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Billy Budd Blu-ray Review


“Billy Budd” should be talked about more.

The year: 1797. Having just plucked a young crewman named Billy Budd from a merchant ship, the HMS Avenger sets sail again amidst wartime. One would think Budd’s transition to the royal navy would be difficult, but that’s not the case as he’s a brave, kind hearted, and model sailor who is well liked by everyone. Well, almost everyone. The sadistic and cold hearted Master At Arms Mr. Claggart doesn’t like him or anyone for that matter. The Ship’s just Captain Vere doesn’t even trust him. Eventually, tension boils over with the crew and Mr. Claggart leading to a surprising turn of events.

Don’t expect much in the way of action on the high seas in 1962’s “Billy Budd,” but it doesn’t matter at all as the action on board the Avenger is all you need. This is as intense of a character drama as you will likely ever see. It could have easily come across as a stagy movie as limited location films can be, but that never happens here. The production values, the claustrophobic tone, the cast (which I will get to shortly), and the sharp script by Peter Ustinov, Robert Rossen and DeWitt Bodeen (based off of Herman Melville’s story) make the movie compelling in every way. This is a gripping character piece about good and evil, justice, and war that actually challenges the viewer.

Going back to Ustinov, he’s the real hero here. Not only does he co-write the script, but he direct, produce and acted in this too. Ustinov plays the conflicted Captain and really brings a depth to the character. As for the other cast members, the most notable performances come from Robert Ryan (who plays the brutal villain Claggart) and Terence Stamp in his debut film role as the titular character. which also earned him a well deserved Oscar nomination.


Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? The B&W film, which is presented in Cinemascope, looks absolutely stunning in hi-def. Watch this on a big screen TV as this is the type of film that uses every inch of the frame.

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? This is a quality track considering it is a mere Mono.

Extras include a “Billy Budd” trailer and a quality commentary by Terence Stamp and Steven Soderbergh that contains plenty of stories from the set, how Stamp got cast, and more.

Overall Thoughts: “Billy Budd” is yet another gem from Warner Archive. Keep on releasing more overlooked films like this, please!

August 4, 2018 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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