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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > History > Naval > Mutiny On The Bounty (1962/HD-DVD/Marlon Brando)

Mutiny On The Bounty (1962/Warner HD-DVD)


Picture: B+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



PLEASE NOTE: This HD-DVD edition of this film has been discontinued, but is due on Blu-ray and you can read about the original 1935 version on Blu-ray at this link:





How great was Marlon Brando?  When MGM wanted another big screen hit, they signed him at his red hot early peak after hits like Guys & Dolls, Sayonara, The Young Lions and One-Eyed Jacks for a remake of their 1935 classic Mutiny On The Bounty.  They were still a very powerful studio and it would be produced on location in a large frame format, meaning it was one of their biggest gambles that year.  Hoping Brando could bring something new to the rebel Fletcher Christian and that the intense Trevor Howard could cause additional fireworks as Captain William Bligh, the greenlight was given and the great journeyman director Lewis Milestone would direct after Brando used his power and had Sir Carol Reed removed as the first director.


It is a good interpretation of the story, thanks to a screenplay by Charles Lederer with the uncredited help of no less than the likes of Ben Hecht, Eric Ambler, William L. Driscoll, John Gay and Borden Chase.  Too many cooks did not spoil the soup and though it was ultimately a good film worthy of the big production values, at 185 minutes and without the intensity of the 1935 version, it is overly long at times and a few production aspects have not dated well.  However, 45 years later, it is a marvel to look at, entertaining to watch and HD-DVD delivers it in a way that often impresses.  Some moments are even demonstration quality for any HD playback.


To its advantage, it takes its time trying to tell more of the story of the conflict between the two men and their crew, which has its moments and sometimes plays as a commentary (intended or not) on the 1935 film.  The film attempt at naturalism was something in 1962, but between Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975, which changed the costume epic forever) and Roger Donaldson’s underrated 1984 version The Bounty with no less than Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins, some of the glossy aspects look too glossy.  However, with more authentic casting of native characters and some ambitious acting from a cast that includes Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith, Richard Haydn, Percy Lambert, Gordon Jackson and Tarita, there is always something interesting to see here.  Also once again, one is reminded on how good epic films look when they do not use digital effects.


The 1080p 2.76 X 1 image was shot in the anamorphic 65mm negative film format Ultra Panavision 70, also known as MGM Camera 65.  The widest of all widescreen formats, this was meant to equate the aspect ratio of Cinerama, the first and one of the greatest of all widescreen formats.  While that format required three strips of 35mm film with slightly taller frames than 1.33 X 1, Ultra Panavision 70 offered less negative space but did 5the same frame with one camera instead of three interlocked.  MGM first used the format for their 1957 release Raintree County, had one of their greatest successes ever using it on their 1959 remake of Ben-Hur and saw its final use on another Charlton Heston epic in 1966, Khartoum for United Artists.


This was the first to use the system under the Ultra Panavision 70 name and third of ten features ever produced this way.  Slight alterations had been made in each of the first three productions and all were also issued in three-strip dye-transfer IB (imbibition) 35mm Technicolor prints.  Since the color in these large frame film formats is always superior to that of 35mm, digital and everything lower, you can imagine how good these looked in theaters.  Hoping for another Ben-Hur, MGM made sure the Mutiny was a grand production, from the fantastic recreation of the H.M.S. Bounty ship to the stunning locations used throughout.


This third MGM Camera 65/Ultra Panavision 70 production used the same great cinematographer as the first, Robert Surtees, A.S.C., who also broke ground with large frame formats shooting Oklahoma! (1955, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and innovating widescreen and world cinema filmmaking in the process.  This version has very consistent color, even when it goes for a subdued realism, while Video Black is usually solid.  Close shots are fine, but as has been the case with the print used in recent disc editions and broadcasts, the shots get softer and detail challenged as they pull out to wide shots.  Why?  Are they trying to avoid allowing you to notice the model of The Bounty?  Is it just an older HD transfer?  Does the 65mm negative need some more work?  You still get letterboxing of the 2.76 image within the 1.78 frame, of course, but it holds up similarly well to 1.33 X 1 block style older films in the 1.78 frame like Casablanca and The Adventures Of Robin Hood (both reviewed in HD-DVD elsewhere on this site) while it is easier to get used to.  Wonder how this compares to a fresh 65mm or 35mm Technicolor print?


The original soundtrack for the film was 6-track magnetic stereo with traveling dialogue and sound effects still present in this Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix similar too and a bit better than the standard DVD.  The music by the great Bronislau Kaper defines the term epic and was so extensive that Film Score Monthly’s FSM CD label issued a limited edition 3-CD set of the score and a bunch of alternate and outtake tracks.  Limited to 3,000 copies, you can read more about it in its own review at:





You can read about another big 2.76 Ultra Panavision epic now on HD-DVD, Battle Of The Bulge, at the following link:





This 5.1 mix has limited bass and surrounds, while the traveling sounds can be amusing at times, but once you adjust, you get the idea of the kind of stage-like soundstage this and similar big screen film releases had at the time.


Extras include a set of alternate prologue and epilogue sequences not seen theatrically, four terrific vintage featurettes that show the MGM publicity machine still alive & well: Story Of The H.M.S. Bounty, Voyage Of The Bounty To St. Petersburg, Tour Of The Bounty, 1964 World's Fair promo, the new featurette After The Cameras Stopped Rolling: The Journey Of The Bounty and a Marlon Brando trailer gallery of titles from Warner’s MGM and Warner title holdings.


Once again, Warner Bros. has dug deep into their massive feature film catalog and pulled out another winner among massive large-frame format productions.  Mutiny On The Bounty 1962 may not always work, but it works more often than not and in HD-DVD, its original impact can finally be appreciated in a way that was impossible on home video before.  The film almost broke even, never amounting to the huge hit MGM needed at the time.  However, the then $19 Million budget ($120 – 125 by 2007, ironically not higher than some recent productions!) is usually all on the screen.  It is also one of the more memorable of the large frame format productions of the 1950s and 1960s with Brando’s performance alone making the film worth seeing the whole thing through at least once.


A Blu-ray version is also on the way.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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