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The familiar story of Lieutenant Bligh, whose cruelty leads to a mutiny on his ship. This version follows both the efforts of Fletcher Christian to get his men beyond the reach of British retribution, and the epic voyage of Lieutenant Bligh to get his loyalists safely to East Timor in a tiny lifeboat. Written by
The latest retelling of this tale shifts a lot of the blame about the voyage over to Fletcher Christian and the fact that he and a lot of the crew had simply gone native.
One of the great villainous portrayals on the screen is Charles Laughton's Captain Bligh from the stirring 1935 film. Laughton is pretty unforgettable with that jutting lower lip and that bellowing voice at the crew. Anthony Hopkins has given us a kinder, gentler view of Bligh which may be far closer to the facts.
Bligh certainly was a stern taskmaster as a captain of a naval vessel. In fact he served with distinction in several naval battles during the Napoleonic wars. What he unfortunately had was a sarcastic tongue, something not really needed for what in fact was a peaceful voyage to obtain breadfruit plants.
Scurvy which is caused by a Vitamin C deficiency ran rampant on the ocean going ships of the time, none more so than in British ships because they had the most of them. This was a pretty important voyage, to bring back Tahitian breadfruit to see if it could be cultivated in the climate of the United Kingdom. Maybe the mistake was in not sending a civilian ship to do the job, who knows.
Anyway Bligh punished men who got out of line, no more so than what was normal. The problem arose when after months at sea, his crew got just too used to frolicking among the female population of Tahiti. That would also unfortunately include Bligh's second mate Fletcher Christian, played in this version by Mel Gibson.
It wasn't Bligh's fault they lingered in Tahiti, the plants had to be mature enough to stand the voyage to Great Britain. Nevertheless the lack of discipline there, contrasted with what was expected of British seaman on a naval vessel, a return to that life was what led to the mutiny.
Certainly Fletcher Christian by all accounts was a charismatic guy, he would have to have been to get the men to mutiny. He was portrayed by four charismatic actors, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and now Mel Gibson. Only his intervention prevented the men from killing Bligh and a few others.
What I like most about this version is the fact that it does give due attention to Bligh's remarkable voyage in a long boat to Timor which was some 1500 miles from where he and the loyalists were cast adrift. It was a remarkable piece of seamanship, no mutinies during that voyage.
The luckless Captain Bligh also had the misfortune to be the Governor of New South Wales, appointed by the Crown, and was overthrown there in a power struggle with the merchants of the colony. That didn't help his historical reputation a bit.
Among the crew of the Bounty you will find Daniel Day-Lewis as John Fryer who Bligh replaced mid voyage with Fletcher Christian and Liam Neeson as one of the mutineers. Laurence Olivier plays Admiral Hood who led the court of inquiry that cleared Bligh of blame for the mutiny.
Still Hopkins and Gibson dominate the film with their skills and talents. Who knows who might bring the saga of this troubled ship next to the screen. This story has fascinated us for generations.
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