Damn the Defiant (known stateside as HMS Defiant) is a rip-roaring naval adventure from 1962 featuring none other than Sir Alec Guinness. Originally made to capitalise on a trend of seafaring adventures (Mutiny on the Bounty was released and flopped the same year), Damn the Defiant has largely been forgotten simply due to time, but it deserves to be remembered. It will be now, thanks to Imprint’s fine new release.
The film follows the ship HMS Defiant in 1797, and Guinness stars as the humane Captain Crawford, who, once at sea, finds himself in a battle against his first officer, Mr. Scott-Padget (Dirk Bogarde in a fine villainous role). Scott-Padget is sadistic but also has friends in high places, and Crawford must manage him as well as ensure that his first officer does not push the ship’s crew so hard it ends up mutinous. All the while, the threat of the French navy looms. For fans of British naval adventures, or films of the ilk like Zulu or the Hornblower series, this is just what the Admiralty ordered.
The film is a great showcase for Guinness. Most famously known for his role in Star Wars and appearances in David Lean films, Guinness is an actor worth seeing basically in anything, and I certainly wasn’t going to dismiss a film that featured him in a lead role. With a voice that could varnish wood, the good Sir Alec is a pleasure to watch and easily steers the film into enjoyable waters. His able supporting cast is fine, if not noteworthy, as is the direction.
The film looks fantastic. Despite “only” being a 1080p experience, the disc is clean and looks really lovely. I’m always a fan of older movies getting the glow-up, and Imprint has sourced a great master for use here. There are some areas of the film that can’t scrub up as well (likely due to the nature of the film used), but that’s rarely an issue. Old movies looking as good or as better than new ones is something of which I never tire.
In terms of extras, Imprint continues to impress with its bespoke offerings. For a smaller boutique label, the amount of effort they go to commission and obtain extras made in the year of release is truly stunning. With Damn the Defiant, Imprint procured an audio commentary, interviews with surviving cast members and also a great making-of documentary with the surviving production staff, which, for these lesser-known films, are great. For instance, Guinness hated the film (and his performance, too) and wanted it to not really be the swashbuckling adventure that it is. I hate to disagree with the leading man, but I quite enjoyed it. Damn the Defiant is a movie that fits perfectly into Imprint’s ever-expanding catalogue — not as historic or niche as other labels but still a film that deserves to be preserved and enjoyed, and it’s just a treat to have all the extras on board. It’s a dad movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon to be sure, but those deserve love, too — and I’m a new dad, so no complaints here.