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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

Damn the Defiant! (1962)

"I'm suspending you for the remainder of this watch. From now on, I shall take steps that will astound you."- Captain Crawford (Alec Guinness)

Stars: Alec Guinness, Dirk Bogarde
Other Stars: Anthony Quayle, David Robinson
Director: Lewis Gilbert

Manufacturer: DVDS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (combat action)
Run Time: 01h:40m:42s
Release Date: 2000-10-10
Genre: action

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- C+B+C C-

 

DVD Review

Damn the Defiant! stars Alec Guinness as Captain Crawford, commanding a British Royal Navy ship during the Napoleonic Wars of the late 1700's. Crawford's second-in-command, the ambitious Lieutenant Scott-Padget (Dirk Bogarde), employs abusive "training" methods; when Crawford is injured during an exchange of fire with the French, Scott-Padget assumes control of the ship, driving the crew to mutiny led by a seaman named Vizard (Anthony Quayle). Matters are politically complicated by the presence of Crawford's young son Harvey (David Robinson) as a novice midshipman; the film was based on Frank Tilsey's novel Mutiny, inspired by actual events of the year 1797.

Damn the Defiant! features little of note in the way of plot—it's the same story that has driven tales of rivalry-at-sea from The Caine Mutiny to Crimson Tide. The film's basic predictability isn't helped by Dirk Bogarde's performance as the villainous Lieutenant; granted, the character is written as a standard-issue sadistic bad guy, but he fails to find any depth or joy whatsoever in the character. Fortunately, Guinness' stateliness as the kind but firm Captain Crawford gives us a good guy worth rooting for, and Anthony Quayle's Vizard launches a righteous mutiny, not driven by power-hunger or a mob mentality.

Where the film succeeds is in its honest portrayal of the British navy of the time—press gangs round up unwilling new crew members, the H.M.S. Defiant's orders are sometimes confused and miscommunicated, and weaponry is noisy, messy and inaccurate. The film's costumes and weaponry seem authentic, shot largely on location at sea aboard full-scale replicas of British and French warships (though some pick-up shots were obviously shot on studio soundstages.) I'm no expert on naval warfare, but director Lewis Gilbert creates a very convincing atmosphere, with no obvious anachronisms or flubs. He also takes full advantage of the widescreen Cinemascope format, filling the screen with sweeping horizons, billowing sails, and battles fought across the waves.

In the final analysis, Damn the Defiant! plays a bit like a Tom Clancy novel; the human elements suffer at times, but the well-researched hardware, military strategy and political machinations make for interesting (if emotionally uninvolving) viewing. Naval history buffs will find plenty to chew on here.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer


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 One Two
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen 1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyes no
Anamorphicyes no


Image Transfer Review: Columbia Tristar presents Damn the Defiant! in its original 2.35:1 Cinemascope widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with a solid anamorphic transfer taken from a clean source print (minor flecking, no scratches or splices). There's some minor color instability in the first reel, and dark scenes tend to be murky with poor shadow detail and some grain clouding, but the 1962 film generally looks just fine, with rich color and impressively detailed costumes and hardware. The optical technology of the day causes noticeable darkening and brightening around dissolves, and a few compression artifacts are apparent, but the film's seafaring scenes are beautifully shot and the film's scale is nicely preserved on DVD.

The disc's flipside features a 1.33:1 pan-and-scan full-frame transfer, which letterboxes the opening credits but switches to pan-and-scan for the rest of the film. The film's impact is seriously damaged by the cropped-down image, which eliminates nearly half of the ship's crew in some scenes and makes the battles rather confusing, though it's a good demo for illustrating the benefits of widescreen to the uninitiated.

Image Transfer Grade: B+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Damn the Defiant! is presented with its original monophonic soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0, ProLogic-decoded to the center speaker. The soundtrack shows its age—dialogue recorded "live" is a bit muddy and clipped, and the big battle scenes are woefully lacking in bass. Still, the film gets its point across and the digital transfer is competent, with good frequency range and minimal distortion given the dated source.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Das Boot, The Caine Mutiny, The Guns of Navarone
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Vintage Advertising Materials
Extras Review: Columbia Tristar supports Damn the Defiant! with 28 picture-menu chapter stops, subtitles in 7 languages, off-disc production notes on the keepcase insert, and a handful of supplements:

Theatrical Trailer:

The film's moderately lengthy theatrical trailer is presented, with a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic transfer; it's in middling condition, dark and grainy compared to the feature, but a nice inclusion.

Vintage Advertising Materials:

Three one-sheet posters for the film are reproduced here, including one for the British film's home market where it was titled H.M.S. Defiant.

Talent Files:

Filmographies and awards for director Lewis Gilbert and stars Alec Guinness and Dirk Bogarde.

Additional Trailers:

Promos for three movies with a similar flavor—

Das Boot in 1.33:1 full-frame and Dolby 2.0 Surround, from the Director's Cut rerelease
The Caine Mutiny in 1.33:1 full-frame and Dolby 2.0 Mono
The Guns of Navarone in 2.35:1 letterboxed, Dolby 2.0 Mono

Extras Grade: C-
 

Final Comments

Damn the Defiant! is a seafaring tale of men and mutiny, just barely saved from the clichés of its plot by some solid performances and impressive visuals. Columbia's DVD presents the film very nicely, with standard but valuable extras, and the film is bound to appeal to anyone with an interest in historical naval warfare. A worthwhile rental if the subject appeals.

Dale Dobson 2000-11-01