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Mutiny on the Bounty Blu-ray Review & Comments

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Reviewed by Chris McEneany, 11th December 2011.
We have three main cinematic interpretations of the story of the Bounty, all with agreeably different tones, moods and agendas. All of which provide ample opportunity for superstar personifications of the historic characters, and all have been bravura encapsulations of the trends and styles of the times. Here, in MGM’s most indulgent version, the pageantry is at its most flamboyant, both in terms of visual excess and performance. The film is long and feels like a voyage but, once you have set the time aside and prepared yourself for the long-haul, the rewards are often fine and enjoyable. This said, however, some final act blunders do undermine the moody good stuff that has gone before, and really show up Brando's inflated ego and erroneous depiction of his character.

It is abundantly clear that Brando could have sunk the production, almost literally, but his comical and excessive altercations with the writers and the two directors add a flavour to the performances and the sweaty atmosphere that don’t seem at all forced and put-on just for the cameras. When tension rises on-screen, you can bet that it was bubbling like mad off-screen too. Trevor Howard definitely seems to enjoy letting his personal mockery and dislike for his co-star flow through his dialogue and dance in his eyes. Even for this alone, alone, I would recommend the film … though, to be fair, this is still a disappointment in so many ways.

Warners disc is problematic too. The dearth of fine detail is cause for concern, robbing what is an amazingly vibrant image of any true film-like texture. The improvements over previous editions (though I cannot comment on the HD-DVD version) is clear enough – this looks astonishing at times, almost like a painting come to life. The audio is good, though hardly anything to get excited about, but the supplements are a damp squib unless you are a devoted fan of the replica Bounty and its post-Mutiny outings. The opportunity was there to delve into a legendary production and dish the dirt … but the release only manages to set sail with its familiar old complement of extras.

Maligned, yes. Mocked, certainly. But Lewis Milestone's adaptation of Mutiny On The Bounty is still top entertainment in the grand old style. There are set-pieces aplenty and fabulous imagery, but really you watch this for the weird performance of Brando and the demoniacally cruel persona of Howard's Bligh.

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