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Billy Budd (1962)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, War | 12 November 1962 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Peter Ustinov

Writers:

Louis O. Coxe (based upon the play: "Billy Budd"), Robert H. Chapman (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:
Robert Ryan ... John Claggart - Master of Arms
Peter Ustinov ... Edwin Fairfax Vere - Post Captain Royal Navy
Melvyn Douglas ... The Dansker - Sailmaker
Paul Rogers ... Philip Seymour - First Lieutenant
John Neville ... Julian Radcliffe - Second Lieutenant
David McCallum ... Steven Wyatt - Gunnery Officer
Ronald Lewis ... Enoch Jenkins - Maintopman
Lee Montague Lee Montague ... Squeak - Assistant to Mr. Claggart
Thomas Heathcote Thomas Heathcote ... Alan Payne - Maintopman
Ray McAnally ... William O'Daniel - Maintopman (as Ray McAnnally)
Robert Brown ... Arnold Talbot - Maintopman
John Meillon ... Neil Kincaid - Maintopman
Cyril Luckham ... Alfred Hallam - Captain of Marines
Niall MacGinnis ... Nathaniel Graveling - Ship's Master, Rights of Man (as Niall McGinnis)
Victor Brooks 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:

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

Genres:

Adventure | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 November 1962 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Verdammten der Meere See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Features Terence Stamp's only Oscar nominated performance. See more »

Goofs

Captain Vere uses a book to shield his eyes when he stares up at Billy on the mast, but his face is still in full sunlight. See more »

Quotes

Captain Vere: You know Seymour, there are some men who cannot stand too much perfection. They see it as a disease, which must be stamped out at it's first rash showing.
See more »

Crazy Credits

and introducing / Terrence Stamp See more »

Connections

Version of Encounter: Billy Budd (1955) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Admirable stab at Melville fable (warning: reveals plot points)
8 October 1999 | by Lexo-2See all my reviews

Peter Ustinov is generally a lot better at being a raconteur, chat-show guest and portly, engaging presenter of documentaries than film director, but this adaptation of Melville's short novel (note that the screenplay is based on a previous stage version) is surprisingly gripping. Terence Stamp, in his first movie role, is excellent as the benign life-force, Billy. Pressganged into service aboard a Royal Navy Man'o'War (clunky symbolism - the ship Billy leaves is called the "Rights of Man"), he soon wins over the crew with his guileless respect for justice and fair play. Robert Ryan is superb as Claggart, although perhaps this actor's tremendous capacity for sheer charmless evil overbalances the plot. When Claggart is struck down by the momentarily enraged Billy, he dies with a smile on his face, a detail which isn't in the book. It makes Claggart into a malevolent genius, when Melville wrote him as a preternaturally bitter and empty man. But that's showbiz for you.

There's a lovely scene between Stamp and Ryan, presumably missed by those who refuse to recognise the latter's genius, in which Billy almost manages to win Claggart over; you can see Ryan's eyes getting almost misty (he was a great eye actor) as he contemplates the spectacle of his own bleakness compared to Billy's warmth. But then, as he suddenly growls "You would charm me, too. Get away!" it's as if he suspected Billy if coming onto him. Remarkable touch.

John Neville and David McCallum are fine as the officers with tortured consciences; Ustinov has to carry off the difficult moral turnaround, kind of the opposite of what Fonda spends a whole film doing in "Twelve Angry Men", and has seldom acted so well. Perhaps in the book he's a less significant character, but for dramatic purposes the role obviously needed expanding, and it's done with taste and restraint. Supporting roles are all finely rendered, with Melvyn Douglas especially red-eyed and gravelly as the religious Dansker. Good stuff. And unusually for an adaptation, a sizable chunk of the dialogue is authentic Melville.


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