BILLY BUDD is a "what might have been" picture. The story was almost impossible to make into a movie because it's more of an operatic plot, replete with good and evil allegorically depicted. Stamp stars as Billy, an ingenuous young man sadistically treated by Ryan, master-at-arms aboard a
late 18th-century fighting ship of the British navy. Ustinov, who also produced, directed, and cowrote the screenplay with Robert Rossen, is the captain of the ship, a man who stands in the middle and cannot make up his mind. There is no question that Ustinov is a prodigious and Protean talent,
but he truly took on more than he could handle in all these categories. A good cast and...