By Steve Vivona
Filmmakers seem to love the inherent drama in the true story of the H.M.S. Bounty and its famous mutineers. The story was first brought to the screen in the 1935 classic "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. Widely considered the best of the screen adaptations the film crackles with intensity and benefits from brilliant casting. MGM remade the film in 1962 and this time Marlon Brando filled Fletcher Christian's shoes and Trevor Howard was Captain William Bligh. Despite beautiful locations and two first-rate actors this version was turgid, overlong and widely considered a disappointment.
In 1984 British playwright Robert Bolt ("A Man for all Seasons") penned the screenplay for yet another adaptation of this well-known story. Whereas the original version clearly delineated who the heroes and villains were, this retelling leaves more room for ambiguity.
"The Bounty" also benefits from a cast of actors who would soon break out as major stars. In fact the richest Hollywood studio could not afford to have all of them together in the same film today. Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson essayed the roles of eternal adversaries, Bligh and Christian. Supporting cast members included Liam Neeson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Edward Fox and the late, great Sir Laurence Olivier.
The familiar story begins with Bligh and Christian as friends. Bligh asks the younger man to be part of his cadre of officers on a voyage he hopes will increase his chances for promotion. By all appearances Bligh is a kind-hearted family man but he is bitter at his lack of advancement.
It is his desire to circumnavigate the globe and reach their destination in the South Pacific much earlier than expected. However it is a treacherous journey and the Bounty fails to make it around Cape Horn. They are forced to turn back and take a longer route. By the time they reach Tahiti morale is low and Bligh blames the crew for their lack of resolve.
The crew becomes enamored of island life and many (including Christian) take up with the local women. Bligh is incensed and he soon orders the crew back to the ship after they spend more time on the idyllic island than expected. Christian initially follows orders but he is persuaded to mutiny when Bligh again attempts to force the ship around the Horn.
Bligh and some crewmembers loyal to him are set adrift and Christian brings the ship back to Tahiti to reunite with the native wife who is pregnant with his child. Bligh miraculously reaches a safe port and upon returning to England he faces a trial for actions that led to the mutiny.
It's impossible to go wrong with this cast. Hopkins gives a masterful performance as the embittered Bligh, further proving he is one of the preeminent actors of his day. Hopkins performance tends to overshadow Gibson's, who was still finding himself as an actor. Still he acquits himself well and holds his own with Hopkins. Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis also display their future promise (especially Neeson).
MGM has served up a sumptuous DVD for "The Bounty" with rich deep colors and a razor-sharp widescreen image. A theatrical trailer has also been included.