Next on our trip through time is 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty. It is one of the great maritime films, a swashbuckling adventure in its own right (even though there are no pirates). It has Clark Gable in his second Best Picture in a row, and features one of the greatest villain performances ever.
The movie tells the true story of the mutiny led by Fletcher Christian in 1787 that eventually led to reform throughout the British Navy. The film has been remade twice, once featuring Marlon Brando and Richard Harris, and again with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins, but the original is the clear standout.
What is immediately noticeable is the amount of time this movie spends outside. There is no fake boat with the camera moving around to simulate the sea here. Of course the actors aren't actually sailing a ship, either, but it is extraordinarily realistic for a 30s adventure movie made at the height of the Great Depression. It is an epic movie, taking us to exotic locales through perils thick and thin, even including actual islanders instead of actors in brown paint. It is in that sense one of the more realistic pictures of the prewar era.
What stands out even more is Charles Laughton's performance as the ruthless Captain Bligh. His bent presence overshadows even Clark Gable. He is unrelenting and callous, yet intriguing. He is by no means sympathetic, something we seem to look for in our villains today, but he generates something akin to it. After the mutiny, he and his loyal men are cast adrift, and through his incredible seamanship he keeps them alive for weeks until they find safe harbor. He is no inept tyrant, though his monstrous ego interferes with his judgement at times. He is only the immoveable rock placed in front of the unstoppable force of change, and that is what makes his character so enduring.
The movie is worth it for his performance alone, although it did garner two other acting nominations for Gable and Franchot Tone, the only film to have three actors nominated for the same award. Beyond that, it is one of the great epics, an excellent example of classic cinema.
by Chase Harrison