Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Mutiny on the Bounty</strong> (1962)

(On Cable TV, February 2019) With the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty, this is my third take on the same story in less than a year, which is to say that it’s less about the incredible story and all about execution at this point. Using the 1935 and the 1984 as a comparison point, this middle version does act as a natural progression in a series. It’s in colour, it’s less sympathetic toward mutineer Fletcher Christian, and being a major studio film from the end of the Hays Code era, it has strategically placed leis and hair to ensure that we don’t see the nudity of the 1935 or the 1984 version. On the plus side, this film (which cost a relative fortune of $22M in 1962 dollars to produce, spanning two years and two directors) clearly throws a lot of money on-screen in re-creating 18th-century ships and spending time on a lush tropical island. It feels like a lavish film, and the historical recreation is impressive. The colour cinematography is splendid, as are the terrific costumes and set design. But production qualities aren’t sufficient in ensuring a good movie. For one thing, it’s unbelievably long … not just in terms of events, but in the pacing of those events. The film alternately dawdles and rushes through plot points, not quite mastering its narrative rhythm. There are other narrative issues as well: It’s an interesting choice to have the botanist narrate the story … even if he’s not there for all of it. Factually, this Mutiny on the Bounty is better than the 1935 version but nowhere near as nuanced as the 1984 one: There are clarifications on a few breadfruit-related plot points, but Captain Blight is still portrayed as an outright sadistic villain. Then there’s the Brando Problem: The more I see of Marlon Brando past his two Oscar-winning roles, the least I like him—it doesn’t help that his character is initially presented as a foppish cad, but there is something about Brando himself (no doubt tainted by his later performances) that just rubs me wrong. It certainly limits the film’s appeal as much as its duration does. Let me put it this way: the 1935 version has the advantage of staging a big spectacle at its time; the 1984 version has a half-dozen terrific actors. This 1962 version, in comparison, is merely there. It has now been thirty years since the latest major version of Mutiny on the Bounty—ample time for a new version even closer to reality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *