to the breaking point. While the Captain is no wimp, Bogarde finds ways to assert himself without doing enough to merit his arrest--at least until late in the film.
The acting by Guinness and Bogarde is awfully good and makes the film. Bogarde does a great job of playing an evil bully, though the most kudos should go to Guinness, as his character has a lot of depth--making this one of his better film roles. However, this is no surprise as he was a wonderful actor and had an astounding skill at immersing himself into a very wide range of characters--and doing it in a very believable and understated way. Interestingly enough, this film was very quickly made (so that Guinness could get back to filming LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) but you sure can't tell that from his performance. In addition, the supporting actors really did an excellent job and I have no real complaints about anything in the film--a rarity for a picky guy like me.
Exceptional throughout and quite gripping--this film is tough not to like and will keep you on the edge of your seats.
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