Hornblower: Mutiny (2001)


Mutiny is the fifth of eight Hornblower television adaptations relating the exploits of Horatio Hornblower, the protagonist in a series of novels and short stories by C.S. Forester.

It is based on the 1952 book Lieutenant Hornblower by C.S. Forester.


In 1802 in Kingston, Jamaica, Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower is imprisoned on a charge of mutiny. On a visit, he explains to his former captain, Commodore Sir Edward Pellew, why he is in prison.

In flashback (six months previously), Hornblower is the 3rd Lieutenant aboard HMS Renown, under the command of the famous Captain James Sawyer, a hero from the Battle of the Nile and one of Admiral Nelson’s band of brothers. The other officers are 1st Lieutenant Buckland, the newly arrived 2nd Lieutenant William Bush, and 4th Lieutenant Archie Kennedy. Despite his reputation, Sawyer does not trust his officers and treats them harshly.

After a trip to Plymouth, Renown is sent on a mission to Santo Domingo, then undergoing a slave rebellion, in order to deal with Spanish privateers that threaten British trade in the West Indies. On the way, conditions worsen. Sawyer targets Midshipman Wellard especially. Hornblower is placed on a 36-hour watch when he tries to shield Wellard. Later, Sawyer gives the crew an extra ration of rum, which leaves them slow to respond when they suddenly sight two French frigates which threaten to rake Renown. Hornblower manages to frighten them off by ordering the crew to fire an unloaded stern chaser, but Sawyer is again angry at what he sees as an unauthorized act. Wellard is thrashed into unconsciousness and Sawyer orders Hornblower to resume his watch.

That night, Sawyer finds Hornblower asleep on watch, which is punishable by death under the Articles of War. Sawyer tells Hornblower, “I do believe your life is in my hands.” Then he offers the lieutenant a pistol and tells Hornblower to shoot him. Fortunately, Dr. Clive, a Sawyer loyalist, intervenes and leads the captain away.

Suspecting his officers are plotting against him, Sawyer extends Hornblower’s watch another 36 hours and orders that the other lieutenants report to him every hour. Hornblower secretly meets with Buckland and Kennedy to consider declaring Sawyer unfit for command. Bush joins them. Gunner Hobbs, a loyal, long-time shipmate of Sawyer’s, informs the captain that the lieutenants are nowhere to be found. The captain calls out the Marines to search for the officers. Sawyer confronts Lieutenant Kennedy alone and either falls or is pushed into the hold.

The captain suffers memory loss and Dr. Clive keeps him sedated to avoid revealing his worsening erratic behaviour. Buckland assumes command. Rumours begin to circulate that someone pushed the captain. Captain Sawyer recovers and lieutenants Bush, Hornblower, and Kennedy are arrested for mutiny.

Renown arrives at Santo Domingo, only to find that the Spanish fort sits too high for the ship’s guns to be effective. Sawyer insists on remaining and returning fire although it is ineffective. They suffer heavy damage and casualties from the Spanish cannons. Matthews releases the imprisoned lieutenants, and Dr. Clive finally deems Captain Sawyer unfit to command. Lieutenant Buckland takes charge, has the captain locked in his cabin and sails out of cannon range.

Back in Kingston, Commodore Pellew asks Hornblower to explain further.


  • Ioan Gruffudd as 3rd Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower.
  • David Warner as Captain James Sawyer.
  • Nicholas Jones as 1st Lieutenant Buckland.
  • Paul McGann as 2nd Lieutenant William Bush.
  • Jamie Bamber as 4th Lieutenant Archie Kennedy.
  • Paul Copley as Matthews, Boatswain.
  • Sean Gilder as Styles, Boatswain’s Mate.
  • Philip Glenister as Gunner Hobbs.
  • David Rintoul as Dr. Clive.
  • Terence Corrigan as Midshipman Wellard.
  • Gilly Gilchrist as Randall.
  • Paul Brightwell as Sergeant Whiting.
  • Robert Lindsay as Commodore Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth.

Hornblower Series

You can find a full index and overview of Hornblower here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Andrew Grieve.
  • Producer(s):
    • Andrew Benson … producer.
    • Michele Buck … executive producer.
    • Liz Bunton … line producer.
    • Delia Fine … executive producer: A&E Network.
    • Kris Slava … supervising producer: A&E.
  • Writer(s): T.R. Brown.
  • Music: John E. Keane.
  • Cinematography: Chris O’Dell.
  • Editor(s): Keith Palmer.
  • Production:
    • A+E Networks (in association with).
    • Meridian Broadcasting.
    • United Film and Television Productions.
  • Distributor(s):
    • A&E Home Video (2000) (USA) (DVD).
    • A&E Home Video (2002) (USA) (VHS).
    • A+E Networks (1999) (USA) (TV).
    • Cinema Club (2002) (UK) (VHS).
    • Cinema Club (2003) (UK) (DVD).
    • ITV – Independent Television (1999) (UK) (TV).
    • ITV DVD (2006) (UK) (DVD).
    • NHK-BS2 (2002) (Japan) (TV).
    • Reel Corporation (2002) (Australia) (DVD).
    • Reel DVD (2002) (Australia) (DVD).
  • Original Network: ITV1.
  • Release Date: 08 April 2001 (US) and 24 March 2002 (UK).
  • Running Time: 120 minutes (with adverts).
  • Rating: PG.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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