Mutiny on the Bounty
Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
BEFORE David Essex and Mel Gibson, there was Marlon Brando strutting the decks as Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian in MGM’s 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty, now available to buy or rent on DVD.
It’s a story that perhaps more than any other, has captured the imagination. And it’s true. On Tuesday, April 28, 1789, a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian occured on a relatively insignificant little ship called Bounty.
It happened close to the island of Tofua in the southern Pacific ocean as Bounty, under the command of Lieutenant William Bligh, was making her way from Tahiti to the West Indies with a cargo of breadfruit trees – breadfruit being a new and perhaps more importantly, a cheap food for the islands’ slave population. But why exactly did it happen?
Lewis Milestone’s film somewhat unfairly lays the blame squarely on Bligh’s shoulders, depicting him as a man who routinely abused his men – simple men for the most part who, on that April morning, were still coming to terms with leaving the delights (and there were a great many) of an island paradise and the daunting prospect of a long and difficult voyage ahead.
Trevor Howard as Bligh is superb though sadly, his performance as a sadistic autocrat perpetuates the myth that he alone was responsible for the whole sorry debacle. A pity…..
And Brando, as you would expect, excels as Christian. Foppish and dignified, enraged and despairing, he is indeed the archetypal hero. Perfect, in fact, if his diction didn’t advocate subtitles – a fault only Brando could get away with.
Flawed as it most certainly is, Mutiny on the Bounty nonetheless has all the ingredients of a rollicking good tale – action, adventure, romance and stunning locations. And for the boys, there’s a bevy of dusky, scantily clad maidens while for the girls, there’s – well, a young and lusty Richard Harris as mutineer John Mills.
Fans of Brando will, of course, love it though if Mel Gibson is more to your taste, you could be disappointed. As for the historical accuracy, that might well prove a moot point. However, if it’s simply a bit of buckle and swash you’re after, then Milestone’s Mutiny on the Bounty is definitely for you.