Directed by Peter Ustinov
UK 1962

 

  Ustinov directs himself and a whole clutch of British talent in this worthy but eminently satisfying adaptation of Melville's novel. Stamp, here making his film debut, is excellent as the naive young seaman Billy, who is hauled before the courts after his sadistic master-at-arms (Ryan) is murdered and the finger of suspicion points squarely at him. Dealing sympathetically with the issues of morality which arise from Billy's predicament, and inviting the audience to question how they would behave in the same situation, Ustinov proves as proficient behind camera as he is in front of it.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

***

Ustinov directs this adaptation of Melville's last work in uncharacteristically serious vein. There is a decided shift in emphasis from Melville's allegory of absolute good and evil to a poignant examination of the blindness of justice and law. The angelic Billy is played by a blond Stamp in his first film role; Ustinov himself is Man-o-War Captain Vere, forced to try the naif Billy for the accidental murder of master-at-arms Claggart; and Ryan's performance as the evil Claggart, a role he had long coveted, is staggeringly authoritative, right up to the smile on his face as he dies knowing Billy will hang for his murder. There are many powerful scenes unspoilt by attempts from Ustinov to be cinematic; in fact his self-effacing direction allows the actors to give uniformly sincere performances. Only marginally spoiled by such visual conceits as the lurching ship representing the tilting scales of justice during Vere's debate on whether Billy should hang.

Excerpt from Time Out Film Guide located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: November 12th, 1962

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DVD Review: Warner - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

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Also available in Literary Classics Collection which includes Madame Bovary (1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951), The Three Musketeers (1948), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937 and 1952 Versions) and Billy Budd. Available HERE:

           

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC
Runtime 2:02:56 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.72 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Terence Stamp and Steven Soderbergh
• Theatrical trailer

DVD Release Date: March 6th, 2007

Slim Keep Case
Chapters: 29

 

 

Comments:

I see some uncharacteristic 'moiring' on this Warner transfer as black levels tend to exhibit some shimmering. This may stem from boosting of the black levels - although I am not positive. This infrequent instability can give an occasional hazy appearance but overall it is quite watchable. Few artifacts (in some sky and cloud scenes) are visible on this progressive, anamorphic and dual-layered DVD, but nothing untoward. I had no difficulties with the 2.0 channel audio and the optional subtitles are at Warner's high standard. 

In the commentary Soderbergh takes the lead to fire questions at Stamp who was able to relate some highly interesting facts about the production and his own role. As this was his first feature performance he gives an amusing anecdote about the casting auditions (with Michael Caine) and meeting Ustinov for the first time. There are some healthy gaps where both let the film run on. This is not an intellectual commentary as one might find on a Criterion disc, but rather a more less prepared and fairly laid back one. I listened but it was only mildly entertaining - certainly not something you would return to I suppose although Stamp can sound quite enthusiastic and passionate about his memories of the production. There is also a 3:00 minute trailer - 4:3 widescreen.

I've almost finished viewing the entire Literary Classic Collection boxset and really love these films that I recall watching as a young lad. Great performances in Billy Budd with actors who show immense screen presence. I think the boxset is a great deal and I will enjoy showing my own boys (Captain Horatio Hornblower, The Three Musketeers and The Prisoner of Zenda(s) ) as they get older. Recommended!

Gary W. Tooze

 

 



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DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Also available in Literary Classics Collection which includes Madame Bovary (1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951), The Three Musketeers (1948), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937 and 1952 Versions) and Billy Budd. Available HERE:

           

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC




 

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