Pssst, want to check out Billy Budd in our new look?
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Very powerful movie! Usually, if I see a movie has ships or cowboys or gangsters, I don't even bother to take a peek. But thanks to TCM and their 31 Days of Oscar celebration, I'm discovering lots of movies like this one that I would have passed over. Thank you, TCM! I really enjoyed this morally gut-wrenching movie.
I'm not sure what kind of impact watching Billy Budd would have had on me had I never read and written papers on Melville's story. Knowing the character as American literature's greatest Christ figure (in a literature filled with them) gives the film adaptation a gloomy atmosphere because we know the world is evil and Billy's fate inevitable. If you haven't ready, there's still dread, but perhaps also shock. Regardless, this is a brilliant anti-adventure film where no good deed goes unpunished and the battles are more often avoided than sought. Where justice would prevail if the law didn't squelch it. And where one man's goodness must be destroyed because it puts into question the unnatural order of Man. Like I said, Christ figure. I thought Terence Stamp was an odd casting for Billy, but I came to completely believe his moral innocence, and his quiet intensity is well matched to Robert Ryan in the role of the cruel Taggart. Director and co-star Peter Ustinov is equally good as the empathetic captain nevertheless too weak to do the right thing. For such a talky, philosophical picture, it has great production values. The ships are obviously functional and actually on water, no models here. It makes you expect battles and violence, only to subvert your thirst for blood into something to be ashamed of. A brave attempt, and a powerful result.
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!