DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Mutiny On The Bounty (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Feb 13, 2004.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1935
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 132 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy
    Audio: DD Mono
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.98
    Package: Snap Case





    The Feature:
    Captain Bligh suffered from seasickness you say…? Well, apparently that was the least of MGM’s concern during the 1935 production of Mutiny On The Bounty. Aside from Charles Laughton spending the entire movie shoot violently ill due to his inability to cope with the water’s effects, the film exceeded the extraordinary budget of almost two million dollars. Irving Thalberg encountered many problems with the always image conscious Clark Gable due to his reluctance to play the role of Lt. Fletcher Christian which required him to shave his mustache, wear knee britches and a pigtail. Tragically, during the filming, an eighteen foot model of the “Bounty” sank as well as a camera barge killing one of the cameramen. When it was all over, Mutiny On The Bounty went on to win the 1935 Academy Award for Best Picture and remains the definitive version of the popular adventure.

    Based on the novel by Charles Norhoff and James Norman Hall, the film was directed by Frank Lloyd and stars Charles Laughton as the tyrannical Captain Bligh and Clark Gable as the urbane first mate, Lt. Fletcher Christian. Also present in a role that gives great support to that of Laughton and Gable, is Midshipman Roger Byam (Franchot Tone) who comes from a family steep in navy tradition.

    In 1787, the “H.M.S. Bounty” sets sail from Portsmouth England enroute to Tahiti to obtain a thousand Breadfruit trees to transplant in the West Indies to be used as cheap food for slaves. After the first mate rounds up his crew (er… takes them into custody as the crew), we witness family members as they say their goodbyes, all of which leads to a suspenseful buildup as we finally get to meet the infamous tyrant who will be in charge of the doomed voyage. Central to the story is his reputation of dispensing brutality and trepidation. His wrath is no secret to the men who will serve him or those who have served him in the past. The Captain isn’t aboard five minutes and he orders one of his subordinates to carry out punishment to a crewman who assaulted an officer. The punishment..? Two dozen lashes. But after being told that the prisoner was already dead, Lt. Christian offers to dismiss the men. However the Captain quickly responds “certainly not, proceed with the punishment”.

    Soon after, the crew loses faith in their leader and responds to Christian and his ability to communicate with the men. While he was loyal and dutiful initially, he’s also become very disturbed with the Captain’s brutal treatment of the men. The likeable Christian also becomes embroiled in an altercation with the Captain when he refuses to sign a supply ledger which falsely purports the men have received a proper sum of food rations.

    After almost a year at sea and having traveled 5000 miles, the Bounty finally reaches Tahiti. While the crew gathers supplies and rounds up the seedlings, Christian and Byam bask in the sunshine and eventually form relationships with two of the island’s female inhabitants. Soon after however, they shove off to complete their journey but it’s not long before the crew, headed by Christian, decides to form a mutiny and lower the Captain and his loyal followers to a row boat to what would most assuredly lead to their death.

    Knowing the entire crew would be hanged if captured, Christian and his men (and women) flee the beautiful island of Tahiti to find a safe spot. They find it in the island of Pitcairn which is safely surrounded by a reef. Knowing they’ll never step foot back on their native land, they decide to burn the “HMS Bounty” and make the uninhabited island their new home. During the rather suspenseful conclusion, a handful of crewmen who remained on Tahiti are captured and are eventually returned to England for a court martial.


    Regardless of your preference of versions, and there’s no shortage if you’re a mutineer fan, the only quality that separates this version from modern day versions were the technological limitations of the period. This version has all of the elements required to be a great film which include drama, adventure, and suspense, a smattering of romance and comedy and atmosphere measurable in spades. One final note worth mentioning, though the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, after seventy years, Mutiny On The Bounty still stands as the only film to have all three of its main actors nominated in the Best Actor category. Though the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, the film only captured one statue for Best Picture and ranks #86 on AFI’s list of all time best movies.



    Video:
    With the recent release of about a dozen or so WB classics (many of which were MGM films), we have come to see quite a variation in terms of video presentations. Many of these films are upwards of 70+ years old and fortunately for us, MGM did an admirable job at storing these gems which, for the most part seem to have survived remarkably well.

    Ironically, unlike many of the older gems, where the opening credits and first few scenes almost always seem to be most problematic, in this case, it seems as though the opposite is the case. When the film started, I was totally in awe of what I was watching, thinking I was going to be a pretty happy guy for the next 130+ minutes… (actually, I really was), but I’ll briefly outline a few of the weaker points.

    On the whole, black levels were adequate and the level of grayscale was moderate to average which lead to shadow detail that was less than ideal. As for the image clarity (and this is where it gets tricky), it was all over the map. There were many scenes which looked absolutely fabulous, and there were some that were quite soft and lacked any sort of definition – fortunately the latter didn’t prevail. Same with grain levels as I would say that for the most part the amount of grain was moderate, however there were a few scenes which were downright distorted due to the amount of grain (and I’m not just referring to a few of the storm scenes).

    As for film dirt, blemishes and scratches etc., certainly there were instances of its existence but never to a point that became bothersome. Same with a few jumps and some light shimmer, it was infrequent but never really bothersome. I couldn’t detect any problems with respect to haloing or compression issues.

    I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, this film is 70 years old. Expecting it to look like something produced in the 60’s isn’t realistic. So with that, I’d have to say, all in all, I was rather pleased with this transfer. It’s not perfect but I didn’t expect it to be.



    Audio:
    Obviously the track is a DD Mono one which serves the needs of the material, but offers little beyond the essentials. Although there was a slight hiss throughout the film, it wasn’t at a level that I found distracting. Through some of the action sequences and various crescendos, I found the dialogue clarity to become slightly compressed (perhaps very slightly muffled) in that there may have been a slight attempt at a tonal cleanup – it wasn’t bad per se, it just didn’t sound quite as natural or raw as some of the recently released classics.

    Aside from the basic limitations of the mono track itself, this track did what was required of it and I found very little to complain about. As good as we could expect it to be…!



    Special Features:
    Although not a lot of features in terms of numbers, WB has included a couple of interesting ones starting with:
    [*] Pitcairn Island Today… well maybe not quite today, as this feature was produced the same time the film was made, in 1935. This is a short MGM feature that would have been presumably shown with the feature film and is a documentary chronicling life on the island of Pitcairn which is now populated solely from the survivors of the Bounty. It shows many of the descendents of Christian and those who survived the ordeal 150 years earlier. I found it interesting though that the piece comes across as more of a skewed propaganda piece than that of an unbiased documentary – which include some derogatory overtones. Interesting but brief. Duration: 9:39 minutes.
    [*] Next up is a brief acceptance speech by Irving Thalberg for Mutiny On The Bounty – Wins 1935 Award who accepts the award from Frank Capra.
    [*] Finally, Theatrical Trailers from the original 1935 version as well as the 1962 remake are included. While the ’35 version is in relatively good shape, the ’62 version certainly whets the appetite as it looked spectacular with its lush colors and appeared to be as sharp as a tack.

    My only criticism with the special features is that it would seem to have been an ideal time to include the 1950 LT short, Mutiny On The Bunny as a perfect parody for the classic film.



    Final Thoughts:
    Although I respectfully disagree, I keep hearing that familiar phrase, “well, the film hasn’t aged well” – meaning artistic content, not elements. C’mon, if you plop in the ’35 version of Mutiny On The Bounty and walk away disappointed that it didn’t quite compare with Master And Commander… then perhaps its time to re-assess your viewing habits. My point…? Even if that were the case, you could stick Laughton & Gable into a present day, 100 million dollar production and it would still wipe the floor with any of the high priced help we see today on a regular basis.

    Regardless of how you feel about the Brando/Howard and the Gibson/Hopkins remakes, the fact is, Bligh just wouldn’t be Bligh unless he was played by Charles Laughton. This is without question one of the best adventure yarns ever filmed, winner of a Best Picture Academy, placed on the AFI top 100 list and brilliantly acted by Laughton, Gable and Tone.

    As for the transfer, sure it has a few setbacks, but as I’ve said, it would be unrealistic to expect perfection. WB has delivered a respectable transfer that left me quite satisfied. This is a disc that needs to be in any serious film collector’s library.

    Highly Recommended…!!!




    Released: February 3rd, 2004
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Geez Herb, just tell me how you really feel about Laughton and Gable against today's actors.[​IMG]





    Crawdaddy
     
  3. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Excellent review Herb; I know what you mean about the beginning - the quality is so good, you can quite clearly see the flaws in Laughton's make-up! But overall, as you say, I'm more than happy.

    You reviewing Pickup on South Street any time soon?

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I would like a thread dedicated to this title. I should have my copy today and I plan on watching it immediately, including the dvd extras.





    Crawdaddy
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Never saw Pickup On South Street, supposed
    to have it today, and I am already certain it will
    be one of my TOP PICKS next week.
     
  6. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Unfortunately not. Ron and I however, did send off a request to Criterion re: screeners for the forum which went unanswered. I do have it ordered and I am looking forward to watching it - unlike Crawdaddy though, I have to wait till next week...
     
  7. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    Yeah I saw the same things too Herb. The worst of the scenes distracted me and took my attention away from the film for a minute or two. The worst of the scenes to me looked what I would call "harsh". But otherwise I found it a good looking DVD that while not overwhelming, was certainly satisfying and not unwatchable by any means.

    Now bring on the remake please...bad Brando accent and all.
     
  8. Randy_M

    Randy_M Supporting Actor

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    I always buy anything with Laughton in it. He's always terrific.

    I also would love to purchase the 1962 version.
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    One of the problems most noticeable today in older films is that dupe sections, whether as part of an "original" optical or in replacement of a damaged original section of shot, shots, or even a reel, is that the duping stock from the period had not yet reached a level of quality which would allow dupes to be in any way transparent.

    Mutiny of the Bounty was photographed on the old Eastman 1227 (Super X) nitrate negative stock which had been in use for a number of years, and was the mainstay for the early '30s productions.

    It was replaced three years after this production, in 1938, with the new Plus X 1231 stock, which yielded a finer grain structure and faster emulsion.

    It, in turn was replaced with a newer stock (5231) in 1941.

    In 1935, dupes were still produced on either a starndard print stock or a very early form of duplicating negative stock. It was not until 1937, with the advent of actual fine grain stock (1365) that what we now refer to as fine grain master positives could be produced.

    What this means is that any damage done to the original negative during its initial run of prints in 1935-6 would have been "repaired" with dupes derived from a stock which has produced the images we see today on the DVD.

    While the difference between old and new dupes is quite apparent, as the entire DVD transfer would have been produced from a newer dupe, what we can still see of the original photography is a testament to the superb work done by M-G-M in its heyday.

    This new DVD is extremely accurate in terms of its representation of the original look of the film -- and of the dupes added over the years.

    Warner has done a superb job of bringing this almost 70 year old production to DVD. More on these new releases in my next column.

    I would rate this DVD a very solid 9+ on a scale of 10.

    Its one of those no-brainer purchases I speak of on occasion.

    For those unfamiliar with the work of Mr. Laughton, who was only 36 when he embodied Capt. Bligh, a comparison might be in order to his Sempronius Gracchus in Mr. Kubrick's Spartacus. While known for occasionally "chewing" the scenery, a Laughton role has always remained a Laughton role.

    RAH
     
  10. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    There's a fabulous story recounted by Peter Ustinov on the Criterion Spartacus. Chatting with Laughton in his trailer during a break in filming, a slightly depressed 'Gracchus' was bemoaning his lot. Suddenly, two matronly figures appeared at the window, waving and smiling, and Laughton cheered up instantly thinking he had encountered two fans. He went to bask in their praise and they did indeed tell shower him with plaudits.

    His face was wreathed in a huge smile...until one said: "Oh, yes, we do love your work Mr Ives!"

    Many thanks for that fascinating information Robert.

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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  12. Heinz W

    Heinz W Second Unit

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    Nice review. I've been waiting years for this to make the jump to DVD as my tape is practically worn out. One of my favorite movies from any era. I never tire of watching this remarkable movie mainly due to the performances of the principal actors, especially Laughton's Bligh.
     
  13. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    Some FYIs:

    Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed on location in Tahiti with some work being done on Catalina and in the studio. Part of the $2 million cost, $750,000, went to refit the 1882 schooner Lily, the ship used as Bounty. Though it was the most expensive film yet produced at the time, Mutiny on the Bounty raked in about $4.5 million making it the highest grossing film up to that time.

    The descendents of Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers of Bounty, still live on Pitcairn today though the population is dwindling as fewer and fewer people tolerate living in its remote isolation. The island has no natural landing or port facilities so any journey to Pitcairn requires either a shipboard helicopter or a landing craft willing to brave the frequently treacherous ocean. Fascinating information on Pitcairn is available all over the web but the CIA's World Factbook entry is good for a quick overview.

    I must also add my plaudits for Laughton. Unless you've seen the film or the Bugs Bunny parody (Bunny does a great Laughton), Mutiny on the Bunny, or Spartacus you might not know Charles Laughton. He was simply, one of the finest character actors to ever grace the screen. Though he once half-jokingly said, "I have a face that would stop a sundial", he played everyone from Quasimodo to Rembrandt to Dr. Moreau to Galileo. He seemed to favor playing nautical military types and after Bligh, went on to play Captain Kidd in the 1945 film of the same name, but his Bligh is the definitive portrayal and the one he will be remembered for. While it's good for an actor to have a defining role, Laughton brought other figures to life with such believability that even today our image of Henry VIII (another great role for him in two films) is largely defined by Laughton. His Nero in 1932's The Sign of the Cross, launched him into the pantheon of great character actors and by the time Spartacus rolled around in 1960, he was considered a living legend. Not confined to acting, Laughton directed his one and only film, Night of the Hunter, to great acclaim with Robert Mitchum proclaiming him the best director he ever worked with. Laughton also taught acting. His bio on IMDb will tell you more.

    It's a shame Charles Laughton never won an Oscar but he was lucky enough to know the high regard in which he was held while he lived. Though dogged by rumours of homosexuality and sometimes poor reviews by critics who accused him of overacting, he survived with his wife, the wonderful Elsa Lanchester (The Bride in The Bride of Frankenstein), until 1962.

    "It's got so that every time I walk into a restaurant I get not only soup but an impersonation of Captain Bligh." - Chas. Laughton
     
  14. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I am also a big fan of Charles Laughton and he did win an Oscar for Best Actor in "The Private Life of Henry VIII".

    I watched my "Muntiny on the Bounty" dvd earlier today and I was very satisfied with the dvd presentation.





    Crawdaddy
     
  15. jake moosey

    jake moosey Stunt Coordinator

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    i think this film deserves SE treatment, like Casablanca.
     
  16. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    I normally shy away from blind buys, and I've been wanting to see this movie for a while now, but I haven't found the new DVD for rent at any local video store. However, an RAH "no-brainer" recommendation seals the deal for me, so I'll go ahead and pick this one up.

    Mr. Harris, if you don't mind another slight preview of your up-coming column, would you also put The Great Ziegfeld up there in "no-brainer" territory?
     
  17. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    Thanks to Herb for another outstanding review of a DVD I already consider a treasured favorite. I purchased all the new Warner Oscar DVDs, and I love 'em, but GRAND HOTEL, MY FAIR LADY SE and especially MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY are my favorites.

    Kudos also to Mr. Harris for once again enlightening us on the aegis of this fine transfer. I know that MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY was reissued to theaters several times after its initial release. Usually titles that popular tend to end up looking tired, and I'm used to a much muddier looking version of this film. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by the excellence of this new DVD.
     
  18. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    AAIIIEEE!!!!! :b :b :b

    I looked! I really did. Should have been more thorough. Even more embarassing as I really like his turn in PLoH8. Grrrr.
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Haggai...

    The column won't be ready for another week at least.

    In reference to Ziegfeld...

    Generally, when a studio releases its month's offering of DVDs, it is a smathering of good, bads and uglys, with an occasional great thrown in to prove that the library contains them.

    In the case of this last group from Warner, there are no good, bads or uglys.

    Every one of these releases is of the highest caliber imaginable. At no time in the past has any studio made a concurrent release of three Best Pictures, along with other Academy Award winners. At this time, there is only a single M-G-M Best Picture which has not yet been released.

    In reference to a potential SE of Mutiny, I would have to think long and hard to try to come up with enough quality material to fill a second disc.
    I really can't see this occurring.

    As I said in my last message, kudos to Warner Bros.

    RAH
     
  20. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Thanks for the reply, Mr. Harris. I guess my library will be getting bigger than I had anticipated. So to (badly) paraphrase another great Warner classics release from last year--my DVD collection thanks you, my wallet does not thank you, but I thank you!

    I've already been enjoying the My Fair Lady SE, which was in no-brainer territory for me ever since I heard it was coming out. And as always, I look forward to your next column.
     

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