Mutiny on the Bounty (4.0)

Marlon Brando struggles to defend the crew against a giant, windy Trevor Howard mug.

Previous filmed in 1916 as a silent, in1933 with Errol Flynn (!) making his starring debut as Fletcher Christian, and in 1935 [M] by MGM with the iconic Clark Gable and Charles Laughton battling egos and lapses of politesse, this fourth go-round at Mutiny on the Bounty was treated to a fortune in studio cash in the hope a literary classic would bring major box office rewards.

Filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 (formerly branded as MGM Camera 65), the 1962 production [M] also involved a replica of the famous H.M.S. Bounty (proudly built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia) that was slightly longer & wider to accommodate the massive cameras, and allow a full crew to shoot locked and tracking shots on the ship with ease.

MGM’s extravaganza was shot in the rich tropics, and  the film certainly captures the visual beauty of Tahiti where the Bounty lay anchored while the crew gathered up maturing breadfruit plants for a trip to Jamaica prior to the classic mutiny which pitted a good Christian soul against a rigid, cruel monster.

As with MGM’s ‘35 film, Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall’s novel was the basis for the story, but not unlike many screenplays based on historical events, the novel's authors tweaked facts and characters to ensure their novel was first & foremost a solid read, which inevitably makes it appear the novel and films are truthful representations of the actual Bounty saga.

As a historical epic, the ’62 version is marvelous – it looks and sounds wonderful on Warner Home Video’s new Blu-ray – but it would take a fifth poke at the story (the 1984 Mel Gibson / Anthony Hopkins version) to present a somewhat more accurate interpretation of the events that split up a crew, sent a captain rowing, and in the end had mutineers losing civility in their newly found island paradise, Pitcairn Island.

There’s also the issue of Marlon Brando’s decision to rethink Christian, interpreting the character a bit too differently than Gable to the point where he apparently irked critics, and perhaps contributed to the film’s status as a modest cinematic dud.

Brando’s characterization may not have pleased fans and critics, but in retrospect, he made the oft-told tale a bit more interesting; it’s not hard to see what he was trying to accomplish, but it doesn’t quite work, and it’s a problem that sometimes affected the iconic historic figures he would play early in his career. As Napoleon (Desiree [M]), he wasn’t able to transcend the caricature of the script, but he was a brooding Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (although one could argue co-stars Anthony Quinn and Joseph Wiseman were much more interesting to watch).

WHV’s Blu-ray replicates the contents from the prior HD-DVD edition, and while the archival extras are fully welcomed by fans, there is a lack of critical analysis, either in the form of a proper making-of doc, featurette, or commentary, but until the film is revisited again on home video in a special edition (realistically, quite unlikely), this sparkling edition will do, although it would be grand to see the film made available in a 70mm print to cinematheques so modern audiences can appreciate the visual and musical scope of this grand production.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )


Copyright © mondomark