Best Picture Winners #8 – Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

So unlike the other movies we’ve watched so far, I’ve written up my review pretty quickly. Usually within a day of seeing it.

For this one, not so much.

In fact…. I can’t even remember when I watched this! I know it was a few weeks ago. But I just haven’t gotten around to writing my review.

Now that I think of it, I know why.

This movie was meh. It wasn’t bad, but I won’t be clamoring to watch it anytime soon.

It told a good story, though, and I was happy to find out more about the famous Bounty incident. I’d heard of so much but never thought to look up what happened. I knew it happened in the 1700s, but that was about it. Also it should be noted that this movie was not even the first movie adaptation of the story. That honor goes to an Australian silent version done in 1916, and unfortunately, the film is considered lost. Before this adaptation, there was a film version starring Errol Flynn called In the Wake of the Bounty, which was released two years earlier. And nowadays, the historical accuracy is a bit questionable, since it was based on a novel about the facts, rather than the facts themselves, but it was one of the most popular movies of its time.

OK so enough with cool facts (though I do like knowing those little tidbits!). Now down to the story.

In this film version, we have the famous Clark Gable playing Fletcher Christian, the ship’s lieutenant. He is onboard the HMS Bounty in 1787, set to leave for a two year voyage to the Pacific Ocean from England. Their job is to collect and transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to England’s colonies in the West Indies.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Not so much.

During the trip, Captain Bligh is not exactly a warm and fuzzy person. He hands out harsh disciplines (in the movie, he makes one of the men go outside during a bad storm to keep watch as a punishment for something he did earlier that day). So the men don’t like him for that. It also doesn’t help when a five-month layover in Tahiti proves a bit harmful for discipline among the crew. They’ve been living it up with the native Polynesians, so why should they listen and do what they’re told? Quite a few of the men have fallen in love with some native women, including Fletcher, so that doesn’t help morale either.

And you know what they say: something has to give. And it does for the men on the Bounty. After returning to sea from their Tahiti layover, Fletcher Christian and the others take control of the ship and force Bligh to leave. So he and his loyalists are cast into a boat and set adrift at sea with only a map and a few rations. Meanwhile, Christian, who has now commandeered the ship, orders that the ship return to Tahiti. He and the rest of the crew enjoy their freedom on Tahiti, even having children with some of the natives.

There’s also a subplot about Captain Bligh being taken to court in England over his treatment of the crew and Christian’s best friend Byam leaving the crew. The movie ends with Fletcher Christian, the rest of the crew, and his wife Maimiti and their child finding an island called Pitcairn, where he and the natives hope to live and want to be away from the reach of the Royal Navy.

In all….. I thought this movie told an interesting story (even if it’s apparently not completely accurate, especially with the later subplot about Captain Bligh) but….. I started losing interest partway through. The pacing was slow, at a little over two hours, and I think with other editing, it could’ve gone a little bit more quickly. I also thought, in reading later about the real story, that what happened to them after finding Pitcairn (which did actually happen) made for another intriguing story. And I would love to see a movie about the aftermath.

Three stars out of five

Next time: our first “alternate” movie, that is, a movie that was nominated for Best Picture but didn’t win. We’ll have a few of those in our project. And that movie is Captain Blood.