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