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
Alec Guinness made this movie during the two month break in the shooting of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), when the production moved from Jordan to Spain. Upon finishing this film, Guinness resumed his role of Prince Faisal. See more »
In the last scene, Alec Guinness orders all larboard (left side) guns to bear on the fire ship. In the next shot, the starboard (right side) cannon fire. Ironically, the term "larboard" was changed by the navy into the current term "port" precisely because it was too easy to mistake it for starboard. 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 »
British production with two exceptional actors , Guinness and Bogarde , both of whom pitting a strong battle of wits
This sea saga is set during the Napoleonic Wars , Captain Crawford (Alec Guinness) takes command of the HMS Defiant and is ordered to rendezvous with the British fleet in island of Corsica . With his son aboard as a new midshipman , Captain Crawford takes an even friendship with his crew . Defiant's crew is part of a fleet-wide movement to present a petition of grievances to the Admiralty . The continual sadism of Defiant's first officer pits a battle of wits against the captain in this stalwart story set in Napoleonic period . As it pits the first commanding and a hated second-in-command officer and when the captain is wounded , the chance for violence enhances . Scott-Paget (Dick Bogarde) uses Crawford's son (David Robinson as Midshipman Harvey) in an attempt to get the Captain to lash out against him . Meanwhile, some of the crew (Tom Bell) , led by seaman Vizard (Anthony Quayle), are organising to strike for better conditions , in conjunction with similar efforts throughout the British fleet . The men on the verge of mutiny and tension increases when they must also take on the French ships . They eventually pledge virtually the entire crew , then there ensues the mutiny .
Dramatic film with impressive battle of wills between humane Captain Crawford in command of the warship HMS Defiant perfectly performed by Alec Guinness against his first officer, the sadistic and supercilious first lieutenant , splendidly interpreted by Dick Bogarde . Authenticity is the hallmark of this breathtaking adventure along with awesome acting , spectacular warships and overwhelming sea battles . Production design , gowns and ambient show great attention to period detail . The support cast performances by all concerned are superb as Maurice Denham as Mr. Goss , Nigel Stock as Senior Midshipman Kilpatrick , Richard Carpenter as Lieutenant Ponsonby ,Peter Gill as Lieutenant D'Arblay ,David Robinson as Midshipman Harvey Crawford , Robin Stewart as Midshipman Pardoe , Ray Brooks as Hayes , and specially Anthony Quayle as Vizard . Very good cinematography in Cinemascope by Christopher Challis and evocative score by Clifton Parker . The motion picture was well directed by Lewis Gilbert .
The flick was inspired on actual events as ¨The mutiny at Spithead¨ in 1797. Sailors on 16 ships in the Channel Fleet, commanded by Admiral Lord Bridport, protested against the living conditions aboard Royal Navy vessels and demanded a pay raise. Seamen's pay rates had been established in 1658, and because of the stability of wages and prices, they were still reasonable as recently as the 17561763 Seven Years' War . The Royal Navy had not made adjustments for any of these changes, and was slow to understand their effects on its crews. Finally, the new wartime quota system meant that crews had many landsmen from inshore, who did not mix well with the career seamen , leading to discontented ships' companies. The mutineers were led by elected delegates and tried to negotiate with the Admiralty for two weeks, focusing their demands on better pay , and the removal of a handful of unpopular officers; neither flogging nor impressment was mentioned in the mutineers' demands. The mutineers maintained regular naval routine and discipline aboard their ships , allowed some ships to leave for convoy escort duty or patrols, and promised to suspend the mutiny and go to sea immediately if French ships were spotted heading for English shores.Because of mistrust, especially over pardons for the mutineers, the negotiations broke down, and minor incidents broke out, with several unpopular officers sent to shore and others treated with signs of deliberate disrespect. When the situation calmed, Admiral Lord Howe intervened to negotiate an agreement that saw a Royal pardon for all crews, reassignment of some of the unpopular officers and a pay raise . Afterward, the mutiny was to become nicknamed "breeze at Spithead".
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