Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)


During a hectic and high disciplinary two year voyage to, and from, Tahiti, several crewmen on the ship The Bounty, lead by Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) mutiny again strict captain Bligh (Charles Laughton).

Caught between era romanticism and a epic stature tale, Mutiny on the Bounty is a captivating adventure film that spends a bit too much time on setup, and not enough time on execution. I understand why they do it this way. It's to create Bligh as the super villain, and our crew as the lovable sailors thrown into a situation they don't want to be in.

A strong premise, all be it over-glorified and villainous, but it's the kind of tale developed to get you one sighted, and emotionally invested. Though I was surprised at its ability to humanize certain characters towards the latter fourth, something you don't see all too often in old school movies. Still, to ignore the historical facts, and review the film on its own merits, I found it a capable, albeit at times misguided, affair. With strong men, who long for a peaceful life, seeking out to fight seeming injustice. Basically it's Robin Hood minus the romance, and giving.

And Clark Gable is the ever strong leading man, holding the film together in its slow moments. He's got the natural it factor for delivering a line, even if its a cheesy as they come. While Charles Laughton's steadfast attitude provides a strong villain character, grounded by extreme discipline. Franchot Tone holds his own quite well as the supporting entry level man meant to bridge the cast with the terminology, but his character is a bit too comical and over the top at times for my liking. While the rest of the supporting actors are caught up in stereotypes and some of the acting idiocies of the time.

As for the central mutiny itself, I found its appearance rather abrupt. There's a lot of buildup, and we all know its going to come, but once the final turn over event occurs, and the mutiny begins, I was shocked how quick it was thrust at us. Not necessarily a bad thing, but rather underwhelming and far too quick. Yet after this point the movie really picks up, and gives us a lot to grab a hold of. High tension, and thrilling moments, and of course a little revenge subplot thrown in for entertainment's sake.

A strong and captivating tale, caught in some genre cliches of the time, that does manage to save itself from being boring towards its finale by humanizing various characters, and creating great thrills.

6 better thoughts:

Michelle said...

"too comical and over the top at times"?!?!? Franchot Tone?? Never! He's the British Officer personified and perfect for the part. Byam is one of my favorite character's of the 1935 classic, IMO.

Univarn said...

@Michelle despite my enjoyment for Tone, his character just felt more like a caricature, high morality, against the backlash of two such well rounded ones as Bligh and Christian. Then again I didn't care much for how he was introduced, so that may have affected my perception.

whitney said...

I actually thought the Bligh character wasn't as one sided as he could have been coming from this Hollywood period. He's villainous throughout, but there must be something in him since he can successfully steer that little boat the mutineers leave him in to land.

Chase Kahn said...

I really like this version of "Mutiny on the Bounty," which is certainly the best of the three big ones (Lewis Milestone's version with Marlon Brando is pretty but inconsequential and excessive.)

The interesting thing is reading that the real Captain Bligh may not have been the brutal, domineering tyrant as he is so often depicted as being, and that Fletcher Christian, in fact, may have been a weak, inexperienced sailor looking for a way out.

Plus life on Pitcairn was hardly a model of lawful society, as it turns out.

Alfindeol said...

The mutiny was rather... abrupt and odd. Not nearly as violent as a real mutiny should be and, even with all the set-up, it never really exploded like I was expecting. Maybe it's the realism of it, but I prefer my Mutiny's violent. It was also the shortest mutiny in film history.

Squish said...

Wikipedia tells us that the actual mutiny went much the same way:
"Despite strong words and threats heard on both sides, the ship was taken bloodlessly and apparently without struggle by any of the loyalists except Bligh himself."

Which is what i liked about the film - though often dramatic it can't really be called an outright liar.

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