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|2 reviews in total|
Great novels often disappoint when brought to the screen, but superior
acting performances make The Caine Mutiny a classic on its own
The movie takes place on a destroyer-minesweeper in the Pacific during World War II. To the consternation of the Caine's crew, a popular captain (Tom Tully) is replaced by a disturbed despot named Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), who finds himself in over his head. As the stresses of command multiply, Queeg's paranoia and cowardice soon become apparent to Lieutenant Thomas Keefer (Fred MacMurray), a writer in civilian life. Keefer continually tries to convince Executive Officer Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) that Queeg is insane, but Keefer won't help Maryk when the Exec asks Keefer to help convince higher authority that Queeg should be relieved. During a typhoon, Queeg's poor seamanship nearly capsizes the Caine; Maryk relieves him by reason of insanity and saves the ship. Maryk and Willie Keith (Robert Francis), Officer of the Deck when Queeg is relieved, stand trial for mutiny. They are reluctantly defended by Lt Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer), who must expose Queeg's mental illness to save the defendants. In so doing Greenwald forces the Caine's officers to examine their own motives regarding their roles in Queeg's relief and their lack of loyalty to him.
Bogart is brilliant, giving the greatest performance of his career, his quirky mannerisms and tortured demeanor contrasting starkly with his usual roles. MacMurray is superb as the glib slippery novelist who must eventually deal with his own cowardice, more damning than Queeg's because of his intelligence and insight. Johnson plays Maryk more timidly than he appears in the book, to the detriment of the movie. Ferrer gives a solid performance. Tully excels as the crusty Capt DeVriess, Queeg's predecessor.
The weakest part of Wouk's book is the largely irrelevant romance between Willie Keith and a nightclub singer of whom his wealthy mother disapproves. Unhappily this vapid subplot finds its way into the movie, serving only to reveal Francis and his love interest May Wynn as lousy actors whose mercifully brief cinematic careers were well deserved. Important character developments in the novel could have been included instead of this unnecessary pap.
Despite its flaws, The Caine Mutiny is a must see for serious movie fans. Bogart and MacMurray give performances which remain fresh and compelling with every viewing of the film. You can't ask more from an actor than that.
Little known in the United States, THE WRONG BOX is an absolute must-see for
serious students of comedy. The plot revolves around a tontine, a lottery
established by the well-heeled fathers of a class of English schoolboys, the
proceeds to be awarded after many years to the last surviving member of the
class. The story picks up at the point where only two of the classmates are
still alive: the brothers Masterman and Joseph Finsbury, who rather detest
one another. The plot is full of Finsburys, all of whom want one or the
other to die first so they can get a piece of the loot.
Bryan Forbes's direction is first rate, visually exquisite, and even though the convoluted plot is a bit slow to get started, nicely paced. Forbes has a notable cast of experienced actors, and he gives them free reign to perform comedy as only the British can do. The climax chase comes to a head at exactly the right time and is hilarious, the more so because it is marvelously unforced. The actors involved give the impression they're delighted to be in the film, as they should be.
THE WRONG BOX is one of Michael Caine's earlier films and he performs creditably, and Peter Sellers shines in an excellent bit part. Nevertheless, my hat goes off to three other actors who give the performance of their careers: Ralph Richardson, as the quintessential pedant Joseph Finsbury, the world's most boring narcissist; Peter Cook, as Joseph's incessantly scheming nephew who wants to see his uncle die a few seconds after Masterman croaks; and most especially, Wilfrid Lawson as the wondrously torpid Peacock, Masterman's dignified but disheveled butler whose peculiar grunts and malapropisms remain fresh with every viewing of the film. I would put Lawson's performance on a par with Humphrey Bogart's in THE CAINE MUTINY or Fred MacMurray's in DOUBLE INDEMNITY -- it is truly that good.
THE WRONG BOX ranks on a par with THE LIFE OF BRIAN as one of the finest British comedies ever. Enjoy it!