Mutiny on the Bounty Reviews
I really do believe it's possible to make a good epic. I've even seen some. Oh, they're rare, but they exist. Indeed, I think most of them were from this era. The fifties and sixties were, as I see it, the golden era of the epic. Probably my all-time favourite came out in the same year, in fact. So what's the difference? Why do I love that one so much and think this one is so terrible? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Probably first and foremost is the fact that, not long after this movie started, I was editing in my head. The important factor in an epic as I see it is having an epic-length story to tell. There are other issues, naturally, and we'll get to some of them in a minute. However, it's generally the fact that if you find yourself checking the time during a movie, that is not a good sign about the quality of the movie, and just the first disc of this felt too long.
In this telling of the familiar story, Fletcher Christian (Brando) is a fop who also happens to be an officer of the Royal Navy. When he goes to his new posting on the [i]HMS Bounty[/i], a pair of fashionable women tag along to see what the ship looks like. Anyway, it's under the command of William Bligh (Trevor Howard). They are to sail to Tahiti, where they will take on a cargo of breadfruit cuttings to use to feed the slaves in His Majesty's colony in Jamaica. As is the general impression of the man, and we won't get into how unfair the whole thing is this time, Bligh turns out to be a rampaging tyrant, having the men flogged on the slightest provocation. Christian is concerned, and it's only after they leave Tahiti that he realizes that he's the men's only chance of survival. After a man dies from being keelhauled in shark-infested waters, Christian has had enough. He leads the men in a daring daytime mutiny, taking over the ship and setting Bligh and various of the others adrift in a small boat.
According to legend, Marlon Brando's weight was seesawing so much over the making of this film that he split the seats of fifty-two pairs of pants, finally ending in the costume department's giving up and using stretch fabric. He married Tarita, the Tahitian woman who played (if I remember correctly) Christian's Tahitian wife in the movie. Clearly, he fell in love with the island just as Fletcher Christian did, though Brando was also a bit more free to just move there, especially given that this movie didn't do very well at the box office. I will say, however, that I'm fine with the casting here. I've seen movies where I thought Marlon Brando did a fine job at acting (though I don't think this was one of them, and don't get me started on the accent), but I don't think I've ever heard a claim that he was a good person. He doesn't seem to have been crazed in the same way as Fletcher Christian, but he was still a loon.
So okay, what would I have trimmed? Fair question. Honestly, most of the Tahiti bits. The whole thing about how Bligh ordered Christian away from Maimiti and then ordered him to go after her again after the chief gets all offended that Christian isn't sexing up the chief's daughter. It's silly. The stuff about the growing cycle of the breadfruit tree is unnecessary. A lot of Christian's character development only goes to make me really dislike him, not understand his motivations any better. I have a hard time caring about why he shows interest in the lower-class men, given that he's an upper class fop himself. I don't need the scene of his first appearance on the ship with his pair of women. Of course, without them, we only have one real female character, but even with them, we don't have one well-developed female character. The whole thing about the botanist from Kew Gardens can go. Christian's claim that they're going to go back and clear their names is unbelievable and only makes things worse.
What I would really like is a telling of the story that really developed the characters properly. To be fair, I don't know what the deal was with the historical Fletcher Christian. I don't know as much about him. William Bligh is just more interesting, which I guess is just going to keep being a problem for me about these movies. I'd kind of like to see one where the mutiny is just prelude, one that really goes into detail about his amazing feat of seamanship. Or maybe about the other time he was accused of cruelty, where it turns out he was just trying to root out corruption. As it turns out, Bligh (eventually Admiral Bligh, though he never commanded a ship again) was in many ways a very cool guy. It's also worth noting that Trevor Howard didn't want to take the part, because he knew he was far too old for the role. While he is traditionally shown as an older man, he was actually younger than I am at the time all this took place. Honestly, I think that's more interesting, but no one ever shows it.
The music has a bombastic and yet low tone to it, leaving the audience with a sense of viewing a mature epic, and not just another MGM blockbuster.
Use of the wide angle 70mm lenses seem to prevent any real close ups and the film is almost epic for epic's sake. But it works well, and is entertaining. It is no Ben Hur and the 1984 version, "The Bounty" is still better in my view, but this is certainly the grandest voyage of the Bounty you're ever likely to see.