Mutiny on the Bounty Reviews
How glad I am that I did view this film. I knew the basic story from faint 9memories of a 1984 version.
It basically follows as the title implies a mutiny by the lowly sailors over the mean Captain lead by officer Mr. Christian.
In this version Christian is actually played by an American, Clark Gable who has his trademark Lord Lucan like moustache removed for the role.
I really got into the film but was somewhat disappointed the film could not have been shot in colour like Gone With The Wind which I had watched a few hours earlier. The black and white images on a television screen mean the production design that the film is lauded for cannot be fully admired.
The mean Captain Bligh (excellently played by Charles Laughton) looks like a stuck up Conservative MP. Laughton puts in an excellent performance like Gable and deservedly received a Best Actor Oscar nomination alongside Franchot Tone). The only time that three performances in the same film were up for the Best Actor award.
I have to say it again. A film worthy of a remake using a modern cast and colour.
Decent telling of the (true) story of the Bounty. The sailing scenes are quite authentic and you get a good feel for what life at sea must have been like in the late-1700s.
Good work by Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh - he captured the menace and maliciousness of Bligh very well. Clark Gable is fine as Christian, though at times maybe a bit too cavalier and cocky to be naval officer.
Not great though. The story does feel a bit dry at times and is fairly conventionally told. I much preferred the 1984 version starring Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson. (I haven't yet seen the 1962 version starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard).
Won the 1936 Best Picture Oscar.
Maybe I just wasn't in the mood, because the elements are all there. Clark Gable, though miscast as a young British naval officer, is entertaining as always in the role of Christian, the charming everyman who leads the mutiny, despite playing it no differently than any of his other roles, and Charles Laughton, great as Henry VIII, is once again very good as the villainous Captain Bligh here. Technically the film was also very good for its time, with lots of sweeping shots of The Bounty, hundreds of extras wearing excellent historical attire, and creative editing.
But the film simply didn't work for me. The music is generic and consistently incongruous with the events on screen, with the stereotypically high-pitched, optimistic music you'd expect to find in a romantic comedy of the day drowning out action-packed scenes, such as the obligatory scene where a storm hits the ship.
There is also about half an hour of a cheesy romantic subplot where the crew of The Bounty stop off in Tahiti and pair off with the women there. This is actually at the same time the best and worst part of the movie, as it has tons of entertainment value but is totally tonally different to the rest of the film. The most memorable shot - also the most cringeworthy I've seen in any Oscar-winning film up until this point - shows the close-up, soft-focused face of a Tahitian girl as she enters the room and seductively smiles at one of the Englishmen. The shot sums up everything dated about this kind of film; it's entertaining, but we wouldn't take it seriously today. These scenes of romance have charm, but little passion, and at times had me bursting out laughing.
My biggest problem with the film is that the last act, once the mutineers (well, some of them) are caught and brought back to trial in England, focuses mainly on the politics behind everything, almost completely skipping the in-between part where Captain Bligh, thrown on a lifeboat with a few of his loyalists, made his way back to England and sent the Navy back to capture the mutineers. If I were to make a film about this, I'd focus heavily on this potentially awesome third act, with a lot more on-ship action and drama as opposed to people sitting in chairs discussing the fates of the mutineers. I'd also have focused a lot more on the lives the mutineers had in Tahiti for the few years they lived there in peace, as there was a lot of mystery and intrigue there.
I'd probably like this film more on a second watch. As I said, the performances are good as are the production values. But the film as a whole seemed to cater more to the melodramatic tastes of the time as opposed to telling the raw, passionate, and epic story of The Bounty and getting to the core of one of the most interesting stories of all time.
And a 30-something Clark Gable as a 20-something Englishman? My arse.
The 1935 Best Picture winner is an adventure to check out if the harshness of Laughton's character won't bring down your spirits while watching the film, like the way he did to his crew. If so, Gable's rebellious character will answer the call. (B)
(Full review coming soon)