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Midshipman Roger Byam joins Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian aboard the HMS Bounty for a voyage to Tahiti. Bligh proves to be a brutal tyrant and, after six pleasant months on Tahiti, Christian leads the crew to mutiny on the homeward voyage. Even though Byam takes no part in the mutiny, he must defend himself against charges that he supported Christian. Written by
Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>
Lavish, Interesting, & Memorable (Whether Historical Or Not)
With three fine leading performances, lavish settings and scenery, and an engrossing story, the 1935 version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" is certainly the best cinema version of the familiar story, whether or not it is historically accurate. The 1962 version had some quality aspects, but it seemed to suffer from some odd casting and from over-extending itself. The revisionist 80's version made claims to being more historically accurate than the others, which may or may not be the case, and it was interesting for Anthony Hopkins's distinctive portrayal of Captain Bligh, but it was otherwise an unremarkable and not especially creative film.
The trio of Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, and Franchot Tone set a standard that none of the rest could come close to equaling. Laughton is perfect as Bligh, or at least as the kind of captain that Bligh is/was commonly assumed to have been. Gable does very well in adapting Fletcher Christian just enough to fit his own strengths - Gable is not quite what you expect of a British naval officer, but if he had tried to force himself into that mold, it probably would have been rather unconvincing. In themselves, Gable's charisma, decisiveness, and energetic personality seem just right for Christian. Tone also fits smoothly into the role of Byam, giving it the right combination of earnestness and restraint.
Their performances are set off nicely by the carefully detailed and interesting settings, and by a supporting cast that gets its share of good moments. The historical truths of the Bounty incident can be fairly debated, since it's unlikely that anyone now knows the inside story. But setting aside those questions, and purely as a movie, it would be hard to argue the virtues of this version of the story.
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