Monday Movie: The Caine Mutiny, by David Bax
Every Monday, we’ll recommend a movie–it could be a classic, an overlooked recent treasure, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like–and we’ll tell you where to find it online.
The Caine Mutiny is two kinds of movies in one. As the title suggests, it’s a maritime tale. But, in its latter half, it’s also a courtroom drama. It’s the story of how a ship’s new captain (Humphrey Bogart) repeatedly fails to adequately do his job until, when the ship is in danger of sinking, he is relieved of command by three of his officers (Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray and Robert Francis), all of whom must stand trial for mutiny while being represented by a military lawyer (Jose Ferrer) who abhors their actions.
Production of The Caine Mutiny was delayed because of hesitation by the Navy to approve the use of their ships. It’s not hard to understand why. The film stands as a harsh critique of rigid military hierarchy, in which rank excuses a whole litany of abuses and failures.
Mostly, though, The Caine Mutiny, handsomely and sturdily directed by Edward Dmytryk, is a showcase for its top notch cast. Bogart–barking, trembling and twitching–gives one of the best performances of his career. Also standing out is Francis as the levelheaded mutineer torn between Johnson’s officious prig and MacMurray’s lax ne’er-do-well. Sadly, The Caine Mutiny is only one of four movies Francis would make before dying only a year later in a plane crash. It’s a small comfort but at least his legacy lives on in a great movie.
The Caine Mutiny is available to rent on Amazon.