Cinema: Innocence on the Avenger

Billy Budd, which as a novel is a skinny English Lit cousin of Moby Dick and as a play was drydocked after a brief Broadway run, finds itself as a beautiful, terrifying and heartbreaking film. The transformation is the more admirable for the fact that Billy Budd is essentially a morality play with an unpopular moral: absolute good and absolute evil must always destroy each other.

Billy Budd, a handsome and guileless young sailor, steps on deck of H.M.S. Avenger one day in 1797, impressed into naval service at a time when the French threatened the British navy on one hand and...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!