Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Film #200


Fletcher Christian successfully leads a revolt against the ruthless Captain Bligh on the HMS Bounty. However, Bligh returns one year later, hell bent on avenging his captors.

Year 1, Day 197

BEFORE: Here, on my last day before going back to Boston, I watch the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. Traditional trivia facts aside - 8 Academy Award nominations, only one win (Outstanding Production, aka Best Picture) - there’s also a few other tidbits I find interesting. Mutiny on the Bounty now takes the record of oldest film in the movie marathon (beating out The Wizard of Oz in 1939) and is also the only film for which a remake was also nominated for Best Picture (the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando). One other tidbit before I watch the film: Mutiny on the Bounty was nominated for three Best Actor awards but lost to Victor McLaglen for The Informer. (The other nominee, a write-in?).

AFTER: This film is based on the actual events of HMS Bounty. Rather, the film is based on the 1932 novel of the same name which has some historical inaccuracies from the actual events. Possibly for this reason, possibly for some other, Mutiny on the Bounty didn’t feel like non-fiction story, it felt like pure fiction. In many ways I think this helped the film (it made it quite enjoyable and entertaining to watch) but I do question the structure.

I have stated many times that films based on true stories are some of my favorite because, if done well, they are able to teach as well as entertain. What I found so enjoyable about Mutiny on the Bounty is that if I didn’t know the film was based upon an actual mutiny, I would have thought that the whole thing was made up. This combined with the fact that the film, mainly the characters, brought the story to life. There was plenty of comic relief (like the waste disposal guy) in addition to the brutal Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton) who I can easily compare to Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter in terms of shear lack of care for others and disregards for something called feelings. Led by such great characters, I forget about the history and cared only for the story. This will make it much easier for me to remember the historical event (semi-accurate or not) because I wasn’t concerned with learning while watching; I was concerned with having a good time. And the best, most effective way to learn is when you enjoy doing so, not when the information is forced upon you.

While I have nothing but good to say about the effectiveness of Mutiny on the Bounty as an entertaining piece of education, I did find the film a bit choppy. Everything was fine until the HMS Bounty reached its destination of Tahiti. After that happens (about halfway through the film) the following scenes are very standalone and don’t flow together as well as the first half did. There’s scenes on Tahiti, scenes back on the Bounty, excepts from Capt. Bligh’s and his loyal crew set adrift, and scenes of the aftermath of Mr. Christian’s (Clark Gable) mutiny. All of these are connected and that much is seen in the second-half of the film. But going between these various settings and characters feels very episodic. One thing happens and then we jump to the next event with little to no transition in between. It still got the message across but it wasn’t nearly as well-done as the first half of the film.

Mutiny on the Bounty was a welcome surprise for me. Old black-and-white films I find are usually not as entertaining for me as more modern films. Not due to problems with the films themselves, it’s just the style is very different from today’s and having seen only a handful, it’s always a bit jarring. There are always exceptions to the rule and in the case of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) the style did not impact the entertainment in any way.

RATING: 4 out of 5