THE CAINE MUTINY
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Humphrey Bogart,
Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Francis, May Wynn
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Commentary, Documentary
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: May 8, 2007
ďIím sorry captain, but youíre a sick manÖIím relieving you as captain of this ship under Article 184.Ē
The Caine Mutiny is easily one of my top ten favorite films of all time, and for good reason. Iím a huge fan of Humphrey Bogart, and his Oscar nominated performance as Captain Queeg is unforgettable. In fact, in a film column I once wrote for Connection magazine, I listed Mr. Bogartís work as one of three male movie performances that all aspiring actors should study, for his nuance and incorporation of physical Ďbusinessí as psychological tics while the character unravels before our eyes.
Produced by the legendary Stanley Kramer, this Edward Dmytryk directed picture tells a thrilling, character driven tale of one Navy shipís ordeal in the second World War. Told mostly through the eyes of the new young ensign Keith (Francis), we are witness to an event that has never happened in the history of the United States Navy: a mutiny.
It begins with the arrival of the Caineís new captain Queeg. A by-the-book officer who has seen many years of intense combat, his intention is to bring the slack minesweeping ship back into line. But it isnít long before we begin to suspect his time in the war has taken a toll on him. He glowers, rolls steel balls in his hands, and seems to think others are out to get him. He still earns the loyalty of his first mate Lt. Maryk (Johnson), but the more intellectual Lt. Kiefer (MacMurray) has other designs in mindÖnamely, that the captain is mentally unstable.
After a questionable early departure from a huge combat operation, the crewís morale begins to dissipate more and more, until even Ensign Keith is no longer convinced of the Captainís sanity. But itís the unforgettable typhoon where Queeg seems to crack once and for all, leaving the one dutiful officer Maryk to do the unthinkable.
What follows is a trial for Maryk and Keith for their very lives. If convicted of mutiny, they could hang. It will be up to the resourceful yet reluctant military lawyer Barney Greenwald (Ferrer) to stand between them and their fate, putting Captain Queeg on the stand where his ability to function will either save his men or condemn them.
Combine all the elements, and you have an electrifying motion picture experience. Start with a great cast, led by the inimitable Humphrey Bogart in what some feel was his greatest role, add the strain of combat and a storm at sea, and finish with an intense trial with lives in the balance, and what you have is a movie that engrosses and engages from start to finish.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Herman Wouk, the movie, which sprang from the book and the play, took a couple of deviations. One was a very interesting touch: the idea that the crewís refusal to support their deteriorating captain may have led to his eventual unraveling. The other was less so: an awkward romantic back story between Keith and his girl back home, May (Wynn).
Robert Francis is probably the least thought of actor when people remember the movie, even though he has the most screen time. It could be the strength of the cast around him, which even included stars Lee Marvin and Claude Akins in supporting roles. Or it could be that his career was cut short after only four films thanks to a tragic plane crash. In a sense, he serves as the everyman in the story; our own personal window into the events leading up to and after the mutiny, and as such, his work is perfectly serviceable.
But not enough can be said about Bogart. All you need to see to understand his greatness as both a movie star and an actor is in the courtroom scene. Watch the close-up as the tragic captain begins to break down and come to pieces before the eyes of his men and the court. Itís something youíll never forget.
No matter how many times I see it, The Caine Mutiny never gets old for me. Itís truly one of the great military movies of all time, but more than that, itís one of the great movies of all time in any category.
BONUS TRIVIA: Actress May Wynn plays May Wynn in the filmÖeasy to remember. In truth, she adopted her characterís name as her own in her professional life.
Sonyís remastered transfer makes the film look better than any previous incarnations, and Iíve owned a few, including the former DVD release. Colors are sharp and bright throughout, and images are well defined and clear. The stock footage is a little grainier, naturally, and sticks out a little more now that the rest of the movie looks so good, but thatís easy to live with.
I assumed I was listening to a two channel mono track, but for an older film, the soundtrack packs quite a punch. There are some big scenes, including the invasion and the typhoon, that really give the audio extra wallop. Dialogue is clear throughout as well.
There is an engaging commentary from experts Richard Pena and Ken Bowser thatís informative and entertaining, plus a two part documentary on the making of the film and itís impact.
What a cast, what a story, what a movie. The Caine Mutiny is pure cinematic dynamite from beginning to end, and will forever remain a personal favorite of mine.