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.
Spithead Mutiny Avast. It is the Napoleonic Wars and Captain Crawford takes command of the H.M.S. 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 through the ranks on account of his higher echelon 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, just as 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 inlanders were fed up with the 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 through 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 muscular 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 production. The ocean scenes are filmed out in Alicante, and they sparkle as a backdrop to the splendid costumes, while the ships design is top draw. Ultimately this a fine genre entry, for as it stirs the blood and tells a great multi stranded story, it's also acted quite superbly by the cast. 8/10