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Warner Home Video presents
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

"Bligh, you've given your last command on this ship. We'll be men again if we hang for it!"
- Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: February 02, 2004

Stars: Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone
Other Stars: Herbert Mundin, Eddie Quillan, Dudley Digges, Donald Crisp, Henry Stephenson, Lrancis Lister, Spring Byington
Director: Frank Lloyd

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, brief gore, flogging)
Run Time: 02h:12m:33s
Release Date: February 03, 2004
UPC: 012569509023
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AB-C+ C-

DVD Review

One of the most enduring tales of the high seas is that of Captain William Bligh and the mutiny on the HMS Bounty. Made into films three times, this is the first and best of the adaptations of the classic Bounty trilogy, consisting of the title book, Men Against the Sea and Pitcairn's Island, by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Winner of the 1935 Best Picture Oscar® and a member of the American Film Institute top 100 films, it is an unforgettable drama of tenacity and the human spirit.

Bligh (Charles Laughton) has a two-year mission to sail to Tahiti, obtain a thousand breadfruit trees and take them to the West Indies to provide food for the slaves on the sugar plantations. With the help of first mate Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) and midshipman Byam (Franchot Tone), Bligh keeps a tight ship using starvation and flogging to cow his men and break their spirit. After a brief respite in Tahiti, the crew has had enough, and led by Christian they seize the ship and set Bligh adrift in an open boat. But where can they turn when they face hanging at every civilized port?

This is a juicy role for Laughton, and he throws everything into it, with a commanding sneer and an angry pout bringing the captain to villainous life. Gable gives an interesting sense of development to Christian's character, at first merrily impressing random men into service aboard ship, to putting up with Bligh's cruelty grudgingly, to open rebellion. The script seems to hint that his concerns may have been more selfish than aimed at the well-being of the men, since it's his own personal experiences that really set him at loggerheads with Bligh. Steering the course between the two, and acting as the audience's link to these two strong characters is Tone. All three were nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for this single film, a decidedly unusual situation not repeated since.

The film takes its time developing the situation; the mutiny proper doesn't even begin until an hour and a half into the film. Even then, it's surprisingly short, with much of the action (no doubt through the intervention of the Hays Office) presented through a quick montage, but there is a surprisingly gory shot of a hand being skewered by a bayonet. The sea sequences are well executed, with comparatively few of them feeling stagebound. The Tahitian sequences are appropriately more laid back than the cramped and tense shipboard segments. Bligh's epic 3000-mile journey in an open boat is treated with comparative short shrift, but it's long enough to give an appreciation of the feat. The film has a concluding trial sequence that is a clear inspiration for the Caine Mutiny court martial scene, though the implied disgrace of Bligh doesn't much accord with the reality that he was rewarded with more commands and a governorship.

Despite opening with an apologetic scroll that sucks up to British sensibilities by trying to minimize the brutalities of being a British seaman, Mutiny doesn't paint a very happy picture of life on board a ship. That's all to the good, though, since it sets up one of the great adventure tales, and the leads make the most of it.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture has some issues with grain. The film has a ton of grain, and it's not rendered particularly well, which makes for a sparkly picture. A higher bit rate probably would have helped with this problem. Otherwise, the film looks pretty good for the most part, with good black levels and greyscale; prior video transfers of this film have had blown-out contrasts and there's no sign of that here at all. Some of the shots at sea have a hair printed in the gate. Detail and texture are good, when not hindered by the grain.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio suffers from the hiss and noise that are typical on pictures of this vintage. The sound is accordingly a bit thin and shrill, with the 1.0 mono offering little in the way of depth or bass. But there's probably not much bass to be had on the original, so the criticism needs to be taken in that light.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:15s

Extra Extras:
  1. Newsreel footage
Extras Review: There are a couple of extras here, the most notable of which is a companion promotional featurette from 1935, Pitcairn Island Today (9m:38s). Carey Wilson provides an overwrought narration that has an unhealthy fascination with inbreeding. Fragments of the Bounty are seen beneath the waves, and we get glimpses of the great-grandchildren of some of the mutineers (including Christian's great-grandson and younger generations). A newsreel from Hearst Metrotone (59s) provides the brief acceptance speech for the Best Picture, and trailers for both the 1935 and 1962 versions are included (the latter in nonanamorphic widescreen).

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

One of the best sea movies ever made, featuring a trio of great leading performances. This disc offers a decent transfer and a few useful extras.


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