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The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (1988)

PG | | Drama, War | TV Movie 8 May 1988
A full-length adaptation, originally staged as a play, of the court-martial segment from the novel "The Caine Mutiny".


Robert Altman


Herman Wouk

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Eric Bogosian ... Lt. Barney Greenwald
Jeff Daniels ... Lt. Stephen Maryk
Brad Davis ... Lt. Com. Phillip Francis Queeg
Peter Gallagher ... Lt. Com. John Challee
Michael Murphy ... Captain Blakely
Kevin J. O'Connor ... Lt. Thomas Keefer
Daniel Jenkins ... Lt. (Jr. Grade) Willis Seward Keith
Danny Darst Danny Darst ... Captain Randolph Southard
Laurence Ballard ... Dr. Forrest Lundeen
Ken Michels Ken Michels ... Dr. Bird
Ronald Lynch Ronald Lynch ... Signalman Third Class Junius Urban
David Miller David Miller ... Stenographer
Matt Malloy ... Legal Assistant
David Barnett David Barnett ... Legal Assistant
Brian Haley ... Party Guest


A full-length adaptation, originally staged as a play, of the court-martial segment from the novel "The Caine Mutiny".

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | War


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

8 May 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Peter Gallagher's first film with Robert Altman. He would reunite with the director for The Player (1992) and Short Cuts (1993). See more »


The defense attorney wears the rank insignia of a Marine captain, yet he is always called "lieutenant" and is even shown as such in the credits. A Marine captain is the equivalent of a Navy lieutenant, the rank of the accused. The Navy captains are correctly addressed. A captain in the Navy is the equivalent of a colonel in the Marines--considerably higher than a Marine captain. See more »


Featured in Altman (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

A curate's egg...
10 May 2015 | by cmcastlSee all my reviews

We have a phrase in England, a 'curate's egg', which means, good in parts.

On the positive side, this is very much a Robert Altman film in the best sense, He displayed again here to best advantage how he can create not just one backstory but a whole world of backstories just in a converted naval gym which is serving as ad hoc courtroom for a court martial. There were the stories of the principal characters, to be sure, to be given time and attention in the script - the Caine officers, crew, judges and advocates - but what Altman did even better I think than in his other films was make each person on screen, even in the background, and I stress every person you can see either in background or foreground, appear existentially real and three dimensional. They all appear more than just either a principal actor or an extra, as we know them variously to be as members of a cast, but in Altman's subtly shifting focus on screen, in what they are shown doing, even if we can't hear what they are saying or not quite sure what they are doing, they come across as real people, mostly naval personnel, of course, with real activities and real lives taking place simultaneously with the people and events staging in the foreground. I am not sure that any other director ever has managed that as well as Altman.

Focussing on the trial itself, the script is highly literate and gives a fascinating insight into naval protocol, attitudes and tradition, and, of course, into the conflict of personalities and within personalities, of men at war, with the advantage of the extra detail that such focusing allowed, in comparison with the 1954 Edward Dmytryk original film which had to cover both the actual naval action and the court room drama. Though, I want to say here, that the Edward Dmytryk film managed to portray with admirable faithfulness and admirable economy a long book, and with first class acting and production values of its own.

On the negative side, and it is no reflection on Brad Davis, but I have seen the film with Humphrey Bogart and also the stage play in London with Charlton Heston and none of them quite manages right the moment when Captain Queeg starts slipping from a reasonable officer, if something of a martinet, into one who, it turns out, has been over-promoted, probably because of the exigencies of war, to the point where he presents clear symptoms of mental disintegration. That is maybe a weakness of the writing in what is otherwise a very fine war drama by Herman Wouk which perhaps no actor can overcome.

I do miss the drama of the actual scenes aboard ship. As I say, the original film managed to portray the gripping action of the sea drama and then with well-judged economy the trial and compressed it successfully into about the same length of time as Altman's film concentrating almost solely on the trial. Also, the final party scene is far better handled in the 1954 film with the confrontation between the defending advocate, played by Jose Ferrer, and Fred MacMurray as the barrack room lawyer Keefer striking a far more dramatic note. After an otherwise taut film, Altman's ends on rather a flat note.

However, I am glad of this new adaptation of the Caine Mutiny, because it is fascinating to compare the two films which nicely complement each other. I think Herman Wouk's Caine Mutiny is one of the best ever World War II stories ever written and subsequently screened, not just for its action but its psychological subtlety and depth. Sadly, his Winds of War is a let-down but that is matter for another review.

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