The story of the Bounty is, I think, one of the most important stories of all time. I rank its magnitude and influence with that of the story of Job and, I dunno, the Gift of the Magi. The basic tenent is this: you are here on Earth — you wanna hang out and have fun, or do you want to work hard and achieve? That’s the core of it. Stay with Bligh and suffer — but work at what was then the apex of scientific and physical labor — or say “fuck it!” and eat bananas with hot chicks in the sun? This being the more Hollywood of the two good filmed versions of this story (the Marlon Brando version from the early 60s blows) it does its best to tie everything together in a nice bow. It invents a character that was not part of the history — Mr. Byam — to act as the audience’s eyes and ears and also the film’s moral center. Sure, Bligh is a jerk, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I’d like to think I’d have the cojones to stick with Fletcher Christian and reject the world outside and play in the sun all day. Anyway, this is a fantastic movie, even if it does get a little facile from time to time. Clark Gable actually shakes his fist at the ceiling and grumble “Mr. Bligh. . . .” as if he were Bill Shatner cursing Khan. Charles Laughton’s eyebrows and lips are some of the more remarkable facial features in cinema history and he uses them miraculously here. I actually own this DVD (and the 1984 Mel Gibson version) so I’m up for a Bounty double feature any time.
Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.
He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.