THE BOUNTY. (1984) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘CAPTAIN BLIGH AND MR. CHRISTIAN’ (1972) BY RICHARD HOUGH. EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: DINO DE LAURENTIIS. DIRECTED BY ROGER DONALDSON. ORIGINAL MUSIC BY VANGELIS.
STARRING MEL GIBSON, ANTHONY HOPKINS, LIAM NEESON, DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, PHILIP DAVIS, NEIL MORRISSEY, BERNARD HILL, EDWARD FOX AND LAURENCE OLIVIER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I will probably always prefer the Marlon Brando-Trevor Howard version of this story to any other. It has that hilarious scene in it where Marlon Brando, hand tucked regally Nelson-style into his naval officer’s jacket, sails off from his anchored ship to the island of Tahiti to have sex, for King and country, of course, with the Tahitian king’s beautiful daughter. Talk about it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it…! That’s a great version of this gripping story, but the Mel Gibson-Anthony Hopkins pairing isn’t half-bad either.
It’s late in the eighteenth century or early in the nineteenth, and a committee of really high-up naval officers, the main two played by Laurence Olivier and Edward Fox, are meeting to decide the fate of one Captain Bligh, who had his ship, the HMS BOUNTY, taken from him forcibly during a mutiny by some of his crew members. Bligh tells them the story of what happened aboard that fateful ship. Here is his story, in my words, if you get me.
It’s a few years earlier now, and the good ship HMS BOUNTY is sailing from jolly old England to Tahiti, where the crew will pick up a cargo of bread-fruit plants to bring back home with them for some reason. I forget what they’re going to be using them for. Like, are they food or what? Are they bread or are they fruit?
Anthony Hannibal Lecter Hopkins is the captain of this happy ship, Captain Bligh, and he can count Mel Gibson and Daniel Day-Lewis amongst his officers. He’s not aristocratic like them though, see, which rankles a bit with old Bligh. He can’t do the talking-with-a-mouthful-of-plums thing like they can or the easy aristocratic confidence that comes naturally to real toffs like them.
A ridiculously young-looking Bernard Hill (BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF, King Theodan of Rohan in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS) is the man who whips people when Captain Bligh tells him to, and excuse me if I think that he seems to enjoy his job. He certainly never shirks it, at any rate.
Liam Neeson, the Liam Neeson, and a very young Neil Morrissey (MEN BEHAVING BADLY and some other stuff) are two trouble-making and rebellious young crew-members. Personally, I think they’re just lazy.
They don’t like having to attend Captain Bligh’s on-board compulsory dance classes (‘We’re sailors, not dancers!’), which proves my point. If they could get away with it, they’d spend their years at sea swilling down grog and telling dirty stories about women, but there’ll be none of that nonsense on Captain Bligh’s watch. He runs a tight ship.
Captain Bligh is actually quite reasonable in this version, I feel, until they get to Tahiti, or Big Titty Island if you prefer, because the women here are all fetchingly topless as well as dusky and uniformly beautiful with long glossy dark hair. The sex-starved men of the HMS BOUNTY go nuts for the titty and the totty.
What’s really surprising is that the native males of Big Titty Island don’t seem to mind one bit that their women are being bonked senseless and even impregnated by these English sailors.
In fact, they even seem to encourage it, and the king of Big Titty Island even sends one of his many wives over to the ship to have sex with Captain Bligh who, in a very witty little scene, spurns her attentions.
This is because Captain Bligh is quite uptight and strait-laced in matters of the flesh. Also, he might even feel guilty about it because he’s got a wife and kids at home. A moral man? Mein Gott. Do those even exist…?
The real problems for Captain Bligh arise when he and his crew are obliged to drop anchor at Big Titty Island for several months, in order to wait for the bread-fruits to grow and flourish.
His crew have pretty much said goodbye to naval discipline and hello to sexual excesses, lazing around smoking and drinking in the sunshine and getting native tattoos on their scarcely-clad, sun-bronzed bodies. Captain Bligh is sickened by their animalistic behaviour.
They’re meant to be restrained, reserved and stiff-upper-lipped Englishmen who most certainly do not copulate with native women on the sand in full view of anyone who might be looking. Goddammit, they’re English, aren’t they?
Bligh seems to have a problem with Mel Gibson’s Fletcher Christian, his supposed good friend from way back, most of all. Fletcher has found love (it looks like sex to me, but whatever) on the island with the king’s beautiful daughter, and he wants nothing more than to lie in her arms on the beach forever, making love until the tide comes in and wraps their naked, writhing bodies in its foamy caresses. Told you it was just sex, didn’t I…?
Bligh orders Fletcher back to the ship and away from his girlfriend, and makes him cover his new and still very painful tattoo with his uncomfortably hot and heavy naval jacket, in the sweltering heat of the cabin where the officers’ have dinner on the dot of six every night. Bligh is determined to impose rigid discipline upon his raggle-taggle crew, who have grown soft and sloppy after several months on Big Titty Island.
After three deserters are caught (Liam Neeson amongst them, the little rascal) and severely lashed by the whipping arm of an enthusiastic Bernard Hill, morale is dreadfully low amongst the crew, who all miss their- probably- pregnant girlfriends back on the Island.
Fletcher Christian has already been informed by the king that he’s impregnated the king’s daughter, so there will be a lot of mixed-race babies born before the year is out. The weird thing is that the king, along with all the men on Big Titty Island, are totally fine about these little ‘ooopsies.’ I guess people in different places do things differently.
When Bligh informs his crew that he’s taking an extremely dangerous short-cut home to England, and that a crew-member who objects is to be lashed on the morrow (that’s just an olde-timey way of saying tomorrow, lol), Fletcher and the lads have had enough of his brutal tyranny. They take the ship away from him in an act of mutiny that will remain a blot on their characters, not to mention their naval copybooks, till the end of time…
Anthony Hopkins is such a good actor that he can totally take these younger actors to school, and he certainly does this here. He’s just brilliant as the so-called despot who has a wife and two children at home and who’s just trying to do his job and get his ship from A to B and then back to A again without damaging too many of the precious bloody bread-fruits.
Yes, he’s too heavy-handed with the lash and he’s even a bit petty-minded at times as well but, overall, I think he’s less despotic than Trevor Howard was as Captain Bligh in the Marlon Brando version of the film.
Bligh’s obsessive quest for personal glory- all that ‘going around the Horn’ and trying to ‘circumnavigate the globe in x amount of time’ stuff is bang out of order once it starts affecting the men, but apart from that, I think he’s a genuinely decent guy who’s just trying to get home to the wife and kids in the fastest way possible. And if he happens to get into the Guinness Book Of Records for doing it in the quickest time ever achieved, well then, so much the better.
Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian (‘I. AM. IN. HELL…!’) has astonishingly lovely eyes, and he has other nice things as well but, unfortunately, you don’t get to see much of them in this film. Booooooooo!
It’s a great little maritime movie, though, with some gorgeous scenery and views of the horizon. Christmas is a terrific time for watching this kind of epic swashbuckley film, so check it out if you can. And take a jacket if you ever find yourself on Big Titty Island. It can get a bit nippy…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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