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The Bounty leaves Portsmouth in 1787. Its destination: to sail to Tahiti and load bread-fruit. Captain Bligh will do anything to get there as fast as possible, using any means to keep up a strict discipline. When they arrive at Tahiti, it is like a paradise for the crew, something completely different than the living hell aboard the ship. On the way back to England, officer Fletcher Christian becomes the leader of a mutiny. Written by
When 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.
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