Movie Review

Mutiny on the Bounty

A Thousand Hours of Hell For One Moment of Love!
Mutiny on the Bounty Movie Poster

US Release Date: 11-08-1935

Directed by: Frank Lloyd


  • Charles Laughton
  • Captain Bligh
  • Clark Gable
  • Fletcher Christian
  • Franchot Tone
  • Byam
  • Herbert Mundin
  • Smith
  • Eddie Quillan
  • Ellison
  • Dudley Digges
  • Bacchus
  • Donald Crisp
  • Burkitt
  • Henry Stephenson
  • Sir Joseph Banks
  • Francis Lister
  • Captain Nelson
  • Spring Byington
  • Mrs. Byam
  • Movita
  • Tehani
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: March 4th, 2010
Clark Gable and Charles Laughton square off.

Clark Gable and Charles Laughton square off.

For anyone that thinks they don't like old black & white movies, I highly recommend this Best Picture Oscar winner from 1935. This is one of the best early Hollywood action movies ever made. It has great pacing, plenty of tension, sweeping cinematography (in particular the scenes set in Tahiti) and superb acting.

Clark Gable and Charles Laughton face off as Fletcher Christian and Captain Bligh in this true story of the 18th Century mutiny aboard the British sailing vessel the HMS Bounty on her return voyage from Tahiti. The story is told in a straightforward chronological order. It begins in England where the King's soldiers force untitled civilians to become sailors. The audience then goes on the dangerous and deprivation filled voyage to the South Pacific along with the ship’s crew, under the totalitarian leadership of the sadistic Captain Bligh. I won’t spoil the ending for those unfamiliar with this classic story but it is wholly satisfying.

This movie holds the distinction of being the only film in history to garner three Best Actor Oscar nominations. In addition to Gable and Laughton, Franchot Tone was also nominated (they would all lose to Victor McLaglen for The Informer). Franchot Tone and Clark Gable both are excellent but Charles Laughton completely steals the movie.

Of course he has the juiciest part, Captain Bligh being one of the cruelest, yet in his own way most impressive, characters ever to grace the screen. He also gets the movies’ most famous speech. “You’re setting me adrift 500 miles as the crow flies from the nearest port of call. You think you’re sending me to my doom. Well you’re wrong Christian! I’ll sail this boat as she floats all the way to England if I must. I’ll live to see you – all of you – hanging from the highest yardarm in the British fleet!”

Every movie fan should experience this adventure. The story has been told many times, beginning with a silent version in 1916, but for my money this 1935 version has never been topped.

Reviewed on: March 8th, 2010
Clark Gable and Franchot Tone admire the tropical scenery.

Clark Gable and Franchot Tone admire the tropical scenery.

Mutiny on the Bounty is a nice old fashion adventure tale. However, it's pace could have been better. The first half of the film is the better half. The end drags out with the court martial and trial. At one point I was just wishing it would end and tell me what happened to everyone.

I was most impressed with the setting. Did they actually build an old schooner just for this film? The location shots are spectacular. I wish this had been filmed in color.

Captain Bligh was pretty stupid to not expect a mutiny. The men have two choices. The first is to go back aboard a ship for a long, boring journey, where the captain disciplines heavily at the drop of a hat. The other option is to stay on a beautiful tropical island where women go topless and seem to want to hook up with them. How did he not see the mutiny coming?

Mutiny on the Bounty features a couple of surprising scenes. One is where a native girl is clearly topless. It shows one of her breast from the side. Not risque by today standards, but it was pretty racy then. A scene early on nearly has a dirty joke; A man sees The HMS Bounty, and comments that it is small. Another man responds that it is not the size that counts, but the salt in it's seaman. Okay, he really says it's the salt in it's lads, but I was laughing none-the-less.

Mutiny on the Bounty is a great film with great acting. Clearly a lot of effort was put into making it. I only wish they could have ended it a little quicker, and I was hoping for a note on whether or not anyone ever heard from Fletcher Christian again.

Reviewed on: March 14th, 2010
Clark Gable shaved his famous moustache for the part.

Clark Gable shaved his famous moustache for the part.

I agree with you Eric that the pacing could have been a little peppier. The journey out to Tahiti is definitely the best part of the film. The plot seems to lose its way a little bit following the mutiny. I think structurally the film could have been put together better. Rather than lay it out chronologically it should have been told from the point of view of the trial and the story could have been told told in flashbacks within that framework.

I also felt that the character of Bligh was too over the top. It only takes the briefest of internet research to see that this movie is filled with inaccuracies, not least of which is the portrayal of Bligh. No one was keelhauled under Bligh and only two people died on the voyage; one from scurvy and the other was the Doctor (whose death in the film is blamed on Bligh) from basically being a drunk. Eric, you mention that Bligh must have been stupid not to expect a mutiny and I agree with you. Anyone who acted that cruel should probably carry marines on board to protect himself. Since the real Bligh was no worse than your average Captain of the time, the actual mutiny probably was much more of a surprise.

Fletcher Christian (what a cool name), is the most interesting character in this version of the story. He's the hero of the film with an aristocratic background who essentially betrays all of the accepted laws and class system of his native country. Gable does a good job in the part although he's one of those stars who didn't do accents. His English accent here sounds exactly the same as his southern accent in Gone With the Wind. It doesn't really matter to the story, but it is rather funny to hear his American accent amongst all the English ones.

The production is very well done, especially for the time. Although it would have looked better in color, the black and white suits the film and probably hides some of the weakness of the sets. The shots of the ship seem very authentic.

I think probably the reason they don't mention what happened to Fletcher and the other mutineers is because basically the little society they put together on Pitcairn island descended into anarchy quite quickly and nearly everyone on the island killed each other. There are rumors that Fletcher, whose body was never found, actually left the island and returned to England under another name, but nothing proves that. I think the rumors were started simply because this is such an epic story with larger than life characters that it seems a shame for it to end so ignobly.

Related Review