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)
"I'll live to see you - all of you - hanging from the highest yardarm in the British fleet."
One of the films I had extreme hopes when I decided to choose which classics I really wanted to watch this year is the one I'm about to review right now. Ever since I got into classic cinema, Mutiny on the Bounty, like many other classics, has intrigued me to watch, and to see if it was worth the hype it has, especially Mutiny, the 8th film to win Best Picture and remains the only film to have three actors for the same film be nominated for Best Actor in a single year. But not every classic film is a masterpiece (as evidenced in my still talked about controversial hate review for 2001), and while Mutiny on the Bounty is nowhere as awful as said film, I still felt a little underwhelmed by the final result, though the film still remains an entertaining adventure.
Based on a novel involving actual events, and set in 1789, the film revolves around the voyage of the HMS Bounty, led by the notorious Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton), the most evil, vicious captain in the ocean. Bligh's evilness includes flogging much of his crew for ridiculous reasons, even going as far as flogging a dead man to earn respect for the crew, and forces an innocent man to torture himself on top of the mast during an extreme storm. Eventually, first mate Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) is fed up with Bligh's cruelty that he stages mutiny, and the rest is history.
One thing I have to give the film credit for is that it was one of the first sea adventures to actually be filmed on the open seas rather than a studio soundstage, making the voyage seem more realistic than other classics (Captain Blood, also released the same year, had this problem, despite it being very entertaining). It also has passable 1930's b&w cinematography that was likely great for its time. Plus the action was remarkably entertaining, particularly the mutiny.
But why was I underwhelmed by Mutiny on the Bounty? Well, first, it's about 30 minutes too long. Even at two hours, the film still seems to be a little two long. Though it happened in the real story, the subplot where Gable falls for some girls in Tahiti really distracted me from the true excitement of the film, being the buildup to the mutiny, since that was the interesting part of the film to begin with. Another issue is the debate on whether the film is historically accurate or not, which has been debated for years. Some say that Captain Bligh wasn't really that evil and that Christian only wanted a mutiny cause he loved those girls so much. Whether the events depicted on film are true or made up, unlike The Social Network, where I criticized the film for its inaccurate portrayal of recent events, for a story that wasn't too familiar with audiences until the novel came out (which was three years before the film came out), I'm able to forgive if the film was inaccurate or not, as the actual story is still debated among historians today.
Thankfully, all criticisms aside, the acting is most impressive about this motion picture. What's impressive is that the three main actors of the film (Clark Gable, Charles Loughton, and Franchot Tone) were nominated for Best Actor for the same film in the same year. Though Tone's role isn't really that noteworthy in any way, he still does a good job, and I give him credit for being nominated with so much competition that year. Clark Gable, a year after his "comeback" role in It Happened One Night, shows his strong charisma that made him a memorable actor to begin with, and makes a grand hero. But the true scene-stealer is easily Charles Loughton as Captain Bligh, and if anyone from this film deserved the Oscar that year, it would easily be Loughton. It's funny that the same year he played this sinister role, he was also an American immigrant in the moderately entertaining Ruggles of Red Gap, which was extremely different in tone than this. He does a flawless job in this role, nuff said!
Though a little overrated, and the pacing is a little too slow, and Franchot Tone is underused in his Oscar-nominated performance, Mutiny on the Bounty is still a decent Best Picture winner (though I would have given it to Captain Blood), with good cinematography, flawless acting from both Clark Gable and especially Charles Loughton, and the dramatic tension is enjoyable. While not an essential in my book, it's still a solid classic, and I wouldn't mind watching the 1962 remake starring the great Marlon Brando.