Damn the Defiant!


1h 41m 1962
Damn the Defiant!

Brief Synopsis

The crew of a British sailing ship threatens mutiny during the Napoleonic wars.

Film Details

Also Known As
Battle Aboard the Defiant, H. M. S. Defiant, The Mutineers
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Historical
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New London, Connecticut, opening: 28 Aug 1962
Production Company
G. W. Films
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Mutiny by Frank Tilsey (London, 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

During the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Crawford of H. M. S. Defiant is warned that his second in command, Lieutenant Scott-Padget, is a brutal sadist who has connections with the Admiralty. What the captain does not know is that a fleet-wide mutiny is underway and that his crew is planning to take over the Defiant before it reaches Corsica. The conflict of wills between Crawford and Scott-Padget is intensified when the latter heaps unjust punishment upon the captain's son, who is a midshipman aboard the vessel. En route to Corsica, the Defiant encounters and captures a French frigate, but not before Captain Crawford has lost an arm in the battle. An officer from the enemy ship reveals that the French are planning to invade England while the British fleet is immobilized by the mutiny. The crew takes over the Defiant , but Captain Crawford persuades Vizard, the head mutineer, to take the ship back to England and give warning of the invasion plan. Word then arrives that the mutiny has taken place and that the king has agreed to meet the demands of the men. The restored harmony is disturbed, however, when a crewman fatally knifes Scott-Padget. As Vizard heads the ship for open sea, they meet a French fireship. Rallying the men, Vizard redeems himself in action; and the crew responds to the challenge.

Film Details

Also Known As
Battle Aboard the Defiant, H. M. S. Defiant, The Mutineers
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Historical
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New London, Connecticut, opening: 28 Aug 1962
Production Company
G. W. Films
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Mutiny by Frank Tilsey (London, 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Damn the Defiant!


In his study of the British film industry, A Mirror for England (Faber and Faber, 1971), Raymond Durgnat notes that the true story of the 1789 mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty was never filmed in England but was filmed twice in America, in 1935 and 1962. (It was remade again, after Durgnat's book was published, as The Bounty, [1984], by an Australian director (Roger Donaldson) and star (Mel Gibson) for Italian producer (Dino De Laurentiis), albeit with a script by British scenarist Robert Bolt.) The reason, Durgnat presumed, was that it concerned a successful mutiny. This was a situation the British, whose Royal Navy was famously beset by uprisings within the ranks, would prefer to ignore or downplay in history or in the cinema. He does observe, however, that Damn the Defiant! (1962) and another in production around the same time, Peter Ustinov's Billy Budd (1962), were in many ways conciliatory at least towards the idea of mutiny.

Ultimately, however, the insurrection presented in Damn the Defiant! (originally released in England as H.M.S. Defiant) is depicted less as a just fight against systemic corruption than as a reaction to an evil, aberrant officer in stark opposition to a benevolent commander with his crew's best interests at heart. The brutal treatment inflicted on the crew by sadistic Lt. Scott-Padget goes unnoticed by Capt. Crawford until the captain's own midshipman son is viciously punished by the second in command. The resolution comes not from Crawford's intervention or the official administration of justice on behalf of the men below deck but through the actions of a "bad" mutineer, and at the end, the singular threat to their well-being removed, the men patriotically unite in the service of defeating the French Navy. "It no more challenges constituted authority than those public school stories about a good house-master and brutal prefects," Durgnat notes.

Nevertheless, the audience was treated to the kind of rousing drama one expects from tales of the tall ships, "the kind of graphic splendor that should set a million boyish hearts aflame," as Bosley Crowther put it in his New York Times review. And the perennial struggle of good against evil is brought richly to life by a first-rate cast. Alec Guinness, as Crawford, was by this point three years into the honorary knighthood bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to British arts and acting, among them an Oscar® and a BAFTA Award as Best Actor in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and memorable work in a succession of acclaimed Ealing Studios comedies. His co-star, Dirk Bogarde, had recently broken through to stardom with critically praised performances as the lead in A Tale of Two Cities (1958) and as a gay man taking on blackmailers in the groundbreaking drama, Victim (1961). The menace he projects here as Scott-Padget would serve him well a short time later as a conniving valet who takes over his employer's life in The Servant (1963). Also noteworthy, as the leader of the mutiny, is Anthony Quayle, an award-winning stage star renowned for his Shakespearean performances.

The story, while not based on a specific true incident, takes place during the time of the real-life mutinies at Spithead and Nore, uprisings that were a threat to the national security of Great Britain, then at war with the Revolutionary government of France. Those incidents, which involved a great many ships, were not based solely on individual acts of brutality but on a number of unfair and harmful practices and policies of the Royal Navy. Not all of the mutineers' demands were met, but fearing the unrest could lead to a widespread rebellion similar to the French Revolution, a negotiation was reached for better pay, the removal of unpopular officers, and pardons for mutineers; in the more contentious Nore incident, some leaders of the mutiny were hanged, flogged, or sent to Australia.

Damn the Defiant! was directed by Lewis Gilbert, no stranger to seafaring tales. He had directed films about the rescue of a bomber crew shot down over the ocean in The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954) and the hunt for a notorious German warship, Sink the Bismarck! (1960). He also directed one of many adaptations of J.M. Barrie's comedy of class conflict following a shipwreck, The Admirable Crichton (1957) and he went on to helm a handful of James Bond adventures (You Only Live Twice [1967], The Spy Who Loved Me [1977], Moonraker [1979]) the iconic Michael Caine movie Alfie (1966), and the comedies Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989).

Director: Lewis Gilbert
Producer: John Brabourne
Screenplay: Nigel Kneale, Edmund H. North, based on the novel Mutiny by Frank Tilsley
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Art Direction: Arthur Lawson
Original Music: Clifton Parker
Cast: Alec Guinness (Capt. Crawford), Dirk Bogarde (Lt. Scott-Padget), Anthony Quayle (Vizard), Maurice Denham (Mr. Goss), Nigel Stock (Kilpatrick), Peter Gill (Lt. D'Arblay).
C-101m. Letterboxed.

by Rob Nixon
Damn The Defiant!

Damn the Defiant!

In his study of the British film industry, A Mirror for England (Faber and Faber, 1971), Raymond Durgnat notes that the true story of the 1789 mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty was never filmed in England but was filmed twice in America, in 1935 and 1962. (It was remade again, after Durgnat's book was published, as The Bounty, [1984], by an Australian director (Roger Donaldson) and star (Mel Gibson) for Italian producer (Dino De Laurentiis), albeit with a script by British scenarist Robert Bolt.) The reason, Durgnat presumed, was that it concerned a successful mutiny. This was a situation the British, whose Royal Navy was famously beset by uprisings within the ranks, would prefer to ignore or downplay in history or in the cinema. He does observe, however, that Damn the Defiant! (1962) and another in production around the same time, Peter Ustinov's Billy Budd (1962), were in many ways conciliatory at least towards the idea of mutiny. Ultimately, however, the insurrection presented in Damn the Defiant! (originally released in England as H.M.S. Defiant) is depicted less as a just fight against systemic corruption than as a reaction to an evil, aberrant officer in stark opposition to a benevolent commander with his crew's best interests at heart. The brutal treatment inflicted on the crew by sadistic Lt. Scott-Padget goes unnoticed by Capt. Crawford until the captain's own midshipman son is viciously punished by the second in command. The resolution comes not from Crawford's intervention or the official administration of justice on behalf of the men below deck but through the actions of a "bad" mutineer, and at the end, the singular threat to their well-being removed, the men patriotically unite in the service of defeating the French Navy. "It no more challenges constituted authority than those public school stories about a good house-master and brutal prefects," Durgnat notes. Nevertheless, the audience was treated to the kind of rousing drama one expects from tales of the tall ships, "the kind of graphic splendor that should set a million boyish hearts aflame," as Bosley Crowther put it in his New York Times review. And the perennial struggle of good against evil is brought richly to life by a first-rate cast. Alec Guinness, as Crawford, was by this point three years into the honorary knighthood bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to British arts and acting, among them an Oscar® and a BAFTA Award as Best Actor in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and memorable work in a succession of acclaimed Ealing Studios comedies. His co-star, Dirk Bogarde, had recently broken through to stardom with critically praised performances as the lead in A Tale of Two Cities (1958) and as a gay man taking on blackmailers in the groundbreaking drama, Victim (1961). The menace he projects here as Scott-Padget would serve him well a short time later as a conniving valet who takes over his employer's life in The Servant (1963). Also noteworthy, as the leader of the mutiny, is Anthony Quayle, an award-winning stage star renowned for his Shakespearean performances. The story, while not based on a specific true incident, takes place during the time of the real-life mutinies at Spithead and Nore, uprisings that were a threat to the national security of Great Britain, then at war with the Revolutionary government of France. Those incidents, which involved a great many ships, were not based solely on individual acts of brutality but on a number of unfair and harmful practices and policies of the Royal Navy. Not all of the mutineers' demands were met, but fearing the unrest could lead to a widespread rebellion similar to the French Revolution, a negotiation was reached for better pay, the removal of unpopular officers, and pardons for mutineers; in the more contentious Nore incident, some leaders of the mutiny were hanged, flogged, or sent to Australia. Damn the Defiant! was directed by Lewis Gilbert, no stranger to seafaring tales. He had directed films about the rescue of a bomber crew shot down over the ocean in The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954) and the hunt for a notorious German warship, Sink the Bismarck! (1960). He also directed one of many adaptations of J.M. Barrie's comedy of class conflict following a shipwreck, The Admirable Crichton (1957) and he went on to helm a handful of James Bond adventures (You Only Live Twice [1967], The Spy Who Loved Me [1977], Moonraker [1979]) the iconic Michael Caine movie Alfie (1966), and the comedies Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989). Director: Lewis Gilbert Producer: John Brabourne Screenplay: Nigel Kneale, Edmund H. North, based on the novel Mutiny by Frank Tilsley Cinematography: Christopher Challis Art Direction: Arthur Lawson Original Music: Clifton Parker Cast: Alec Guinness (Capt. Crawford), Dirk Bogarde (Lt. Scott-Padget), Anthony Quayle (Vizard), Maurice Denham (Mr. Goss), Nigel Stock (Kilpatrick), Peter Gill (Lt. D'Arblay). C-101m. Letterboxed. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed off the Spanish coast near Denia. Opened in London in February 1962 as H. M. S. Defiant. Working title: The Mutineers; prerelease title: Battle Aboard the Defiant.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1962

Released in United States August 2001

Re-released in United States on Video January 30, 1991

Released in United States 1962

Re-released in United States on Video January 30, 1991

Released in United States August 2001 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reed) as part of program "Dirk Bogarde: Gentleman in the Shadows" August 1-9, 2001.)