13 August 1999 | RHW5000
More Realistic than 1935 Legend
I first heard of this movie in the spring of 1996. It surprised me to learn that there was a remake to the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty which I had recently watched for the 10th time. I hardly figured that the likes of a slurring Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian and a cast of personally unfamiliar characters("who was Trevor Howard",I asked myself) could top the swashbuckling Clark Gable as Christian and the ripping story that the cast of the 1935 gem pulled off. How wrong I was to doubt the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty. I loved it! I do not think that it is better than the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty, but it stands as a different take. While the older Mutiny told a by the numbers high-seas adventure with sword fights and glitzy hollywood melodrama, the 1962 version turns out to as less of an action movie and more of a drama. It chooses to downplay the story more to better concentrate on the surprisly complex characters. How complex? Take the tormented Mr. Fryer, Captain Bligh's 3rd in command. He sees the wrongful treatment that his captain is giving the crew, but he does not want to go against the navy. On the other hand, there is McCoy, the old 30 year veteran--someone who seemly would have experienced cruelty similar to Bligh's--who mutinied along with the younger members. Then there is Brown, who ever the gentleman, tries to be loyal to Bligh,but, in the end, he must obey his gentle ways and go against the captain's harsh methods. Although Mills plays a key role in the film, his character does not hold much mystery; the captain overreacts too much, and he does not think it right. He does something about it. All of these different characters and more, play off one another beautifully. When the mutiny does happen, watching them work together(or against each other) is truly beautiful. The production values stir the soul. The gigantic bounty, the breathtaking location footage of Tahiti, the vast panaramic shots of the Atlantic Ocean, and the loud/proud moody score accented with Tahitian percussion. The dialogue is quick, clever and too the point.
All of these elements help to elevate the core story in Mutiny on the Bounty: Bligh and Christian. As Bligh, Trevor Howard changes the character immortalized by Charles Laughten in the 1935 version. Instead of inhuman, demonic tyrant, Howard portrays Bligh simply as an excruciatingly stern captain focused(a little overzealously) on doing the best job that he can. If his mean do not pursue his goals with the same fervor. He gets impatient then frustrated then angry and then violent all in quick succession. He makes for a very realistically workaholic without a life, and he wants everyone else to be a workaholic, too. I thought Clark Gable's Fletcher Christian could not be topped...until I saw Marlon Brando undergo a sheer transformation playing the role. After seeing Brando in ON THE WATERFRONT and the equally American THE GODFATHER, I could not imagine him playing 18th Century British officer...but he did. Brando perfects the haughty, posturing walk. He perfects the clipped, accented speech. He perfects the foppish, effeminate walk of a "true" English gentlemen of high-born connections. Brando does it so remarkably well that one cannot imagine such sissified character leading a mutiny against a tyrannical man like Bligh. Brando's transformation of Christian from sissy to mutiny leader baffles. Unlike Gable, he doesn't gloss over the decision to be a mutineer. Gable made it look easy and as the "right thing to do". Realistically, is it the right thing to do? To throw away your career that you worked hard for? To throw away your life? All for the sake of a feeling a moral belief? It may sound hard, but when faced with a such a delimma, it can be agonizing...which is exactly what Brando captures to a tee, right down to the last frame.
Mutiny on the Boutny 1962 truly needs to be seen. Please don't listen to critics. This movie is fantastic.