Mutiny on the Bounty

AFI Rank: #86
Year Released: 1935
Director: Frank Lloyd
Actors: Charles Laughton, Clark Gable

For any nay-sayers who say an older movie can't deserve to be on the AFI top 100 listing, I point a strong finger at Mutiny on the Bounty with Clark Gable. Released in 1935, the acting is just as powerful as a modern movie. Yes, the special effects might not be as stellar, but it's the acting that carries this true-life story through its twists and turns.

Yes, there really was a ship named the Bounty, and on April 28, 1789, there really was a well documented mutiny. Ship's logs, the captain's diary, and other records indicate what happened when Fletcher Christian led his crew against the overbearing Captain William Bligh. It is amazing the level of detail we know about who was involved, where the ship went, and what the day by day results were from an event over two hundred years in the past.

When Laughton and Gable sought to re-create this event, there were definitely liberties taken. If you compare the official records against this one, there are many gaps. So it's important to know up front that this is not a documentary. Instead, this is a dramatic retelling. If it intrigues you enough, you can then go online to find out what really happened and where all of the various characters ended up.

So that being said, the actors in this 1935 version get the highest kudos for their acting. They could easily have all blended together into "random pile of sailors on a small boat". Instead, we get a strong sense of their backgrounds and movitations. Bligh isn't just a bully. He's an incredibly capable sailor who has had to claw his way to the top past men who looked down on him for his birth. Christian doesn't just flip on Bligh at the first grumpy action. He stays with it, defending his Captain, his sense of honor being eroded away with each passing day until he just can't take it any more.

Yes, we have the nearly-naked Tahitian girls who instantly fall in love with any white man who crosses their path - quite a difference from what happened in real life. And yes, the ending doesn't quite match up with reality. But again, we have to look at this in terms of the story it is choosing to tell. That story grabs a hold of us, draws us in, and makes us eager to find out what happens next.

Highly recommended, as a showing of just how well done and powerful an "older movie" can be.

To be fair, it doesn't pass the Bechdel test, but if any movie was going to fail it would be a movie about sailors on the sea in the 1700s. It's all those other movies who should be penalized for not passing.

I acquired this movie with my own funds for the purpose of doing this review.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100