DVD: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

December 21, 2011 | By

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Film: Very Good/ DVD Transfer: Very Good/ DVD Extras: Very Good

Label: Warner Home Video/ Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: February 3, 2004

Genre: Historical Drama

Synopsis: During an ocean voyage to Tahiti in search of breadfruit trees, the small ship’s First Mate leads a mutiny against the Captain, and becomes a fugitive from British justice.

Special Features:  Vintage documentary: “Pitcairn Island Today” (9:37) / Academy Award Newsreel (0:59) / Theatrical trailer for “Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)” and “Mutiny On The Bounty (1962)”

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Review:

“Mutiny On The Bounty” won an Academy Award for Best Picture and was nominated in seven other categories.

Frank Lloyd, one of MGM’s top directors, had already made a substantial and diverse quantity of silent films before surviving the transition to sound. This first filming of Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall’s famous novel, remains an extremely well-crafted production, aided by a full-size replica of the rather small ship, which ambitiously sailed off to Tahiti, and remains synonymous with mutiny.

Boasting expert special effects, a large cast of seamen (including Donald Crisp as a supportive mutineer), and a huge gathering of Tahitian extras for the Bounty’s arrival at tropical paradise, Lloyd’s skillful grasp of montage is particularly evident in the Bounty’s departure from England; rapid cutting and elegant photography capture the excitement as sails are opened, tightened, and crewmen leap across the ship to ensure she makes a majestic impression upon the locals who have gathered in excited support.

TV prints of “Mutiny” tended to be rather grainy, and though taken from a good print with sharp detail, the grain levels are substantial during process backgrounds and optical shots; they’re less distracting than expected, largely due to the excellent sets and outdoor photography. The mono soundtrack is standard, and offers a decent mix of dialogue, diverse sound effects, and Herbert Stothart’s lively score.

Clark Gable’s Fletcher Christian is a good effort by an actor better recognized for his star quality (read: magnetic screen persona) than ability to assume vivid characters, and it’s easy to see why such charismatic roles made women swoon in theatres; he smiles, he grins, and he takes his shirt off for his Tahitian babe. To the other end, Charles Laughton’s Captain Bligh is equally affected by his sometimes pompous indulgences; and while over the top, Laughton formalized cinema’s first Bligh into a memorable monster, with ridiculously humorous pouting, posturing, and an undeniable zeal for sticking to the rulebook.

While director Lloyd, and actors Gable, Laughton and Franchot Tone (himself sharing equal screen time with the aforementioned) didn’t win their Oscars, the vintage newsreel captures Irving Thalberg, as the legendary producer accepts the Oscar from director Frank Capra for Best Picture.

Billed in the credits as “MGM Presents… an Oddity,” “Pitcairn Island Today” is a vintage pseudo-documentary short. Beginning with some interesting outtake material from the feature film, the piece flips to contemporary shots of the isle – a “strange, unreal, whimsy of fate!” and shows us the “half-caste inhabitants” of the isle. Ludicrously emphatic narration smothers items such as compulsory exercise during the day, because “weakened by generations of inbreeding, these lads can maintain their health and mental capabilities only by maintaining every form of exercise and daily routine and ritual.” Totally wacky, with a nutty line about the value of babies being important.

Nordoff and Halll’s novel novel has thus far been filmed five times in 1916; as “In the Wake of the Bounty” (1933), with Errol Flynn making his feature film debut; the 1935 Clark Gable version, the 1962 Marlon Brando version, and as “The Bounty” (1984), with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins battling wits.

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© 2004; revised 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB Soundtrack Album Composer Filmography

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