"Billy Budd" is based on Herman Melville's last novel, and is a story of morality, military duty and social responsibility.
Except for the first few minutes on another ship, the movie takes place on a British man-o-war, in 1797. The British ship stops a merchant ship and impresses the young naive Billy into the British navy, which is at war with France. Billy is soft-spoken and outgoing, and soon makes friends with the crew. However, he unknowingly gets on the bad side of the sadistic master-at-arms Claggart, until Billy is falsely accused of mutiny by him. Stammering and unable to form a verbal response, Billy reflexively hits Claggart and accidentally kills him. Now, sympathetic Captain Vere and a board of inquiry must decide Billy's fate.
The movie is perfectly acted by all, especially Peter Ustinov (who also directed) as Captain Vere, Robert Ryan as Claggart, and Terence Stamp in his critically-acclaimed first role, as Billy Budd.
This is an excellent movie that deserves a better, and/or cheaper, DVD. The "digitally mastered" phrase referring to this DVD only means it uses binary "1"s and "0"s, not that the picture is enhanced or even any good. In fact the otherwise nice black-and-white photography suffers from whatever old print the DVD was made from, as the whites tend to glow, and the contrast and image quality are pretty soft. This expensive DVD is in fact so cheap there is not even a menu, much less a trailer, subtitles or any other extra.
This is a first rate movie on a poor DVD. Still, I'm glad I have it in my collection. You will be, too.
Edit: Warner has released an excellent version. Get that one.