In 1787 the Bounty is on a mission from England to Tahiti to find a plant called bread-fruit. It seems to be a super-food that could cure world hunger. Captain Bligh (Trevor Howard) believes in keeping the mission first priority, discipline second and the lives of his men near the end of the list. To make good time, Bligh tries to take a short cut around the Horn of Africa, but the season is not in their favor. The ship is nearly underwater before Bligh decides to turn back and head for the Cape of Good hope, as planned. If you look at a map, you’ll see just how out of their way Bligh put the men.
First Lt. Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando) sees that the captain has his priorities mixed up, but believes in being a gentleman first and just stares downward thoughtfully as his men are beaten, overworked and nearly starved by Captain Bligh. You won’t believe how long it takes him to finally mutiny against Bligh, far too long in my book.
When the Bounty gets to Tahiti (don’t worry, Bligh is still Captain here), the land is paradise to the men. The natives are friendly, very friendly. So friendly that they consider the act of love making a gesture of good will. This keeps the men very happy. Unfortunately for Bligh, they arrived just in time for the bread-fruit’s dormant season and have to stay for five months. With all the beautiful native women running around gladly accepting their good will, the men enjoy the stay.
After all the bread-fruit plants have been collected, the men have to leave their women behind and are once again at the end of their Captain’s whip. On the return voyage, Bligh realizes that they don’t have enough water to keep all the plants alive and keep the crew quenched. If you ask me, the water rationing and other cruelties goes on for far too long before Christian finally stands up for his dying men.
I agree that the film was done very well. The ship is magnificent and went on to make more films, actually sailed and was on display for decades. The action scenes are heart pounding and the amount of water flying everywhere can put Pirates of the Caribbean to shame.
But there are somethings that just rubbed me the wrong way, like the accent Brando chose for Christian. I understand he’s supposed to be an English gentleman and this voice sets him apart from the common crew but he sounds so odd, it’s creepy and not heroic at all. Then there’s a fun little scene where Bligh is asked to dance with the king’s daughter, but it just turns into an example of white people dancing badly.
Like I said, I have yet to see the original, but did they really have natives that granted the men unlimited, carefree, interracial sex? Even if so, I doubt it was played up so much. At one point, the girls are literally lined up for the pickin’. This feels nearly silly, just the 1960’s trying to push the envelope. Yet the idea is believable, but completely sexist. Not that that was a problem in ‘62, they could have claimed it was culture, but those side-boob shots might have caused a ruckus. I’m sure some mothers would have yanked their sons right out of the theaters.
Let’s be honest, if you only have time for one long epic in 1962, you’re waisting your time with Mutiny on the Bounty. The best is yet to come.
“The king’s navy will not rest until every mutineer is captured and executed. Wherever you go, wherever you hide a thousand ships will search you out.”