Film 34: Mutiny on the Bounty

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Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) dir. Frank Lloyd.  USA.

The weird and wonderful history of H. M. S. Bounty is magnificently transferred to the screen in “Mutiny on the Bounty,” which opened at the Capitol Theatre yesterday. Grim, brutal, sturdily romantic, made out of horror and desperate courage, it is as savagely exciting and rousingly dramatic a photoplay as has come out of Hollywood in recent years. The Nordhoff-Hall trilogy was, of course, born to be filmed, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has given it the kind of production a great story deserves. As the sadistic master of the Bounty, the barbarous madman who was half god and half devil, Charles Laughton has the perfect roôle, and he plays it perfectly. Frank Lloyd, well remembered for “The Sea Hawk” and “Cavalcade,” has performed a distinguished job of direction. For all its great length, this is just about the perfect adventure picture.

— Andre Sennwald

Abigail:  This was a very beautiful print, and there were spectacular shots of boats on water.  The movie was paced poorly for my taste, though.  We spent a very long time learning why the men might mutiny, leaving a very condensed amount of time for the actual mutiny and subsequent ramifications.  This made for uneven storytelling, obviously, but also uneven visuals – laden with crisp naval uniforms on the wealthy and poor men being whipped and short on the beauty of the islands and the mutineers escape.  Clark Gable and Charles Laughton are both superb, and it seems only fitting that Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins should play their roles fifty years later.  Clark Gable exudes the same ease, charm and underlying savagery that Gibson does.  This move was fine, but it certainly doesn’t thrill.

Forrest: This goes in the “Oh, how interesting to see what audiences responded to in 19–” category — above “Cimarron” but rather below “Grand Hotel.”  It’s by no means a bad movie — it’s even a pretty good one — but it doesn’t especially thrill.  It’s technically impressive, beautifully shot and wonderfully nautical, and the leads are fantastic.  Gable exudes that easy charisma and scarcely-buried edge that made him a star, and Laughton’s possessed eyes and sensual lips seem to anticipate (as Abigail pointed out) Klaus Kinski.  Both the script and direction are strong (Frank Lloyd, the director, made the excellent “Cavalcade” a few years earlier), but somehow the picture drags.  The first leg of the voyage becomes redundant, and the later legs feel rushed.  The film ends with an excellent courtroom speech, and the location shots are well used.  All in all, this is a very good, slightly creaky adaptation of a very good, slightly creaky story.

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