Damn the Defiant! (1962)

Damn the Defiant! (AKA “HMS Defiant”)
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Written by Nigel Kneale and Edmund H. North from a novel by Frank Tilsely
Columbia Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental


Captain Crawford: [Crawford smacks his desk, jumps up and approaches Scott-Padget] I will say this to you only once, sir: I will not be bullied or threatened and I intend to be obeyed! Your friends in London mean nothing to me! I assure you that while you serve aboard this ship, they will mean absolutely nothing to you! You can go now.

With Billy Budd and Mutiny on the Bounty, Damn the Defiant completes a trifecta of 1962 films about brutality aboard British warships during the Napoleonic Wars.  It’s a worthy entree to the genre.

Captain Crawford (Alec Guinness) is a veteran seaman with great pride in his ship.  Times being what they were the only way to fill the crew is to simply press gang (kidnap) likely men.  Crawford sees this as a necessary evil.  Second in command Lieut. Scott-Padget (Dirk Bogarde) gets sadistic pleasure from the exercise.  One voluntary member of the crew is Crawford’s son who is getting his sea legs as a midshipman.

Scott-Padget rules the men with an iron hand and plenty of lashings.  When the Captain insists on disregarding Scott-Padget’s advice in favor of his orders, the younger man takes it out on the twelve-year-old boy.  Scott-Padget has friends in high places in London (is he the illegitimate son of an Admiral?) but this cuts no ice with Crawford.

Scott-Padget’s main aim seems to be to avoid engagement with the enemy.  Nonetheless, the Defiant prevails in two different sea battles.  Below deck, the ill-used crew is planning mutiny.

I thought this was a nice entertaining adventure.  It’s hard to go wrong with Guinness and Bogarde.  Bogarde plays his part as a suave young gentleman with a heart of stone.