Billy Budd

Screening on Film
Directed by Peter Ustinov.
With Peter Ustinov, Robert Ryan, Terence Stamp.
UK, 1962, 35mm, black & white, 125 min.

Actor Peter Ustinov directed, produced, starred in, and adapted from a Broadway play this version of Herman Melville's classic allegorical tale of treachery in the eighteenth-century British navy. Under Ustinov's direction there is a decided shift in emphasis from Melville's portrayal of absolute good and evil to a poignant examination of the blindness of justice and the law. Featuring an array of sterling performances, the angelic Billy is played by a blond Terence Stamp in his film debut. Ustinov himself is Man-o-War Captain Vere, forced to try the naïve Billy for the accidental murder of evil master-at-arms Claggart, played with staggering authority by Robert Ryan, who had long coveted the role.

Part of film series

Read more

Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: A–Z

Other film series with this film

Read more

Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: Directors U–Z

Read more

Houghton at 75. Films Inspired by Harvard Library's Special Collections