February 24, 2017


Billy Budd – 1962 | 119 mins | Drama | B&W

Plot Synopsis

Billy Budd

A powerful and astute screen version of Herman Melville’s last novel – which recently served as the source material for Claire Denis’ art house, hit Beau Travail.

The film is a sea-going allegory that pits naval law against moral justice on board British Man o’ War H.M.S. Bellipotent during the war between England and France in 1797. It stars Terence Stamp in his first screen role as the angelic sailor Billy Budd, who quickly gains friends amongst the crew but is sadistically treated onboard ship by master-at-arms John Claggart (Robert Ryan) – who falsely accuses Billy of conspiracy to commit mutiny. The ship’s Captain Vere (Peter Ustinov) grills Billy and Claggart about the charges in his cabin, Billy is so angered he responds by striking Claggert, who falls over and dies from a blow to the head. A court-martial is convened, Billy is technically guilty but spiritually innocent of the murder and conscience-torn Vere must decide at the trial if Billy is to hang.

Production Team

Peter Ustinov: Director
Peter Murton: Art Direction
Robert Krasker: Cinematography
Anthony Mendleson: Costume Design
Jack Harris: Editing
Antony Hopkins: Original Music
Peter Ustinov: Producer
Donald M Ashton: Production Design
DeWitt Bodeen: Script
Louis O Coxe: Script
Foretopman: Script
Peter Ustinov: Script


Robert Ryan: Master-at-Arms Claggart
Peter Ustinov: Edward Fairfax Vere
Melvyn Douglas: The Dansker
Terence Stamp: Billy Budd
John Neville: Lt John Ratcliffe
Ronald Lewis: Jenkins
Lee Montague: Squeak
Paul Rogers: Lt Seymour
Niall MacGinnis: Capt Graveling

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