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DVD Reviews: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

The Final Say!

Review Score
Reviewed by Matthew Kirkcaldie
Review Date: April 2004
Distributed by:
Warner Home Video
Running Time: 127 minutes





Mutiny on the Bounty, the 1935 classic starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable as Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian respectively, won the Oscar for Best Picture in its day. Briefly, Lt William Bligh takes the ship HMS Bounty on a supply mission to the South Pacific, but his penny-pinching and ludicrously harsh treatment of sailors eventually prompt Christian, a midshipman, to take matters into his own hands. Byers (an excellent performance from Franchot Tone) is caught between duty and morality in a strong subplot. Bligh is cast adrift with several still loyal to him, and makes a stunning 4000 mile journey in a tiny boat to reach help; by this stage Christian and the mutineers have established themselves in Tahiti, but flee Bligh’s pursuit in the hope of finding a safe haven.

Despite the changes in filmmaking technique and acting which have occurred in the 70 years since it was made, the film remains fresh and entertaining, and it’s easy to see why it deserved the win. Dropping his trademark moustache (but not his American accent!) for historical accuracy, Gable makes Christian a figure of decency and justified action, whereas Laughton’s Bligh is so transparently evil it’s a wonder the crew let him get out of Portsmouth harbour. The film paints with broad strokes, occasionally making it creaky or dated, but I found it stood up pretty well beside last year’s Master and Commander in terms of capturing the subject and the era. Aside from a rather sudden wrap-up of the plot and a tendency to shy away from anything brutal or violent (difficult given the subject), Mutiny on the Bounty remains an entertaining and well-structured film well worth a look.


An excellent print is served well by a sharp and clear transfer; occasional damage is evident with frames dropping out, and grain, dirt and scratches on some of the exteriors and stock footage are very apparent.


Original mono soundtrack, which is very clear, dynamic and engaging given the technology of the time.


A trailer and an Academy Awards snippet are both pedestrian; an MGM short film of the era looks at Pitcairn Island 150 years after the mutiny and examines the fate of the mutineers’ descendents in an interesting piece.

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