The Caine Mutiny (1954)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Caine Mutiny was the source of both a play and a film. The play, also written by Wouk, concentrates only on the court-martial which provides one of the story's many climaxes. The film attempts to telescope the entire book into two hours, and does an admirable job, despite the censorial measures taken to insure cooperation from the US Navy. The central character is Ensign Willie Keith (Robert Francis), who in the early months of World War II is assigned to the Caine, a battered minesweeper. Dismayed by the slovenliness of the crew and the seemingly lackadaisical attitude of Captain DeVries (Tom Tully), Keith is delighted when DeVries is replaced by "All Navy" Captain Phillip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart). A strict disciplinarian, Queeg rapidly whips the Caine into shape. Unfortunately, he's been in combat far too long, and is nearing the end of his tether. Increasingly paranoid, Queeg makes foolish mistakes at sea while misdirecting his attention towards such details as untucked shirts and unworn hats. Lt. Keefer (Fred MacMurray), one of Queeg's officers, rails against the captain's erratic behavior to his fellow officers. He convinces Lt. Maryk (Van Johnson) that Queeg is a danger to himself and his men, and that Maryk should consider usurping Queeg's authority. During a storm at sea, the beleaguered Queeg panics, and Maryk, acting upon Keefer's suggestion, stages a mutiny and assumes command, with Keith standing by Maryk's decision. A court-martial follows, with Navy attorney Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) reluctantly defending Maryk and Keith. During the testimony, Keefer, who has managed to avoid any tangible connection with the mutiny, lies about his complicity. Greenwald's only hope at this point is to discredit Queeg--which he does by bringing up an incident wherein the obsessive Queeg forced his officers to conduct an extensive search for some missing strawberries. Queeg cracks under questioning, and the defendants are cleared. At a victory celebration, a drunken Greenwald rails against the "summer sailors" who ruined an essentially courageous but worn-out man like Queeg, ending his tirade by throwing a glass of champagne in the treacherous Keefer's face. Major changes in transferring the novel to the screen included Greenwald's curtain speech, which originally brought up the lawyer's Jewish heritage; also, the novel's Captain Queeg is not forcibly retired after his breakdown, but instead transferred to stateside duty, where the press lauds him as a hero! Humphrey Bogart delivers one of his most memorable (and most often imitated) performances as the neurotic Queeg, though playgoers with long memories insist that Lloyd Nolan, who played Queeg on Broadway, gave a far more powerful accounting of this complex role.
Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama , Mystery & Suspense , Romance
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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Humphrey Bogart
as Capt. Queeg
Fred MacMurray
as Lt. Tom Keefer
Van Johnson
as Lt. Steve Maryk
Robert Francis
as Ens. Willie Keith
May Wynn
as May Wynn
Tom Tully
as Capt. DeVriess
E.G. Marshall
as Lt. Cmdr. Challee
Arthur Franz
as Lt. Paynter
Lee Marvin
as Meatball
Warner Anderson
as Capt. Blakely
José Ferrer
as Lt. Barney Greenwald
Claude Akins
as Horrible
Katherine Warren
as Mrs. Keith
Jerry Paris
as Ens. Harding
Steve Brodie
as Chief Budge
Todd Karns
as Stilwell
Whit Bissell
as Lt. Cmdr. Dickson
James Best
as Lt. Jorgenson
Joe Haworth
as Ens. Carmody
Herbert Anderson
as Ens. Rabbit
James Edwards
as Whittaker
David Alpert
as Engstrand
Don Anderson
as Radar Man
Robert Bray
as Court Martial Jury
Ted Cooper
as Sergeant-at-arms
Don Keefer
as Court Stenographer
Eddie Laguna
as Winston
Dayton Lummis
as Uncle Lloyd
Kenneth MacDonald
as Court Martial Jury
Paul McGuire
as Court Martial Jury
Tyler McVey
as Court Martial Jury
Patrick Miller
as Movie Operator
Richard Norris
as Court Martial Jury
Jay Richards
as Sailor
James Todd
as Commodore Kelvey
Donald Dillaway
as Chauffeur
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Critic Reviews for The Caine Mutiny

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (4)

The intelligently adapted screenplay retains all the essence of the novel.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
Top Critic

Despite a few flashes of talent in the 40s, Edward Dmytryk had descended to hack status by the time he filmed this 1954 version of Herman Wouk's novel.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A stodgily liberal courtroom drama.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The Caine Mutiny, though somewhat garbled, is a vibrant film.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Classic non-combat WWII drama has complex themes.

Full Review… | April 22, 2014
Common Sense Media

Complex, atypical Bogie performance is keynote for strong drama from Pulitzer-winning novel and Broadway show.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
TV Guide

Audience Reviews for The Caine Mutiny

Maybe Bogart's finest moment, but overall a weak film if you don't include his performance.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

The officers that relieve a veteran naval commander during a WWII mission must justify their actions to a court martial tribunal or face execution. Another courtroom drama based around the twisted morality of war and the command structure, The Caine Mutiny sidesteps the usual dryness associated with legal rhetoric by basing most of the story on board ship amongst a set of interesting, well realised characters. There's little in the way of military action, but the character dynamic works really well, the picks of the bunch being Fred MacMurray as the cynical writer who instigates the insurrection and obviously the brilliant Humphrey Bogart in one of his best performances as the captain who has perhaps served one tour too many and is suffering the psychological damage that results. Jose Ferrer is also excellent as the reluctant defending lawyer and his drunken blitzkrieg at the finale is a real highlight. The only off key note is the unnecessary and sentimental glimpse into Robert Francis' homelife, but these scenes are mercifully brief and the quality performances and sharp dialogue make this one of the best courtroom dramas around.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

The Caine Mutiny is one of those movies that's okay or just alright for the majority but really knocks you on your ass in the last 10 minutes. Anyone who wants to accuse Humphrey Bogart of playing the same record for his entire career is more than welcome to eat this one. The Robert Francis/May Wynn storyline (actually off the boat most of the Francis character off the boat) was completely negligable but all the action aboard the Caine was great. Picture The Caine Mutiny as Mister Robert's older codge brother. The whole cast is great (with a minor supporting role from a non-white-haired Lee Marvin) but Bogart and Fred MacMurray steal the show. But Jose Ferrer in the banquet scene was superb and leaves the viewer asking themselves a lot of questions. I won't call The Caine Mutiny one for my Kick in the Ass List but its still great, great stuff...

Michael Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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