Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mutiny on the Bounty (2011)

Mutiny on the BountyWhen the news broke that MGM had the audacity to remake the hallowed 1935 classic "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, the critics were aghast. As the news leaked out about trouble in production, they whipped themselves into a self-righteous frenzy. Brando was a lightening rod for criticism because he was renowned as arrogant hothead. Compared with Gable, who was universally loved and adored, Brando was a boor. It was almost sacrilegious to put Brando in any part Gable had played. When the film opened, it never had a chance. It was ripped to shreds. Brando was ridiculed as a lower class character actor who couldn't step up to the part, and derided for his dreadful attempt at an English accent. The film was a box office loser and critics smugly declared they told us so.

The film was beset by problems throughout production. The full-scale replica of the Bounty arrived on location two months after the film was scheduled to begin shooting. There were three deaths among the film's personnel and the film ran well over budget. The biggest problems were the result of Brando's constant temper tantrums as he tried to rewrite the entire film from the set. At least six writers came and went. After countless confrontations, director Carol Reed gave up and quit to be replaced by Lewis Milestone ("All Quiet on the Western Front'). Milestone was an utterly intractable director that Brando couldn't bully. The result was a battle between the immovable object and the irresistible force, with daily emotional pyrotechnics that further delayed the film. Although Milestone usually prevailed in the fracases, this film turned out to be his last in a 37-year career.

Over the years, the critics have continued to pillory the film, but the public generally receives it more favorably as time passes. Though I often disagree with the masses, in this case I concur. Having seen both the 1935 and 1962 versions, I prefer the latter. Gable is clearly more charming and dashing in the role, but Brando gives the more complete performance. Gable's Christian seems far less ruffled by the events that transpire on the Bounty, whereas Brando accomplishes a believable transition from the cavalier rogue to an honorable hero who endures self-torment over the treasonous act. Though Brando's English accent is oft ridiculed, I have heard far worse. Part of the problem probably stemmed from the fact that the accent he attempted to imitate was very upper crust and he delivered it with a certain sneering tone that made it seem like he was mocking the English. Just hearing that accent from the same lips that gave us, "I coulda been a contenda" was a kind of ironic comedy unto itself.

Between the Bligh portrayed by Charles Laughton and that depicted by Trevor Howard in the remake, Howard wins hands down for pure detestability. Most of the production values, such as music, set design and costumes were superior in the remake. Moreover, the remake was more historically accurate than the original.

The film features a youthful Richard Harris in the role of Mills, who gives an excellent performance of the petulant sailor. Also noteworthy is the lovely Tarita, a native Tahitian who plays Christian's love interest Maimiti, and does a scorching belly dance. This was Tarita's only film, but to anyone who has seen the film, she will not be soon forgotten.

This is an excellent film. It was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, but it was shut out, trampled by "Lawrence of Arabia". It is highly entertaining with wonderful costumes, props and sets, fabulous locations and photography, and some terrific performances. Though many will disagree, I rated it a 10/10. If one can step back from the controversy that swirled around this film when it debuted, it is an easy film to enjoy.

Ok. First things first. Let us not forget that this film is based on the trilogy of books by Charles Nordorff and James Norman Hall. These books are fictional accounts based on actual events, and portray William Bligh as a sadistic, brutal tyrant instead of the accomplished seaman he truly was. After all he was one of the best foul-weather commanders of his day and a navigator of such quality that the charts he drew were still used by the British navy right up until the second world war.

I have read among other reviewers of Bligh's "trademark discipline and lashings". This is just not true. Bligh himself was determined that he would not lose a single member of the ship's crew on his expedition, and in fact, only flogged one man on the outward voyage (an act which he bitterly regretted!).

He was a passionate man, that had risen through the ranks and he was determined to succeed on the mission appointed to him. His only downfall was that he lacked imagination, he was a pedantic man that did everything by the book, this made him inflexible to situations. There was no more a caring individual that attempted to round Cape Horn for 30 days, do you think that a crew that had suffered extreme punishment from the start of their journey would then suffer such grueling conditions for so long and not choose this point to mutiny? It is testiment to Bligh's ability to command tha his men carried on working for him until he decided theirs was a lost cause.

From the time the Bounty landed at Tahiti, Bligh let his men down. He allowed them to carry on for the next 5 months doing whatever they chose, while he isolated himself in scientific studies. If Bligh had mustered his crew regularly and spent time sailing the Pacific whilst his gardeners prepared their cargo, discipline would have been maintained. Ultimately, when the ship Weighed anchor and departed Matavai Bay, complacency and sloth had taken root among the crew. This then would understandably lead to bitterness and resentment for the return to naval discipline.

I have read also, that the mutiny, when it happened, happened very (too) quickly and suddenly in the film. Well, this IS exactly what happened, Christian had decided to escape the ship and his abuser alone and on a makeshift raft. It was only after speaking to Edward Young that he found that there would be others amongst the crew who would be willing to help him seize the ship and return to Tahiti. Thus events were put into place that happened very quickly indeed, events that Christian would bitterly regret for the rest of his life.

This film also suggests that Bligh and Christian were unaquainted before the fateful voyage, this again is not true as they had sailed together on three previous occasions. Richard Hough, in his excellent book, Capt. Bilgh and Mr. Christian, suggests that their relationship could have had undertones of a homosexual nature. This could be quite possible, as it was not uncommon for sailors who were living in such close quarters for long periods of time to look to each other for relief, although the Articles of War forbade it, and anyone found guilty of this "crime" faced the death penalty! It is certainly true that Bligh showed the young Master's Mate a good deal of favouritism, promoting him to Acting Lieutenant after landing at Tenerife. It is also well documented that Bligh frequently invited Christian to his cabin. In fact Bigh had sent an invitation to him on the night before the mutiny, which Christian had declined. It is possible that Bligh had become resentful of Christian's relationship with Isobella (Christian's name for Miamiti, after his aunt), and took his jealousy out on him by humiliating Christian in front of the crew. This would go some way to explain Christian's reapeted cries of "I AM IN HELL!".

It should be noted that Bligh was recognised as a national hero on his retrun to England and absolved of all blame for the loss of his ship. It wasn't until he left again on another voyage that the Courts Martial for the remain mutineers, who had now been bought home,took place and that public opinion started to turn against him, and he began to be portrayed as the tyrant shown in this film. But, it should be remembered that at the time of his death, Bligh ahd reached the rank of Vice Admiral of The Blue, no mean feat for such an "abusive" man!

Brando's Foppish, Arrogant aristocratic picture of Christian is off target. Christian's family were not aristocratic. They were a well-to-do family from Cumberland, but not so high up the social ladder as shown here.

Enjoy this film, I did. But enjoy it for what it is, a fictional tale of adventure on the high seas. Brando is on top form, camping it up in his role (obviously out of the control of the director!), the photography is beautiful as are the locations. The script is engaging and amusing, and the rest of the cast terrific. Trevor Howard's Bligh is a little too one dimensional, but then that is exactly what this picture is trying to show.

I give this film four stars just for the sheer enjotment I got from it. The missing fifth star is for the truth. I won't draw comparisons with the earlier Laughton/Gable film, or the later Hopkins/Gibson film, as they are each enjoyable films in their own right and are definately worth viewing. Although the latter goes a little more for the truth.

Buy Mutiny on the Bounty (2011) Now

Perhaps that review title's too harsh. I loved the '62 version primarily because of how the extremes of production expense shoved it forward as an all-time great. To understand its power one has to see its standing in relation to the two other versions. The 1935 film has a pre-Errol Flynn swashbuckler ambience that tries to coexist with an overall moodier feel brought on by dour, flat direction. The 1984 movie tries too hard to establish historical correctness while superimposing Mel Gibson's prettiness over the sour conditions underlying the vessel and the voyage. At any rate, these elements take out much of the fun of these versions and, in the latter case, it's even arguable that its weighty atmosphere defuses the thrill of the mutiny altogether. Nothing spectacular in these.

Lewis Milestone directed an infinitely more entertaining affair on the 1962 version. Marlon Brando's attempt at Englishness is thoroughly derisable but we forgive him for it because there's much comic relief to be had in that as well as in the way he spars with Trevor Howard. The crew are alotted more respect by the camera in this film and that freedom yields more entertaining results than the sordid festering they endure to be found in the most recent version.

No. This is a three hour adventure that is fun for all the family. At times funny (echoes of Gilbert and Sullivan drift into my head every once in a while when I watch Brando strutting about on the poop deck), at times poignant, this is maybe the biggest of the giants Metro Goldwyn Mayer committed to celluloid. It's important to keep in mind that studios were still having their honeymoon with Eastman colour 40 years ago and it isn't surprising at all that the tale of the Bounty was selected for a reworking on this grandiose scale. Full of images and sounds that do nothing but please the soul, 'Mutiny on the Bounty' is a masterpiece with no bad actors aboard (Richard Harris is at his best here as the chief fomentor of rebellion 'downstairs'). When viewed from any angle, it's still a dazzling chandelier of a movie. They don't make them like this anymore not because they won't it's simply because the style involved here is out of the reach of any filmmaker or producer alive today. Probably a year or more in the making, the Sixties Bounty film is irrefutably the definitive one and the effects of watching it once are guarranteed to incite many subsequent viewings, not merely to drink up the haunting beauty of the location camera work. This is an essential component of any family's movie collection that must be bought as soon as possible.

Read Best Reviews of Mutiny on the Bounty (2011) Here

I just can't speak highly enough about this wonderful version of Mutiny On The Bounty. Critics be scorned. What's amazing is the crud leveled at this film and how it's endured all these years diminishing any credit due it. Brando ruined it, was troublesome, difficult to work with, cost MGM lots of $$$; Bunk! I saw this movie for the first time when it came out in '62 and it knocked me off my feet; I was ten yrs old. I appreciate it so much more today as an adult. It's a darn fine movie, take my word for it. The photography is STUNNING, period costumes great, the pagentry and colors of Tahiti take your breath away. They built a replica of the Bounty from the keel up, a feat truly remarkable. The music by Bronislau Kaper is superb and can measure up to that of Lawrence of Arabia, El Cid, King of Kings and Doctor Zhivago any day. The Love Theme is both haunting & Beautiful. The pace of the film flows very well and never once does it drag. Brando & Howard play well off each other. Richard Harris as Mills gives a fine performance along with the other character actors playing the crew. The interplay between Bligh & Christian builds just the right amount of tension. You can feel Fletcher Christian's contempt for Bligh growing more with every scene. The foppish, self centered intellectual suddenly thinking of things greater than himself, being drawn in to see the injustice & cruelty leveled at the crew. Maybe for the first time in his life Christian now knows the difference between right & wrong. He's forced to see that rule books & regulations do not make a captain. Especially one who seems to have nothing but disdain for his crew, beating them like dogs, starving them, stripping away their dignity. Bligh is a man without honor wanting desperately & only to further his own career in the British Navy, no matter who he has to crush or kill to get there. To sail around the Horn in the middle of Winter just to shave a couple of months off the voyage, risking both ship & crew. Depriving men of water in order to water plants. We the viewer are pushed to the edge along with Christian. Brando allows us to witness the smoldering powder keg within him. Then the film grants us relief as we sail & land into Paradise. Humor is put in at just the right places. When Bligh tells Christian to make love to the kings daughter in order not to offend him & Christian makes him squirm doing so, it's hysterical. I'm not sure there was a need for any great acting between Brando & Tarita, who plays the kings daughter, the sparks fly well enough on their own. The Island, the beaches, the sunsets over the ocean are truly magnificent. The native women are sensual innocence & breathtaking. You can plainly see why the crew would never want to leave this Island Paradise. The mutiny is very powerful. Christian is driven to commit this act by continued actions against the crew from Bligh & goaded by Mills; the powder keg explodes. The final scenes with Brando are beautifally acted and I have to say that I am so pleased that the original prologue & epilogue are included here because they are the perfect bookends to the movie. They set and end it wonderfully. Why they were ever taken out to begin with is beyond me. I can only say in closing that this two disc collection is great. The special features include some history, the construction of the Bounty and it's restoration over 30 years later. I would've liked some behind the scenes interviews with cast & crew but that's only a minor swipe. The original overture, intermission & entr' acte are here to make this feel like an old fashioned movie going experience that we don't see anymore. If you have a large flat screen tv & a home entertainment system, be prepared to get knocked off YOUR feet. Amazon is offering you one heck of a package here & at a great price. Don't pass it up!

Want Mutiny on the Bounty (2011) Discount?

Even if this is a very good movie, even if Marlon Brando's Fletcher Christian and Trevor Howard's William Bligh are convincing and very well played, sadly, this movie has almost nothing in commun with the true story.

First thing, Bligh didn't decide to try the Cape Horn route midway thrue the Atlantic crossing, it was planned from the start.

Secondly, Bligh knew Fletcher Christian before the Bounty voyage, in fact, he had sailed with him before and even wished him on board. William Bligh treated his men as well as any Captain in the 1790's maybe even better, having learned from the Great James Cook himself.

The actual mutiny sequence has nothing, but absolutly nothing remotely to do with how it happened. Fletcher Christian, along with 3 other sailors, stormed Bligh sleeping quaters early in the morning and tied his hands behind his back. It was NEVER in reaction to Bligh refusing to give water to a dying sailor. The worst part in my opinion is last 15 minutes of the movie. Completely delirious stuff.

So, if you want to see a good movie, great, you can watch "Mutiny on the Bounty", but be aware that it has nothing to do with the true story. For that, may I recommend Caroline Alexander book "The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty".

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