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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
Brando deserved an Oscar nomination for his Fletcher Christian...
While the initial critical reception given MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY was not as favorable as that given the original 1935 film, seen nowadays it is a very impressive telling of the Bounty story with some fine performances and a stirring musical score by Bronislau Kaper that fully captures the mood with some haunting and truly striking themes that give the film added dimension. The pictorial splendor of the technicolor photography at sea and in Tahiti is never less than eyefilling. A thrilling high point is the storm at sea with Kaper's music rising to powerful intensity.
Furthermore, there are two fascinating performances by Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard. Howard is not quite as showy in the role as the scenery-chewing Laughton but his characterization is a bit more complex. Brando does an excellent job as Christian, posturing in the manner of a gentleman and speaking with an upper crust British accent that is entirely credible. Indeed, when he reaches the mutinous moment in a rage of uncontrolled anger, he is at the top of his acting form. Even so, some of his most effective moments are quietly underplayed. His performance deserved an Oscar nomination--but with so much bad publicity surrounding the film and the hardships and strains involved in the making, Hollywood apparently gave him the cold shoulder. Years later, they did the same to Russell Crowe for his bad boy behavior.
Technically, of course, the film is far superior to the B&W 1935 Gable-Laughton film. Gorgeous sunsets are backdrops to the ship at sea and the island scenes in Tahiti are gorgeous to behold.
A missing element from the earlier film is the absence of the character played by Franchot Tone. Indeed, Tone was nominated for a Best Actor award, along with Gable. There are numerous other differences but this take on the story is a good one, every bit as valid as the 1935 film.
With all of the bad publicity surrounding the film relegated to the past, we can look at this film with a fresh viewpoint today and enjoy it for the entertaining blockbuster that it is. Highly recommended.
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