Mutiny on the Bounty

Mutiny on the Bounty on Blu-ray

Charles Laughton would have gone down in movie history after his portrayal of Captain Bligh even if he'd never made another movie. He's that good.

Bligh, skipper of HMS Bounty on its mission to the South seas for trade goods, is everyone's worst nightmare of a boss. He's so low he could walk under a snake wearing a high hat, were you to find such a beast so attired. He's mean, overbearing, a swaggering dictator with delusions of godhood. He's so mean he had a dead sailor flogged to ensure the message sank in with the rest of the crew.

He's also one heck of a sailor, but that only helps the crew stand him for a while longer…

Bligh drives his men mercilessly, steals their rations to line his own pockets, and is a real wet blanket when it comes to letting the tired crew unwind with those pretty Tahitian girls.

Then he drags them back to sea and it's back to the same old scene as before – until the moment for which everyone has been waiting. First mate Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable), who has done his best to balance Bligh and the men, has had enough and the title of the movie comes to pass.

Bligh and some of his loyalists are set adrift in one of the ship's boats – and darned if Bligh doesn't captain them back to civilization!

Gable, perhaps because he was such a big star, isn't required to affect a British accent here, which is a shame since the rest of the Brits sound like Brits. It kind of keeps Gable's Mr. Christian aside from the rest of the officers and men, when he should really have been malleable enough to fit in with both sides of the crew.

Oh well. Laughton more than makes up for it…

And to be fair, Gable is good as Christian and comes across as fair, decent and hard working – a loyal officer pushed beyond the limits of tolerance.

This version of Mutiny on the Bounty (there were remakes in the 60's and 80's) won the 1935 Best Picture Oscar; the male leads were nominated.

It's an excellent story, told excellently. And now we have an excellent Blu-ray to watch it on.

The Blu-ray very good. The black and white movie is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, so it isn't really 16x9 TV compatible, and that means you'll have black bars to both sides of the squarish screen. This is okay; you can stretch and/or zoom if you just have to fill your 16x9 TV from corner to corner, but it'll be at the expense of adding distortion to the picture or cutting parts of it off.

And that would be a shame. The 1080p picture quality is very good, indeed. Better than the earlier DVD we reviewed, it appears as if Warner Brothers has spent some time cleaning up the film and the result is an excellent black and white image that's very enjoyable. Detail abounds - including the fabrics on the naval uniforms, with very nice blacks and good depth.

Audio is dts HD Master Audio, in mono, and is about what you'd expect from a film of this age.

Extras include "Pitcairn Island Today," a kind of promotional film from the era of this film (so it isn't really "today", as such), showing the life of the islanders. There's also a newsreel from 1936 about the film's Oscar wins, and some trailers, including one for the Trevor Howard/Marlon Brando version from the 1960's.

The Blu-ray itself comes in one of Warners' Digibook packages, including a nice 35-page insert with still pics, production notes, poster designs, and profiles of director Frank Lloyd and actors Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, and Franchot Tone.

Mutiny on the Bounty, from Warner Home Entertainment
132 min. 1080p full frame (1.33:1), dts HD Master Audio mono
Starring Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, Donald Crisp, Herbert Mundin
Written by Talbot Jennings and Jules Furthman and Carey Wilson, directed by Frank Lloyd

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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