Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.
Based on a novel by C. S. Forester, an English ship fights Spaniards and the French during the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1807 Horatio Hornblower captains a ship in the Pacific Ocean. He tells Lt. Gerard (Terence Morgan) a man is flogged because Gerard said he would be. Hornblower predicts landfall in two days. Wind returns, and they see land. Hornblower goes to the ally Don Julian Alvarado (Alec Mango) and sees men hanging. Alvarado demands the weapons, but Hornblower says he must have provisions first.
A Spanish ship arrives at night and anchors. Hornblower and his men go in boats, board it, and fight. The captain surrenders to Hornblower. He gives the prize to Alvarado and goes to blockade Panama. They see a white flag. A Spanish captain comes aboard and says that Spain is now England’s ally. Lady Barbara Wellesley (Virginia Mayo) asks Hornblower for passage to England. He has to attack the prize and orders Barbara and her maid Hebe to stay below. Their cannons destroy the prize, but they suffer damage. Barbara is nursing the wounded, but Midshipman Longley (James Kenney) dies.
They sail south and make repairs. Barbara becomes ill with a fever, and the physician is dead. Hornblower consults a book and treats her for three days, and she recovers. Hornblower learns that she is to marry Admiral Leighton. One evening Barbara tells Hornblower that she loves him; but he says that he is married. He orders Lt. Bush (Robert Beatty) to increase the sails.
As they approach England, Hornblower kisses Barbara passionately. He says they are not free. Rear Admiral Rodney Leighton (Denis O’Dea) comes aboard and criticizes Hornblower. Barbara thanks Hornblower and leaves with Leighton.
Hornblower comes home and learns that his wife died in child-birth. Two weeks later he reads of Barbara’s wedding. Hornblower is given a better ship captured from the French in Leighton’s squadron. Barbara tells Hornblower she only heard of his misfortune after her wedding.
At sea Leighton consults with his captains. Hornblower suggests a strategy, and Leighton warns him. Hornblower captures a French prize and gets information. He flies a French flag and approaches their ships in a harbor. He changes flags and attacks, destroying masts. Lt. Bush is wounded, and they are sinking. Hornblower orders the men to abandon ship. They swim ashore and are captured. Hornblower says the squadron will free them, but he and Bush are to be tried as pirates.
Seaman Quist (James R. Justice) volunteers to go with them and sabotages the carriage so that they can escape. They row a boat down a river to a port. They steal uniforms and take over a ship, using English prisoners as a crew. They sail to Plymouth. Hornblower learns that Leighton was killed and goes home. Barbara comes to see him.
This naval adventure depicts an English captain as exceptionally skilled and lucky while one Spaniard is a megalomaniac and the French are easily defeated. Thus the audience is invited to identify with the invincible English hero.