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Damn The Defiant!

7.11 h 40 min1962PG
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 The Defiant's first officer makes this difficult, and when the captain is disabled, the chance for violence increases.
Lewis Gilbert
Alec GuinnessDirk BogardeMaurice Denham
English [CC]
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Rentals include 30 days to start watching this video and 48 hours to finish once started.
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Supporting actors
Nigel StockRichard CarpenterPeter GillDavid RobinsonRobin StewartRay BrooksPeter GreenspanAnthony Quayle
John Brabourne
Columbia Pictures
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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4.6 out of 5 stars

334 global ratings

  1. 75% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 5% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

BlackBrigandReviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 May 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A stirring historical action film that stands the test of time.
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I remember very well going to see this film when it was released in 1962 and was so impressed that I immediately started a search for the book on which the movie was adapted; Frank Tilsley's novel Mutiny. Later when I seriously started to collect films, I was disappointed to discover that it was never released in the UK as either 8 mm. RTR or VHS cassette and for many years had to make do with a NTSC cassette until the PAL DVD was released in 2002. The film was re-titled DAMN THE DEFIANT! For the US market.

The film was directed by Lewis Gilbert, now mostly remembered for his contributions to the James Bond series of movies but who also directed a host of classic British films between 1944 and 1995. The cast is a roll call of British film actors of the period, Alec Guinness, Dirk Bogarde, Nigel Stock and Anthony Quayle lead a strong supporting cast many of who became household names in the theatre and film.

The film follows the exploits of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Defiant, her captain, officers and men during 1797 the years of the mutinies at the Spithead and Nore and the conflicts that ensue between the captain and crew. Précis of the plot has been given in detail elsewhere and so I will not repeat the storyline again, except to say the as with most British costume dramas the uniforms, weapons and close-up shorts of the warship were mostly historically accurate.

The acting is superb as you would expect from the quality cast and the action scenes are well filmed and directed even without the benefit of modern computer generated effects.

It remains a firm favourite of mine and is a classic of the genre.

The DVD is generally very good although there a couple of small sections where picture and sound quality fade a little, but is very much better than the chopped and spliced version that I watched on television quite recently.
11 people found this helpful
Darth MaciekReviewed in the United Kingdom on 06 September 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars
A very romanticised view of Spithead and Nore mutinies - but with great performances of Alec Guiness and Dirk Bogarde
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This is an interesting "oldie but goldie", aged 51 but still alive, kicking and very watchable. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

Although there were as many as twelve Royal Navy ships named HMS "Defiance", there never was one called HMS "Defiant" - the heavy British frigate pictured in this film is therefore fictitious. The story happens in 1797 and begins with Navy press gangs catching unsuspecting men in taverns and on streets of British port to impress them in service. Some end on board of the frigate HMS "Defiant", which is scheduled to sail to the Mediterranean under the orders of a new commanding officer, Captain Crawford (Alec Guiness). The new skipper is also taking on board a new young midshipman - his only son, Harvey. However, unknown to him, some sailors and Royal Marines serving on the "Defiant" are preparing a mutiny - a task greatly helped by the extreme unpopularity of HMS "Defiant" second-in-command, First-Lieutenant Scott-Padget (Dirk Bogarde), a genuine sadist with an oversized ego. All this covers the first minutes - and then HMS "Defiant" sails and the film begins for real.

This story is partly based on the real events - the largely followed Spithead and Nore mutinies, which indeed occurred in 1797. However, some of the events described in this film fit more with another, much more sinister mutiny - the one which occurred the same year on board of the frigate HMS "Hermione"... But what happens on the HMS "Defiant" is something different than all those real revolts. I will say no more about it.

This film is worth seeing mostly for the performance of two main actors. Sir Obi-wan Kenobi of course was unable of offering a bad performance - here he is great as a humane, but certainly not weak "master and commander". But it is the vilain who is the best character and the main attraction of this film. Sir Dirk Bogarde portrayed the First-Lieutenant Scott-Padget as a really REALLY heinous baddie: sadistic, cold, calculating, merciless, vicious - and also so well connected that he is in fact MORE powerful than his commanding officer... Also, the scenario avoids the mistake of overdoing the "baddie" and therefore Scott-Padget has also some qualities - he is very competent, well educated, perfectly organised and absolutely fearless in fight - but somehow it makes him even scarier.

The one thing that is a little bit weak is the ending. The last two-three minutes of this film disappointed me a little and for that reason I simply cannot give this movie five stars. But still, I liked it and I will keep the DVD for a possible another viewing. Enjoy!
2 people found this helpful
Nicholas CasleyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 August 2012
4.0 out of 5 stars
All Aboard for a Battle of Wills
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This DVD was purchased to form part of my Dirk Bogarde collection. `HMS Defiant' (or, to give it the correct non-American title, `Damn the Defiant') was Bogarde's first film after his controversial `Victim', after which he became briefly `persona non grata' on the British screen. Director Lewis Gilbert and fellow actor Alec Guinness apparently had to fight the studio to get Bogarde the role. (This was the only time he worked in a film with Guinness.)

It's Spithead in 1797 and there is talk of mutiny in the British fleet. Guinness sets sail for the Mediterranean as captain of HMS Defiant; Bogarde is his first lieutenant, a nasty, brutish character who hands out punishment with ease and indulges in mental torture. A battle of wills thus results on board the ship. This is very much a male movie; there is only one woman on the cast list.

There are a few errors in the writing (there's talk of `Napoleon' over-running Italy when he was `merely' General Bonaparte at that time) and in the production (candles in the captain's cabin but not a flicker on the walls), but otherwise the film has some well-written sharp dialogue. There are also some surprisingly good effects for a film of this time - I'm still not sure whether the boats seen on the water are real or models, especially the fire-ship at the end.

With solid British actors such as Maurice Denham, Nigel Stock, Tom Bell, Murray Melvin, Victor Maddern, and Bryan Pringle in supporting roles, the scenes are well-played. The direction is assured in the hands of Lewis Gilbert, and the editing is excellently done by Peter Hunt.

The extras on my DVD are meagre: an old poster and select filmographies for Gilbert, Guinness, and Bogarde.
AlexReviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 November 2012
4.0 out of 5 stars
Old Navy
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Overall a good film. The absence of modern special effects does make it appear somewhat dated, but does not detract from the basic story.

The underlying plot is not as historically far-fetched as it seems; at the time of the "mutinies" at Spithead and the Nore in 1797 there were a number of related incidents elsewhere in the World (but so far as I know, not in the Mediterranean)

Technically, the film is reasonably accurate (after making allowance for production constraints. One aspect which might appear strange to the modern viewer was the age of the Midshipmen. In the 18th century it was not unusual for boys as young as 12 to serve as midshipmen (although people this young were often officially signed on as "young gentlemen" or "captains servants" so they could earn seatime whiles waiting for an official midshipmans position to fall vacant. Also it was not unusual for some midshipmen to be as old as 35 (since the Lieutenants exams were somewhat selective: these older midshipmen.effectively functioned as warrant officers and some went on to become masters mates and sailing masters.

An omission that some old tars might notice, is that we never saw the lads on the Defiant get their daily tot of rum. During the period in question this was the highlight of Jolly Jacks day. As the Royal Navy did not abolish the rum ration until 31 July 1970, and this film was made in 1962, this seems a very strange ommission!
2 people found this helpful
Keith NaylorReviewed in the United Kingdom on 06 December 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Terrific sea faring drama.
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Wonderful recreation of life at sea during the 1700s, with terrific performances.
The blu ray sleeve says the movie is MONO, but it is in STEREO.
Mike WatkinsonReviewed in the United Kingdom on 05 March 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
No, it's not perfect...
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But you've got Alec Guinness, Dirk Bogarde, Anthony Quayle, Maurice Denham, Victor Maddern... It's a reasonably believable tale of the Napoleonic era Royal Navy, with tensions between the brutal martinet First Lieutenant (Bogarde), and humane, urbane Captain (Guinness) & crew (led by Quayle). The ending is a bit naff, hence only 4*, but the ending also isn't awful. Not an "I love it" film, but not a bad one either.
One person found this helpful
Rovi EdalsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 March 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Superb Movie
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One of the best British seafaring movies. Excellent acting form Dirk and Alec. In fact all the cast and the battle scenes are superb considering no CGI in those days.
KrysReviewed in the United Kingdom on 06 June 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Film
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I had never heard or seen this film before - What a great find. Thoroughly enjoyed Alec Guiness as a fair playing Captain with Dirk Bogarde as his sadistic underhand 1st Lieutenant. It did not seem at all dated and the action was quite reminiscent of the fairly recent Master & Commander - which is all to the good, If you enjoy a good Navy "lark" on the high seas - this is for you!
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