Tepidly received Napoleonic Wars: Naval Division saga now looks uncommonly interesting. A familiar seafaring combo-platter with lively samplings from HORATIO HORNBLOWER/’51; and two other seaboard classics with films out in ‘62, BILLY BUDD and MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. Alec Guinness, on brief hiatus from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, plays ‘Good Captain’ to Dirk Bogarde’s ‘Bad Lieutenant’ while a crew stocked with unwilling ‘pressed men’ seethes on the edge of revolt, led by another LAWRENCE slavey, Anthony Quayle, and given amateur legal advice, in a neat characterization, by the young, painfully thin Murray Melvin fresh off his Cannes’ Best Actor win for A TASTE OF HONEY/’61. Technically the film is something of a mixed bag, as rousingly convincing sea battles from future JAMES BOND helmsmen (director Lewis Gilbert & editor Peter Hunt) alternate with stage-bound action (and inaction) on deck, though it’s all handsomely lensed by Christopher Challis. But the only important battle is the psychological one between Tricky Dirk and the patiently suffering Alec. Together, they’re almost good enough to compensate for some awfully conveniently resolutions used to tidy up the last act. The best reason to watch may be the chance it offers to imagine Guinness as BILLY BUDD’s Captain Vere and Bogarde as the villainous Claggart. Infinitely better casting than Peter Ustinov managed on his interesting BILLY BUDD film that year when he miscast himself as the noble, tortured Captain and Robert Ryan as an effective, yet all wrong Claggart. As Billy, Terence Stamp in ’62 was just about perfect.
DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, BILLY BUDD.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: We're our own STotD having already written this up . . . but alphabetized under its Stateside title. Very similar take on it four years back. Nice new poster though!