In 1797, the humane Captain Crawford (Guinness) is in command of the warship HMS Defiant during the French Revolutionary Wars tv tropes. He soon finds himself in a battle of wills with his first officer, the sadistic and arrogant first lieutenant, Scott-Padget (Bogarde). The lieutenant believes that Crawford is too soft on his crew, and Crawford, knowing that Scott-Padget has powerful family connections, is helpless to intervene. Meanwhile, some of the crew, led by seaman Vizard (Quayle), are preparing to mutiny for better conditions.
This film features examples of:
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: Non-game, title-only example, in that in the U.S. release, the film was retitled as Damn the Defiant!
- The Mutiny: The crew of the Defiant plans it from the beginning, and Dirk Bogarde's super-evil, sadistic first lieutenant gives them pretty good reason to do it.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The film takes place around the time of the Spithead and Nore mutinies.