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Damn the Defiant! (1962)

H.M.S. Defiant (original title)
Approved | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 15 April 1962 (UK)
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.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Maurice Denham ...
Mr. Goss (Ship's Surgeon)
Senior Midshipman Kilpatrick
Richard Carpenter ...
Lieut. Ponsonby
Peter Gill ...
Lieut. D'Arblay
David Robinson ...
Harvey Crawford
Robin Stewart ...
Peter Greenspan ...
Sgt. Kneebone


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 Cleo <frede005@maroon.tc.umn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The cry was MUTINY... and the decks ran red!... See more »


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

15 April 1962 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Damn the Defiant!  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


(Eastman Color)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The ship in Frank Tilsley's novel, on which this movie is based, is called the "Regenerate" rather than the "Defiant." See more »


At one point a sailor is heard singing "Oh Shenandoah." While the origins of this folk song remain unclear, most believe it originated in the early 1800s and thus would not have been known at the time of this movie's 1797 setting. See more »


Lieut. Scott-Padget: What is your name?
Wagstaffe: Wagstaffe. Percival Pallister Wagstaffe.
Lieut. Scott-Padget: Wagstaffe? Are you by any chance related to Admiral Wagstaffe?
Wagstaffe: Remotely, yes. He's a distant cousin.
Lieut. Scott-Padget: But he would speak for you?
Wagstaffe: Well, I'm quite sure that he...
Lieut. Scott-Padget: Admiral Wagstaffe - how well do you know him?
Wagstaffe: Intimately.
Lieut. Scott-Padget: You visit his house?
Wagstaffe: Oh, yes, often.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: SPITHEAD, ENGLAND 1797 See more »


Referenced in Carry on Forever: Episode #1.1 (2015) See more »

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User Reviews

Spithead Mutiny Avast.
30 June 2009 | by See all my reviews

It is the Napoleonic Wars, and Captain Crawford takes command of the HMS Defiant and sets off with his orders to Corsica. His second in command is Lt. Scott-Paget, a vindictive and bullying man who has moved thru the ranks on account of his connections. The two men don't see eye to eye from the off, which only compounds the many problems that are reaching boiling point aboard the ship. Mutiny is afoot and the French forces are closing in.

Lewis Gilbert may just be one of Britain's most undervalued versatile directors. Here's a man that has directed Educating Rita/The Admirable Crichton {comedy}, The Good Die Young {crime}, Cast a Dark Shadow {Noir}, Reach for the Sky {biography}, Alfie/Shirley Valentine {romance}, James Bond x 3 {multi genre} and sea faring adventures such as Sink the Bismarck! and this fine Napoleonic historical piece, H.M.S. Defiant.

Adapted from Frank Tilsley's novel Mutiny, this is a film built around a true story about what became known as the "Spithead" and "Nore" mutinies in 1797. Where sailors and press ganged inlander's were fed up with working conditions, rates of pay and the all round treatment from the officers in charge. Also into the mix is a fascinating battle of wills between the two leaders of the Defiant, both men, in the midst of their power struggle, are oblivious to the rumblings and plotting of the crew. I mean you would think that with the French warships possibly around the corner, that they would be unified in creating a rock solid front? That they don't gives the film an extra dimension. Thus when the battle sequences do come, and the turn of events perk the piece up, it has a two fold impact that makes all the waters lead to a terrific foggy bound climax.

The cast are notable names from a roll call of British performers. Alec Guinness as Captain Crawford plays it spot on. An honourable man adhering to his code of ethics, it's thru a plot strand involving his own son being on board that Crawford gets torturous and conflicted by his emotions. Who better than Guinness to layer such a role? Dirk Bogarde steps up to play weasel duties as Lieut. Scott-Padget, suitably handsome in uniform but playing the devils tricks, it begs the question on why Bogarde didn't in fact play more villains because here he is excellent at it. Leading the mutiny is the looming presence of Anthony Quayle, who along with Nigel Stock, leaves a favourable mark in the support cast.

Comparisons with other notable genre entries are inevitable, the likes of Mutiny On the Bounty, Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. and the more modern offering that is Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. If you like any of those films then the chances are you are bound to get much from this British film. It lacks quality location work, and the sound mix needs some modern tweaking {at the time of writing there is a DVD release but I've not witnessed the transfer yet}. But this is a fine genre entry as it stirs the blood, tells a great multi stranded story and is acted quite superbly by the cast. 8/10

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