Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

"Mutiny on the Bounty" basically spoils the whole plot of its own movie in its title: it's mutiny on the ship, the HMS Bounty..........maybe should have thought of a better title.
The opening title sequence of "Mutiny on the Bounty" lets us know precisely what's going to happen. In order to show the harsh and unfair treatment by officers to seaman, a man led a revolt and took over the Bounty from a tyrannical captain.
Fletcher Christian is our man who leads this rebellion, although it takes him almost the whole movie to work up the courage to do so.
The Bounty is a ship governed by regulations, traditions, and Captain Bligh. While Christian forces some men into a two year service, he still empathizes with them. They are prisoners and thieves, criminals; but Christian feels that they should be treated fairly.
Captain Bligh, on the other hand, is all for the school of hard knocks. He thinks that he can intimidate the men into obedience and for much of the movie it works. But the viewer knows that a rebellion is coming and it boils and churns in the back of your mind until it's almost frustrating.
Captain Bligh is a cruel man, whipping a dead man just to make his point, thrashing men for just giving the wrong answer, taking food away from the men while he grows fat on their meals, and stealing from the provisions and blaming it on other people.
The Bounty's mission is to sail to Tahiti to find some trees and bring those back to grow. Once in Tahiti, things change...
There's a man on board named Roger Byam, he translates the Tahitian language into English and vice versa.
But once the Captain acquires the trees that they came for, they start to sail back to England and Christian has to make a hard decision that will not give him the outcome that he expected.
This movie has several things that work for it: Clark Gable as Christian, the footage shot at sea, Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh.
But this movie also has things that work against it: Clark Gable, the sea footage, and Charles Laughton.
Gable is supposed to be British, very British. He's surrounded by English actors yet the man sounds incredibly American. In fact, there's no accent to fool us otherwise. He character is also a little muddled. He's got a hot temper yet he can tame it at all the right moments...convenient script writing.
Captain Bligh is the most well-thought out character but I was unhappy with Charles Laughton's portrayal. The man is obsessed with the rigor of himself. He loves to be controlling for the sake of command and power. He's an addict and Laughton gives us a good show, but he's just not crazy enough. Also, this man is supposed to be imposing but Laughton only stands about five feet and six inches tall. He has to be extra-cruel to make up for his lack of height, but he just doesn't pull it off.
This movie could have been so powerful. When the mutiny actually happens, large ethical questions are raised, addressed and then laid flat and trampled over by large herds of migrating sentimentalities.
The ending is so fluffy and devoid of any merit that it could best be described as trite.
Filming "Mutiny on the Bounty" must have been a gigantic pain. The camera rolls and pitches and can't quite focus during the more intense scenes, but it is a valiant effort.
This is one classic movie that I can see benefitting greatly from a remake that doesn't include Marlon Brando.

Score: 2 stars out of 4

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