New on Blu-ray: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

It won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1935, and garnered Best Actor nominations for its three male leads, including the dashing and heroic Clark Gable and Charles Laughton as the fantastically evil Captain Bligh, a man so mean and cruel even the dead can’t escape his wrath. (Franchot Tone, who played Midshipman Roger Byam, was also nominated for Best Actor.) Directed by the profilic and sure hand of Frank Lloyd, “Mutiny on the Bounty” now set sail on Blu-ray for the first time on November 16, 2010 from Warner Home Video.

HMS Bounty sails for Tahiti by way of Cape Horn — and into movie lore. Grandly filmed, Mutiny on the Bounty captured the 1935 Best Picture Academy Award and eight nominations total. Charles Laughton portrays Captain Bligh, a seafaring monster ruling with the law of fear. Clark Gable is first officer Fletcher Christian, whose will to obey erodes under Bligh’s tyranny. And Franchot Tone plays idealistic midshipman Byam, torn by his allegiance to both. That all three portrayals are vividly memorable is accented by the fact that for the only time in Oscar history, three stars from the same film were Best Actor nominees.

Movie Review:

Oh sure, Clark Gable doesn’t even pretend to have a British accent (despite the fact that his character is supposed to be a British officer), and yes, historical accuracies probably didn’t really figure into the making of the film, though I’m sure they tried to stay true to the story as much as possible — probably. But hey, isn’t that why they call it Hollywood?

A mustache-less Gable (!!!), the epitome of a Hollywood movie star, is Fletcher Christian, an officer on the Bounty commanded by the devilishly despicable Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton). When life under Bligh proves hazardous to his, and more importantly his men’s health, Christian leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. After kicking Bligh off the boat, the mutineers seek safe harbor with the Tahitian locals they have befriended, but of course, Captain Bligh didn’t get to be the evil bugger he is by giving up easily, and is soon right back on their heels.

The Bounty has been fantastically recreated in “Mutiny” (even back then Hollywood money went a long way), and like most grand adventures of its era, the main focus is on adventure, buoyed by great performances from Gable and Laughton. Every now and then you can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for Tone, who is caught in the middle of the two forces of nature — the actor and the character.

“Mutiny on the Bounty” was eventually remade in 1962 with Marlon Brando in the lead. Brando is a great actor, but let’s face it, he doesn’t hold a candle to gable. Trevor Howard, as well, has nothing on Laughton as Bligh.

Blu-ray Review:

The Blu-ray package comes in a solid “book”-style case that includes the movie and a mini-book on the making of the film. It’s actually quite a nice all-around package, and stands out in a DVD case. Special features include two featurettes, “Pitcairn Island Today” and a minute-long newsreel that, well, let’s just say that featurettes back in the day weren’t nearly as slick as the ones they’re putting out now. Also included, theatrical trailers for the film as well as the 1962 version starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard.

Buy “Mutiny on the Bounty” on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.