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Billy Budd
Billy Budd
Actors: Robert Ryan, Peter Ustinov, Melvyn Douglas, Paul Rogers, John Neville
Director: Peter Ustinov
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
NR     2007     1hr 59min

Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 03/06/2007 Run time: 123 minutes


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Movie Details

Actors: Robert Ryan, Peter Ustinov, Melvyn Douglas, Paul Rogers, John Neville
Director: Peter Ustinov
Creators: Peter Ustinov, A. Ronald Lubin, DeWitt Bodeen, Herman Melville, Louis O. Coxe, Robert H. Chapman
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Classics
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 03/06/2007
Original Release Date: 11/12/1962
Theatrical Release Date: 11/12/1962
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 59min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

S. Bernard | Mesa, AZ | 03/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"First off, let me make sure that it is clear my review refers to the March 6, 2007 release of Billy Budd from Warner Bros. for the reasonable price of about $15. I pre-ordered it before March 6th & it arrived today. I am ecstatic. In fact, I have a confession to make; I invited all the reviewers on this page to be my friend, just so I could message them & let them know about this new release. I have also uploaded a pict of the cover from the DVD to help distinguish it from that other awful copied version.


Like many, I saw this movie when I was young and it made a great impression on me- I have never forgotten it. I was in 10th grade in literature class and that was about 24 years ago (holy smokes!) This movie, adapted from the Herman Melville story is about many things- its complexity and nuances are something wonderful to behold. I have read the story and seen the movie & I must say, I prefer Ustinov's adaptation to the book. I think Ustinov did a more than masterful job of acting, directing, producing and writing. Not many people can wear 4 "hats" so very well. I personally have always felt this was his opus magnum- and I've heard it was a personal favorite of his. To me he captures so much of the struggle of what it is to be human in every frame of this movie. From the every day struggles of dignity to the struggle between the law and justice.

The acting by all is wonderful. Terrance Stamp's screen debut is perfect. His understated way is just what Billy needed. Robert Ryan is the perfect villain- why? Because he is HUMAN- like us all, he struggles with his own demons- his are just closer to the surface than most. In that unforgettable scene on the deck at night with Billy, it is almost as heart-wrenching as the final scene where injustice makes its ugly presence known. In the deck scene with Claggart you can see the armor of his slowly drop, there's just a hint of a tear in his left eye- and then, in a flash, his armor of evil is back in full force. Ryan's performance is just awesome to behold! How lucky are we all to have this entire movie on DVD to enjoy for years to come!
All of the supporting roles are well done- all believable. The on location shots in Spain on the open seas are fabulous! It adds a huge sense of reality to the whole movie. Lighting and the music is just beautiful too.

The extra features... yes, I'm such a fanatic, the minute I checked the mail I put the DVD in & listened to the commentary by Stamp & Soderbergh. If you are looking to find out a lot about the movie, you may be disappointed- if you wanted to find out a lot about Terrance Stamp, you'll be happy. He speaks at length about his own career and some things unrelated to the movie. There is not a lot of scene by scene commentary. He does speak about Ustinov and some of the things about production. His discourse is erudite and even occasionally stimulating. Soderbergh is in the role of an interviewer in this case. I enjoyed the commentary, but one does wonder how much it would've been enriched if someone had gotten off their dead butts & done this before Ustinov died. (I mourn him openly- he was my renaissance man- funny, smart and a humanitarian.)

All and all, I'm quite please to have this DVD. I'm thankful to Warner Bros. for putting it out on DVD with a quality picture and sound.


Movie 5, DVD 0 - Goodbye to you, old "Rights of Man"
K. Gittins | CA USA | 08/17/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

""Billy Budd" is based on Herman Melville's last novel, and is a story of morality, military duty and social responsibility.

Except for the first few minutes on another ship, the movie takes place on a British man-o-war, in 1797. The British ship stops a merchant ship and impresses the young naive Billy into the British navy, which is at war with France. Billy is soft-spoken and outgoing, and soon makes friends with the crew. However, he unknowingly gets on the bad side of the sadistic master-at-arms Claggart, until Billy is falsely accused of mutiny by him. Stammering and unable to form a verbal response, Billy reflexively hits Claggart and accidentally kills him. Now, sympathetic Captain Vere and a board of inquiry must decide Billy's fate.

The movie is perfectly acted by all, especially Peter Ustinov (who also directed) as Captain Vere, Robert Ryan as Claggart, and Terence Stamp in his critically-acclaimed first role, as Billy Budd.

This is an excellent movie that deserves a better, and/or cheaper, DVD. The "digitally mastered" phrase referring to this DVD only means it uses binary "1"s and "0"s, not that the picture is enhanced or even any good. In fact the otherwise nice black-and-white photography suffers from whatever old print the DVD was made from, as the whites tend to glow, and the contrast and image quality are pretty soft. This expensive DVD is in fact so cheap there is not even a menu, much less a trailer, subtitles or any other extra.

This is a first rate movie on a poor DVD. Still, I'm glad I have it in my collection. You will be, too.

Edit: Warner has released an excellent version. Get that one."
Caveat emptor
T. P. Lewis | Ipswich, MA | 12/05/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Yes, you are correct. The video quality of this DVD you own is atrocious. That is because you have been DUPED. That is because it is a BOOTLEG. I have been tracking the progress of a potential DVD release of this movie since the time I bought my very first DVD player. Unfortunately for the general public, back in June of 2002, the rights to this masterpiece fell into the hands of Allied Artists Entertainment. (See my scathing review of those clowns below). They came up with the ingenious idea to release this classic on a low quality, dying format (VHS). But my patience has finally paid off, as Warner Brothers will be releasing a full length, unedited, restored, anamorphic widescreen version on DVD in March of 2007. Well, folks, I'm very sorry you fell for this one but don't feel bad as this was a well orchestrated scam. Hey look, even fell for it! I believe this junk was first made available on a seedy website called MoviesUnlimited. I guess Amazon wanted a piece of the action and took the bait. As a reputable online store (it's where I shop), Amazon should immediately pull this from their site. But c'mon folks, what were ya thinkin when it arrived in the mail...the cover art's scanned from the VHS box, the disc itself has no label on it, the recorded side is Purple, and the disc contains no menus or chapter stops. Did ya think it might have been good idea to return it immediately??? But fear not. In just four months all of us Billy Budd fans can finally rejoice together. Take care."
Homemade DVD quality
Paul Chanek | Anchorage, AK USA | 09/08/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"It is indeed outrageous that Billy Budd--certainly one of the top 10 films of all time, offering the best career performances of Ustinov, Ryan, and Stamp--has yet to be released on a real studio-mastered DVD. This version is unbelievable! It appears that someone ran the old VHS copy through a DVD dubbing machine and called it good. The disc itself looks like a bootleg: computer-burned (purple dye), no menus or even chapter stops, so you can only fast-forward through the film to jump to specific parts. It's also been cut by about 3 minutes (presumably to fit just under 2 hours--though the disc could hold more, having been burned at "LP" quality, not "SP"). Billy Budd is such a perfectly made film, that any cuts are detrimental and very noticeable. It's also squeezed into the 4:3 format (it was originally filmed in widescreen Cinemascope), and no one, of course, bothered to clean up the film. The whole DVD is a mess and not worth the 20+ dollars it's going for. Unfortunately, it's the only version available--which is a crime! Whoever has the rights to this masterpiece, please do a decent job on it and release it!"