In 1777, during the struggle for independence by the American colonists, a unit of the British Army is headed by General Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier), who dislikes waging this type of war.
The British are in a precarious position in the New Hampshire area, and to keep the colonists in line, Major Swindon (Harry Andrews) hangs one of them as an example of what could happen to others indulging in treason.
Pastor Anthony Anderson (Burt Lancaster) is too late to stop the execution, and the British won’t allow him to claim the body for burial. Later that night, the body is stolen by the dead man’s son, Richard (Dick) Dudgeon (Kirk Douglas), a wild revolutionary Puritan known as “The Devil’s Disciple.”
When Major Swindon decides that another example is in order, Reverend Anderson invites Dick to his home, fearful that he will be apprehended by the British.
When Rev. Anderson is called away, the British arrive to arrest the pastor, and Dick poses as the pastor despite protestation from Anderson’s wife, Judith (Janette Scott). He is lodged in jail to await a trial.
Meanwhile, Reverend Anderson joins a rebel band in their resistance.
Dick Dudgeon is sentenced to hang, but Anderson returns, having defeated the British in a neighbouring town and carrying a note from a general who is being held hostage.
Anderson ultimately gives up being a pastor for a more active role in the battle for freedom.
The screenplay is by John Dighton and Roland Kibbee and is based on the play by George Bernard Shaw. The picture was filmed in Britain at Elstree Studios.
Reverend Anthony Anderson
Eva Le Gallienne
Reverend Maindeck Parshotter
Wife of Titus