on January 30, 2000
Charles Laughton gives the standout performance in this classic retelling of the Bounty mutiny. Gable appears properly confounded and gives a believable and sympathetic rendering of Fletcher Christian. The movie holds up remarkably well despite some awkward editing and gaps in the story line. Still, at 133 minutes it is a relatively long film but it never drags. In spite of allegations made in other reviews there are no "white girls in blackface" or "boats in a bathtub" scenes. True, navels are concealed but the two female leads are obviously and revealingly topless in several scenes. As for "toy boats in a bathtub" there is only one sequence that obviously utilizes a model and it isn't all that obvious. Laughton is the luminary here and his Bligh stays with you. In fact it has stayed with the culture for sixty-five years. His performance is without fault and repeated watchings bear this out. A couple of sequences bear a closer look: The mutiny montage is startlingly effective and intense. It is a realistic portrayal of sudden violence; short, confusing, and graphic. The Sunday morning prayers on deck sequence is poetic and approaches the sublime. The ship's sails gleam translucent in the sun, the Union Jack floats majestically in the breeze, sunlight reflects brightly on faces as the Captain invokes God's blessings on the voyage. The extreme contrast of light and dark in the black and white print and the metaphorical contrast of good against Bligh, the epitome of evil, is subtle yet effective. It is a beautiful few moments. In every way but gloss this film is superior to the 1962 version. The 1984 "Bounty" with Mel Gibson is a fine film but it fades in the memory. This version lingers in the subconsious.
Based on the then-popular novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, the 1935 MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is among a series of legendary films of the 1930s that have been repeatedly celebrated for cinematic achievement. And small wonder: the film has a host of powerful assets.
The single most obvious among these is the star power involved: led by two Oscar-winning stars, the critically formidable Charles Laughton and the incredibly popular Clark Gable, the cast reads like a Who's Who of mid-1930s male actors ranging from leading man Franchot Tone to the memorable character actor Donald Crisp. In a visual sense, the film is also a knockout: filmed on location in a full-size replica of the Bounty, it set a new standard for capturing the sea on film. And the story itself is powerful, the tale of the battle between the cruel and autocratic Bligh and the humane and populist Fletcher Christian. Taken together, it makes for a powerful ride.
Still, some viewers may not find MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY all it is cracked to be. Then as now, Hollywood was less interested in getting the facts right than in telling a good story--and from a factual point of view the film is perhaps twenty percent accurate and eighty percent nothing more nor less than historical tarradiddle. That is no real hinderance per se; after all, we're not watching a documentary. But seen from a modern standpoint the cast now feels somewhat problematic.
Charles Laughton was so critically well regarded that he received star billing over Clark Gable for the film, and seen today his performance is easily the single most powerful in the entire film. Autocratic, brilliant, and immediately and increasingly unlikable, he drives the film from start to finish--and it is here, really, in which most of the film's historical accuracy resides. The rest of the cast, however, is extremely Hollywood. Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and all the rest give an excellent show, full of power and drive--but you never for a moment forget that they are indeed Hollywood stars and not members of the British Navy.
This is very much a "big" film in the MGM tradition, often brilliant, often memorable, and often setting new standards for the motion picture industry. And when regarded from that point of view it is extremely, extremely entertaining. But it may also be a film whose power has slightly faded with the passing of time.
The DVD package is slight and less informative than simply entertaining, including trailers, a scrap of newsreel footage, and (most interesting) a short documentary on Pitcairn Island as it existed about the time MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY was made. Although the picture and sound have not been restored per se, both are best-possible-quality short of digital restoration. Recommended to fans of classic 1930s Hollywood.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on February 13, 2001
This film doesn't seem to meet the criteria of what we call a great movie: it won't lift your spirit and soul, it doesn't really give us any lasting food for thought, it probably won't make you laugh hysterically( although I thought the swinging lantern bit was pretty funny), it probably won't really make you weep. So why is this such a respected movie?
It is a rolicking adventure of the sea. Everyone knows there were enough of those made in the old days. So why does this one stand out?
It's the acting. The rich man's son is extremely well portrayed and his speech at the end is well rendered. The entire cast is outstanding, making even the nobodys of the ship endearing and enduring. Clark Gable(no mustache?!! Horrors!) gives a deep introspective portrait of Fletcher Christian as a man that has been pushed and pushed and pushed again.
Laughton gives a Bligh that is truly one of the best villians ever to grace the screen. Gable and Laughton play off each other marvelously. As Gable reacts to Laughton's brutality, making the audience wonder what exactly will push him over the edge.
In short, what made this adventure movie so lasting? What made it a classic? I'll tell you. It's the deep introspective character development seen here. Highly recommended.
on August 7, 2013
This Blu-ray transcription captures the resolution of the original 35mm film, but it cannot be expected to compensate for the limitations of 80-year-old technology. MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY appears on today's high definition televisions only as sharp as it did originally in theaters, with the many instances of rear projection backgrounds looking fuzzy to the modern viewer. The movie was held in high regard in 1935, as indicated by its winning of the Academy Award for Best Picture. Its three lead actors, Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone were all nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, thereby insuring that none of them would be able to win it. The Best Actor award went to the only non-BOUNTY nominee, Victor McLaglen, for his performance in The Informer. Emerging from a crowded field of twelve nominees for Best Picture, BOUNTY was praised not only for its actors, but for its dramatic screen presentation of an epic story and for the exotic South Pacific shooting locations which helped to make it the most expensive motion picture up to that time.
Compared to more recent films, including two remakes of Mutiny on the Bounty, the 1935 version might seem a bit stagey and confined, but consider the facts: it was made in the first decade of the sound era, depended heavily on primitive rear-projection effects for dramatic moments at sea, was subject to a production code so restrictive that it required women's navels to be either covered with clothing or obliterated with makeup, and did not have the benefit of color photography to emphasize the exotic nature of its location footage. The consequent "defects" were not apparent to audiences of 1935, because MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY was state of the art at the time, a thrilling adventure story of unprecedented on-location scope, and featuring some of the most respected actors of the day. Clark Gable had won the Best Actor Oscar in 1934 for It Happened One Night, while Charles Laughton had won in 1933 for The Private Life of Henry VIII, the first-ever win for a non-American. In BOUNTY, Gable was his usual affable and believable self and made a sympathetic Fletcher Christian, Tone was a fresh and eager Midshipman, but it was Laughton who stole the show as the villainous Captain Bligh.
The real Captain Bligh was not the madman depicted in the movies, and went on to a distinguished career in the Royal Navy after the mutiny, a career marked by promotion all the way up to Admiral. But he was an especially stern taskmaster, and not a favorite with his subordinates, traits magnified in the screen portrayals of Bligh. Despite vastly improved production values in the later versions of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, it is Laughton's performance and image that are best remembered as the definitive face of the tyrant. In one of the fact-based incidents in the film, following the mutiny Bligh commands a small open boat with 18 loyal crewmen, in an epic journey of nearly 4,000 miles across the Pacific to safety in Timor.
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is well worth a look, both as an interesting story and as a significant bit of Hollywood history. Who knows, you might even be able get into the spirit of its time and recapture some of the epic feel that enthralled audiences when the film was new.
on May 19, 2000
Gable is impressively right as Fletcher Christian (although his speech sounds more Ohio than English!) Laughton gives an unforgettable performance as the sadistic weakling you love to hate, Captain Bligh, while Franchot Tone is amusing in his role as Roger. The cost of the production (which took nearly 2 years to make) was a whopping (for 1935) 2 million dollars and there were 2500 extras employed for the Polynesian scenes. Gable's and Movita's scenes together have a special quality and this adaptation of the Nordoff-Hall classic (which contains aspects of truth) is storytelling at its best.
on October 16, 2015
This is the Academy Award Winner of 1935. Nice print with a good "making of" documentary.
Laughton gives a tour de force and is brilliantly despicable as the already despicable Capt. Bligh. Gable is the perfect foil as the likable Mr. Christian. Word is that Gable was frustrated with Laughton's acting style, he wouldn't look him in the eye... Whatever tension the two had off screen transposes well here, they play polar opposites of traditional male power symbols, one is insecure and snide and a bully, the other confident and a hail fellow well met.
This is an epic film and story but one can't help but feel something is missing. Aside from the symbolic battle that takes place between the two, more psychic flesh and blood could have been spilled. Perhaps Gable wasn't up to that task and the screenplay is perfunctory. The Brando/Trevor Howard version 20+ years is allowed to explore more of the psychic territory. Still, for a 1935 sea faring tale, this Mutiny is seaworthy.
This epic naval adventure from 1935 is the jewel in the crown of Louis B. Mayer's MGM from the Thalberg years. Clark Gable is heroic Master's Mate Fletcher Christian and the great Charles Laughton is tyrannical Captain Bligh.
Both actors are at the peak of their considerable screen charisma and dramatic powers.
A Best Picture Oscar© winner for 1935, the lavish production is based on the true historic trilogy as told in the book of the same name by U.S. Army Air Service pilots and writers Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. The film was written and directed by Frank Lloyd on locations as diverse as Tahiti and Catalina.
The story is set in 1787. The 90 foot H.M.S. Bounty sails from Portsmouth for the South Seas in search of Breadfruit trees so slave colonies can have a cheap source of food. Bligh's harsh discipline ordered on his men for minor and perceived infractions finally led to a full mutiny after they land in Tahiti.
Bligh and a few men loyal to him are set loose in the open sea. But Bligh is rescued and Fletcher along with the surviving mutineers fear eventual arrest and take the Bounty and their Tahitian wives and flee to remote, uninhabited Pitcairn Island where they salvage the Bounty, burn the remains and set up life. Their descendents live there to this day; it is a strict, religious, inbred, colony with serious issues of abuse. Sadly, it is not an Edenic paradise.
Some trivia: There's a persistent rumor that producer Thalberg specifically cast Gable and Laughton because he believed they would truly despise one another off and on screen since Laughton was gay and Thalberg assumed Gable was a homophobe. In the film, Laughton appears to briefly glance almost adoringly at Gable, which adds to the perverse tension, almost as if a sadist is looking for a masochist to love. But I see this as part of Laughton's brilliant acting choices and nothing more. Sadly, ace cameraman Glenn Strong drowned when a boat capsized during filming in the rough South Pacific. James Cagney and David Niven both claim to have been extras. Maybe you can spot them on the sharp BD transfer?
There were two earlier cinematic version of this oft-told tale: a silent Australian film from 1916 and In The Wake of the Bounty starring Errol Flynn from 1933. Lloyd's film was remade in 1962 with Marlon Brando as Christian. Brando ended up marrying Movita, who was the beautiful, young, Tahitian love interest in the 1935 MGM film! 1984's The Bounty, starring Mel Gibson, was derived from a different account but essentially told the same story.
The great looking and sounding Blu-ray 1935 edition comes with no extras beyond a trailer and a vintage, short featurette on Pitcairn Island as it was in 1939.
When I was a boy, I met Fletcher Christian 1V(?) who was visiting the U.S. seeking support for his fellow islanders. He was an old man, but he looked just like engravings of his famous ancestor. At his urging, I became a pen-pal of a young Pitcairn girl also named Robin. As I recall, her description of island life was not idyllic or appealing.
on February 3, 2004
"Mutiny On The Bounty" is a classic sea epic about the crew of a British tall ship who revolt after their captain (Charles Laughton) becomes tyrannical on the high seas. Clark Gable cuts a handsome swashbuckling figure as Fletcher Christian - king of the mutineers. His ability to insight revolt leads to a disastrous outcome for all concerned. Franchot Tone give a poignant performance as one of the wronged sea men, put on trial but eventually exonerated from the charge of mutiny. For adventure on the high seas there's none to touch this harrowing classic!
Warner Brothers? transfer is a mixed blessing. Though much of the footage shot on indoor stages seems to have held up well over time the exterior and location photography is riddled with age related artifacts, slightly out of focus image quality and glaring film grain, dirt and grit. The gray scale sometimes has a well balanced look to it. At other times it appears to be suffering from low contrast levels. Blacks are never solid or deep. There are no digital anomalies. Fine details are never realized. The audio is mono but very nicely cleaned up. Extras include a couple of featurettes and a trailer. Ho-hum...the pirates life for me!
on June 5, 2013
This film is a good example of great film making and acting for the 1930s. I enjoyed the entire story of a tyrannical captain Bligh (Charles Laughton), a practical lieutenant Christian Fletcher (Clark Gable), and the romantic and ingenuous midshipman, Byam (Franchot Tone). During their travesty through the sea, Bligh is constantly mistreating his crew, Fletcher is always advising the captain of better methods to handle the crew, and Byam is constantly discovering that navigating at sea is not so romantic as he once believed. There is a trip to Tahiti and a romantic encounter with its natives, a couple of romances between Fletcher and Byam and two native Tahitian women, then there are more reasons to hate Captain Bligh, the mutiny, and at the end a court martial scene where Bligh accuses Byam of mutiny. Every scene in this film was well done and the interaction between the major players was delightful to watch. It was simply excellent.
on February 22, 2015
Mutiny on the Bounty is a dramatized telling of the real events of the Mutiny on the Bounty from 1783. Charles Laughton is excellent as Captain Bligh, the Captain of the ship. One difficult thing about playing historical characters is that an actor must base his interpretation of individual based on what he can read. Bligh was not a good people person, but he was a good Captain. Laughton's Bligh is a mean, autocratic leader, who cares more for his mission than he does for his men and this causes problems that lead up to the Mutiny. Clark Gable, without his lucky moustache, is Fletcher Christian, First mate and leader of the Mutiny. Gable also turns in a brilliant performance as a man who is slowly driven to mutiny by the actions of Bligh toward his crew. Well filmed and directed with a good storyline and deserved the Academy Award for best picture. Laughton did not get along off the set and that carried over to the animosity between both men on screen. The supporting actors also did a good job as sailors who begin to crack under the pressure of inhuman treatment they receive from Bligh. A brief historical note and mentioned in the film relations between officers and crew began to improve after the mutiny. What is not mentioned is what happened to Bligh after the incident, he still continued to captain ships. We see the mutineers preparing to land on PItcairn Island be no mention of their ultimate fate is mentioned in the movie. Historically things did not go well for them. I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it.