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Damn the Defiant! (Sous-titres français)

Alec Guinness , Dirk Bogarde , Lewis Gilbert    DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Set in 1797 at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars, Damn the Defiant! (also known as H.M.S. Defiant) is an enthralling British naval drama made to capitalize on MGM's epic remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, also released in 1962. It's based on Frank Tilsey's novel Mutiny and stars Alex Guinness as a fair-minded captain locked in psychological conflict with his manipulative, coldly malicious first officer (Dirk Bogarde), and the parallels with the famous true story are clear. However, there were many naval mutinies during this period, and this large-scale saga, which includes some spectacularly staged widescreen naval battles, offers a realistic depiction of life in the British navy at the time--from the press gangs and floggings to the appalling food and living conditions.

Director Lewis Gilbert--who previously helmed Sink the Bismarck! (1960)--strikes a good balance between the personal drama and sweeping maritime adventure. Guinness successfully varies his firm-but-fair officer from The Bridge on the River Kwai, Bogarde is chillingly hateful, and Anthony Quayle gives strong support. --Gary S. Dalkin

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Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
This fictionalized story of a mutiny on HMS Defiant, commanded by a captain burdened with a vicious first lieutenant, is worth seeing if you like nautical fiction in general, or are a lover of novels by Patrick O'Brian or C.S. Forester. It is not easy watching, although there is no deliberate crudity (this is an old film for one thing).
The story begins prosaically enough with the Defiant setting off under the command of a man who has just brought his son in as a midshipman (a typical way for a son to follow his father into the navy; Nelson began by following a maternal uncle into the navy, albeit on another ship). We learn quickly enough that this voyage will not quite be what is intended. The first officer, played brilliantly by Dirk Bogarde, is a vicious but very well-connected man, who punishes harshly for the slightest offense (even an unintended one). The crew are on the point of mutiny, in what is intended to be a concerted action with the rest of the Mediterranean Fleet and the ships in British ports. A few sailors are reluctant to join the planned mutiny, but they are persuaded to join thanks to the harshness of the lieutenant and the lack of action taken by the captain. Is the captain weak? Not really. His choices are limited firstly by the system (whereby powerful enemies can ruin even a captain's career) and secondly by the fact that his son is made a pawn in a vicious game. Things take an unexpected turn, firstly when the captain gets his son off on a prize crew (a small crew commanding a captured enemy vessel, civilian or otherwise) and thus wrests back control from his first lieutenant; and secondly, when the captain is seriously injured.
The denouement comes rapidly.
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This is a fine story of life aboard a British naval vessel during the Napoleonic wars. Alec Guiness stars as the enlightened and thoughtful captain, Dirk Bogarde is the cruel and hard first lieutenant (executive officer). The two are locked in a battle of wills and leadership concerning the means by which the ship will be commanded. The captain believes that a happy ship is an efficient ship, and seeks to lead by inspiration. The first lieutenant believes in merciless discipline, reinforced with his sadistic love of inflicting punishment. This conflict is complicated by the fact that the men of the British fleet are plotting the famous Spithead mutinies, and the first lieutenant has influential friends in London. This is a very interesting story of leadership and conflict.
The storyline moves along smartly most of the time, and the acting is quite good. The special effects are very good--no "bathtub ships" or battles. Guiness does his customary excellent job in his role as captain, although I personally thought he might have exerted more personal force than he did; his leadership style as portrayed in the film is somewhat understated. Bogarde is excellent as the villainous first lieutenant--you'll hate him by the end of the movie.
This is a fine movie worth watching more than once.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling study in leadership Jan. 10 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Damn the Defiant is the story of a fictional ship but the underlying theme, of a mutiney in the British Fleet is all too true. This is the mutiney of 1797 which paralyzed the British Fleet and if Napoleon had known it, might have changed history.
Bogarde and Guinness are outstanding in the large cast of charecters, but the presence of Anthony Quayle is another critical part.
There are two conflicts going on that are well told. The conflict between a competent and caring capatin of the ship, Guinness and a sadistic but compent second in command, Bogarde. There is also the story of the lower deck, Quayle et al, vs. the officers. It is a study in the problems of command where Guinness knows of Bogarde's faults but discipline requires that he give him his support. Bogarde also uses the Captain's dedication to duty against him by abusing the son of the captain. He does it within the letter of regulations but actually is showing the captain his limits of power. Guinness can't intervene without weakening the discipline of the ship and Bogarde knows this. The ship's surgeon has served under the Bogarde charecter in the past and in each case, the captain of the ship has never gone back to sea after Bogarde is done with them. Bogarde's bullying toady ultimately strikes the spark that sets off a mutiney.
This movie is interesting and useful on several levels; Naval fiction and history and also the study of leadership. Anyone with interests in these areas would be well served to view this movie, several times. An all-star ensemble cast that makes this film extremely believeable. I highly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars In the tradition of Hornblower Nov. 15 2000
Damn the Defiant is built around a true incident, the "Spithead Mutiny" of the British Channel Fleet during the war with France in 1797. British sailors rose up in a mostly peaceful rebellion against the abominable conditions in which they were forced to serve. The movie, based on the novel "Mutiny" by Frank Tilsley, tells the story of the frigate Defiant, on a solitary mission deep into the French held Mediterrean Sea. The crew, already involved in the planning for the fleet-wide mutiny, suffer under the lash of the ship's sadistic First Lieutenant (Dirk Bogarde), while the Captain (Alec Guinness) is incapacitated, first by the torture of his son and then by the loss of his arm in a battle with a French frigate. But the good triumph in the end, as is right. It is a surprisingly complex story with well developed characters, but it delivers plenty of action as well. The battle scenes are well done, though the final action with a fire ship is too clearly model work. The DVD provides a fine viewing experience. The video is generally very good. The picture is soft occasionally and the rich colors become over-saturated in a few brief instances, but I did not find any of these flaws too distracting, and it is far better than my old VHS recording. The sound is very full and the dialogue was always clear and never overwhelmed. Obviously, a movie this old is not going to provide the same kind of audio as a contemporary film, but I found no serious fault with it. I highly recommend Damn the Defiant to any fan of naval adventure in the age of sail, as typified by Horatio Hornblower.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fairly accurate portrayal of the goings on in the ...
A fairly accurate portrayal of the goings on in the little world that was naval life at the time. A must have for fans of the era.
Published 1 month ago by Thomas P Hurlbut
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Sea Adventure! Top Drawer!
This is an excellent film overall - with an exceptionally strong cast, special effects, and storyline. Read more
Published on March 31 2009 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Portrayal of the British Navy
The film is an excellent portrayal of the British Navy in 1797. The scenes showing the press gangs, the hard and dangerous work, the brutal floggings for relatively trivial... Read more
Published on April 6 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Rousing, sea tales with superior acting!!
What can you say about the powerhouse teaming of Alec Guiness and Dirk Bogarde?? Two of the greatest actors of our time. Read more
Published on July 1 2002 by Deborah MacGillivray
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wooden World
I love stories set in the wooden ship time period. This one is not a disappointment...the battle scenes and the depictment of life on a frigate are very realistic. Read more
Published on Dec 13 2001 by M. La Vean
5.0 out of 5 stars history comes to life
Sir Alec Guiness is totally convincing. Anthony Quayle's character is so believable. What a great way to learn about why the English navy ruled the oceans. Awesome photography! Read more
Published on March 9 2001 by Kirby Z
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Columbia!
Damn the Defiant! -- U.K. title: H.M.S. Defiant -- is a classic story of the British Navy's widespread "mutiny" of 1797. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2001 by John Dziadecki
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better in the DVD version!
First I'll repeat what I wrote in my review of the VHS version of "Damn the Defiant!":
"There aren't a lot of movies about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic... Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2000 by Bruce Trinque
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are a Hornblower fan, you'll like this one!
The movie presents a side of Napoleanic British Royal Navy life I have seldom seen in film. Lashings are common enough in sailing films, but the use of corporal punishment, press... Read more
Published on May 8 2000 by Alan R. Holyoak
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