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Thread: H.M.S. Defiant

  1. #1
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    I've just received from amazon UK my DVD of the 1962 British seafaring saga H.M.S. Defiant and a splendid transfer it is, too, presented in its original CinemaScope format and it makes a pleasant change to see the original British title on the film, rather than that of its American version, Damn the Defiant!, which is the only version they ever show on television.



    A pity then that Columbia-Tristar video, who have gone to the trouble to locate a British print of the film for this DVD release, could not have tried harder to locate the films British trailer to go with it. Instead, the trailer on the DVD is for the American version, Damn the Defiant!



    H.M.S. Defiant is a splendid British naval drama set during the Napoleonic Wars and is a kind of Mutiny on the Bounty in which the roles of the main protagonists are reversed. Here, in H.M.S. Defiant, the Captain is the good guy and the First Lieutenant is the baddie. The drama opens at Spithead, England, in 1797. The Defiant, an unhappy ship with a mainly press ganged crew, sets sail on a special mission to Corsica. There is immediate friction between humane disciplinarian Captain Crawford (Alec Guinness) and his newly appointed, sadistic and vicious First Lieutenant, Scott-Padget (Dirk Bogarde), who has friends in high places at the Admiralty and who has a deserved reputation for breaking every captain under which he has served. Below deck, ordinary seamen Vizard and Evans (Anthony Quayle and Tom Bell) are inciting rebellion amongst the crew.



    Scott-Padget, true to form, wants to run the ship his way and, when Crawford stands up to him, he gets back at Crawford by seeing to it that Harvey (David Robinson), Crawford's twelve years old Midshipman son, is severely caned every day in the Gunnery Room on trumped up charges of misbehaviour. He even sees to it that Crawford is making an inspection of the Gunnery Room at the same time, so that he witnesses his son receiving punishment. Although incensed by this, Crawford is unable to intervene for fear of showing favour toward his own son.



    Later, when a French vessel is captured, Crawford seizes the opportunity to put Harvey aboard the French vessel as part of a crew appointed to take it back to port, thus ensuring that Harvey is kept out of Scott-Padget's reach. When Crawford is badly wounded during an engagement with another French vessel, Scott-Padget assumes command and his floggings and sadistic treatment of the crew lead to mutiny!



    The film is beautifully shot in Technicolor and has some spectacular naval action sequences that benefit from the wide screen expanse of CinemaScope, but it really is an actors piece and Guinness and Bogarde practically strike sparks off each other in many key scenes and David Robinson (whatever became of him?) gives a memorable performance as the juvenile catalyst around which the story revolves. All in all, an excellent film with a good script; some fine performances and a haunting and memorable title theme from Clifton Parker.



    There are two other CinemaScope trailers for British war films on the disc (this time they are the original British trailers) for The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Guns of Navarone. The latter is in far better condition than the former. The river kwai trailer is an old and worn cinema exhibition print that has seen better days. It has quite a few splices and there are a few feet missing off the end, causing the trailer and music to end abruptly. Still, it's an improvement on the 1967 re-issue trailer that was put on the beginning of the old widescreen VHS video release of a few years back.

  2. #2
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    Hi

    Just watched this on tv this afternoon nice film any one else see Alec Guinness this was the usa release title i did not know that. UK was H.M.S Defiant.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: Australia wadsy's Avatar
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    Certainly tough times for our seamen in those days!!!

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    I've seen it a couple of times on American TV, and the naval battles are some of the best I've ever seen staged in a film.



    The film is based on the novel "Mutiny" by Frank Tilsey, which is loosely based on the Spithead Mutiny.



    Some of the other actors appearing in the film are Dirk Bogarde, Maurice Denham, Nigel Stock, Anthony Quayle, Tom Bell, Murray Melvin, and Bryan Pringle.



    This would be Joy Shelton's last film.

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    This is probably my favorite Dirk Bogarde movie. I like him as an outright cad. I also just finished 'Master and Commander'; good, but not as much so as 'Damn the Defiant' (or 'H.M.S. Defiant,' if you will).



    I don't like to romanticize any navy in those days of floggings (I wonder how long that continued?). Must have been hell. But, let's face it, those illiterate seamen and their sturdy ships made Great Britain the premiere power from the Napolenic Wars up to at least the beginning of the 20th century.



    Also, among my favorite Royal Navy yarns is 'Sink the Bismark.' Now, Kenneth More I always like as a hero--I can't envision him any other way.



    Gary Judkins

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    I had no idea flogging went on as late as 1870. But, then, we didn't do away with slavery until ten years before that--I think you around 1820.



    I grew up reading the Hornblower stories--I think I read them all. Surprisingly, after I saw the 1951 movie, I couldn't get Gregory Peck out of my head--to this day, despite the later television series, Peck IS Hornblower.



    I still think it's important for a nation to be able to project its power through a navy--not the battleship, though, I'm afraid. Even today, when I read of the Prince of Wales (new at the time) and its companion (the Repulse?) being sunk by the Japanese, I'm amazed. That, coupled with the sinking of the venerable Hood must have been devastating to Churchill at the time.



    I did some research on the Missouri--I know that President Reagan spent millions on having it reoutfitted--and later it was used in the first Gulf War. When I heard it was being decomissioned and rumors were flying around that the Japanese were buying it and hauling it off to Tokyo for scrap, I bombarded Senator McCain's office with protests. I think it would have been too much to have the ship that witnessed the historic signing in Tokyo Bay returned for scrap.



    Fortunately--not through our efforts, probably--it now is stationed in Pearl Harbor--which seems appropriate. The battleship Arizona which began our part in the war and the battleship Missouri which ended it.



    Gary Judkins

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    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Did HMS Defiant re-use sets from Mutiny on the Bounty re-make ?



    There were several naval dramas around this time inc Billy Budd



    Seems likely ......

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    I watched a documentary a couple of weeks ago that was very interesting, I think it was Tony Robinson's 'Crime & Punishment' series.



    The Royal Navy started flogging for offences that on Land were hanging offences. It was the first step towards doing away with some 200 offences on land for which you could be executed. Sailors were too valuable to keep stringing them up to the Yard Arm!



    The Hollywood image of savage Captains was commented on as being the minority. It certainly happened but in a fighting ship everyone had to work together very closely in battle or all would be at risk. We'd call it 'Teamwork' today! Captains tended to use good man management rather than always the lash!

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    Just watched this on DVD with the family and we all really enjoyed it. But I must agree with my eldest boy (now 18) that the Bogarde character was a little too one dimensional sadist. Still stellar supporting cast and very well shot action scenes. MR Guiness as expected gives a fine account of himself.

  10. #10
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    I thought so, but wanted to double check before posting that was a very young James Bolam in the amputation scene. His first flick perhaps ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by billy bentley
    I thought so, but wanted to double check before posting that was a very young James Bolam in the amputation scene. His first flick perhaps ?
    No, actually it looks like that was his third flick. That same year he appeared in the film "A Kind of Loving," and the previous year he made his first film appearance in the film "The Kitchen." But his first acting role in film or on TV was in the TV show "Drama 61-67: The Long Distance Blues," the same year as he appeared in "The Kitchen."

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Scenes from the film H.M.S. Defiant, in CinemaScope and Technicolor, can be seen posted by me on page 9 of the Dirk Bogarde thread in Actors and Actresses.

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