One Film, Four Versions: Mutiny On The Bounty

In 1962, I was taken by my parents to see a lavish epic at the cinema. Starring Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, and Richard Harris, this was a glorious tecnicolour film , with exotic south seas locations, and a real sense of history. As it is a true story, there would be no surprises of course, but that didn’t matter. All we had to do was to sit back and let the lavish spectacle wash over us. And we did, and we loved it. My Dad had told me that it was a remake, and he had seen a version made in 1935, starring Clark Gable, with Charles Laughton as the stern Captain Bligh. But I hadn’t seen that one, so was content with the wonderful film I got to see when I was just 10 years old.

Just over five years later, I got the chance to see that earlier film, and thought that Laughton was superb in the role of Bligh. Despite Gable being Gable, I wondered for a long time whether or not I actually preferred the 1935 black and white film.

Much later, I found out that both were remakes. The first version of this story had been made into a film in 1933, called ‘In The Wake Of The Bounty’. Made in Australia, it gave Errol Flynn his first starring role, and is more or less forgotten now. It concerned itself more with the aftermath of the famous mutiny, and the lives of the mutineers. I have never seen it, so will have to exclude it from this comparison.

When I was 32 years old, in 1984, the story got the remake treatment once again, this time called ‘The Bounty’. Anthony Hopkins starred as Bligh, with Mel Gibson as Christian, as well as roles for Laurence Olivier, and Edward Fox. The excellent cast is further enhanced by the presence of Bernard Hill, Phil Davis, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Liam Neeson. I saw a trailer, and liked the look of it, so went off to the cinema to see it. And I was glad I did. Life at sea was convincing, and the relationship between Bligh and Christian better developed. It felt authentic too, especially in the sequences where the ship is having trouble sailing in terrible weather. On this occasion, the casting won through, and I thought the film was excellent, the best version I had seen

Not only was a remake better than the original version I had seen, it was better than no less than three earlier versions. Something very unusual, as far as I am concerned.

37 thoughts on “One Film, Four Versions: Mutiny On The Bounty

  1. Good afternoon, dear Pete,
    in the porch of the church in Wells next the Sea, you find the gravestone of Blight’s grave. He came from Sheringham. Many of the Bounty’s crew came from the villages on our coast here.
    Thanks for the history of the Bounty films. There are many books about this mutiny as well. Interesting is how they picture Blight. Some see him as – in comparison to other captains – quite liberal, others see him as a cruel captain. They all agree that he couldn’t that well communicate.
    Thanks for your interesting blog post.
    With love from the rainy coast of North Norfolk, a coast of smugglers, pirates and mutineers 😉
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. P.S.
      It seems to me that the Bounty films were quite often seen from the argument of Fletcher and the mutineers that Blight was a cruel captain. So they argued in the court. But historical evidence shows that Blight punished his crew members less than other captains. The real background of this mutiny was a fight about the nautical career. Fletcher was in his thirties and it was his very last chance to rise in the nautical hierarchy. Blight was his competitor. This aspect is left out in the two Bounty films we have seen (we can’t remember which one those were).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the local knowledge, and the history, KB. I agree that Bligh was painted as a villain because of the later story. But he led the loyal survivors to safety with great seamanship, and he was exonerated by the Court Martial, continuing to serve in the Royal Navy.
        Best wishes, Pete and Ollie. X

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A fabulous film, one of our all time favourites, Pete. 🙂 I agree, it’s best to watch the film in the order they were made. “The Mutiny on the Bounty” takes up quite some space in our pirate library. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson version is an excellent movie. I don’t recall the others, which probably attributes to why they’re not as good. This was a great comparison, and not usual for the remake to be better.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post 🙂 It has been a while since I have seen all of these versions, but I do remember all of them being very good. I remember that the Brando version had a troubled production history based on what I have read. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved the Anthony Hopkins version, but haven’t seen the others so I can’t compare. I thought Mel Gibson’s role was terrific as well: he was so intense in that one! Being better than all previous installments is indeed quite the achievement 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed. The film is all about Bligh, and they all did a fair shot at bringing him to life, with Laughton pipping it. I just liked the seafaring authenticity of the last version.
          Thanks very much for reblogging too.
          Best wishes, Pete.


  6. I am the one always complaining about remakes, but here you get me to contradict myself – the remakes kept getting better. Although I never saw the very original – I agree with your review here totally.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I liked the Anthony Hopkins version but haven’t seen the rest. I have seen also In the heart of the Sea, which although isn’t a remake, tells the story of the actual shipwreck by whale that MoB is based on, and liked that too.

    Liked by 1 person

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