Back when I reviewed the 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, I was left with many questions about the original, mostly was the remake necessary. It was not. Not at all.
The HMS Bounty is about to leave for a two year mission to Tahiti to bring back a supply of bread fruit. Ran by the notorious Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton), he dishes out harsh punishments for minor infractions in order to keep the men in line. The men are worked so hard by fear that first mate Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) starts to question Bligh’s command. Tensions nearly mount as they land in Tahiti and the six months the men spend on the island are bliss compared to the Bounty. When it’s time to sail back, Bligh is worse than ever and decides to severely ration the water in order to keep all the bread fruit plants healthy. Christian and the men can only take so much before they declare a mutiny against Bligh.
Laughton plays the perfect Captain Bligh. With his half opened eyes and thick lips, he can strike a perfectly indifferent expression that can easily border onto cruel, especially during whipping scenes. His round face ensures us that he is still eating while the forces extreme rationing on the men. The great thing about Laughton’s Bligh is that the less he does, the more sinister and cruel he seems. The whippings were less frequent and less graphic than the remake, yet I feared this Bligh much more than Howard’s portrayal.
In the first few minutes on deck, all I could think about was how wonderfully they captured the beauty of this ship. We see the men climbing all over it so high with no harnesses. These men have some balls. When the sail opens and captures the wind, ah! It was like the ship was coming to life and blooming before our eyes. This is truly something to marvel at and the film captured this man-made majesty perfectly, much more satisfying than any CGI trick.
Some of the things I wondered about in the remake came through just as I thought they would in the original. While the natives are still very friendly, the sex is not played up so much. Neither is the whipping. And we don’t have to watch these men suffer as long since the original is just over two hours long, as opposed to the remake’s grueling three. Basically, the original has a little less of everything, but here, less is so much more. It is better and more effective in every way.
“When you’re back in England with the fleet again, you’ll hear the hue and cry against me. From now on they’ll spell mutiny with my name.”