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The Caine Mutiny

03 Apr

The Caine Mutiny poster

A  superb Mutiny on the Bounty for the 20th century U.S. Navy. There had never been any mutinies in American navies, so Herman Wouk had to invent one!  The action is taut, and nothing is superfluous.  The action is gripping.  Bogart as the embattled paranoid martinet is usually superb, if transparently melodramatic at times.  The naive officers look sympathetic and the Iago-like.  McMurray is a vice hold of a performance.

The story is about the psychological disintegration of Captain Queeg (Bogart), the mutiny, and the court martial.   McMurray is good on superficially plausible charm and he shows well his weasel-like capacity to set people up and then back away.  He has literary pretensions and the film suggests that art  and life can conflict over trustworthiness and other issues of human relationships.  The fetid claustrophobic feel of the ship (a war time minesweeper) is convincing and the dynamics of ship life are well brought out.   Jose Ferrer is excellent as the defending lawyer and E.G. Marshall gives his usual coldly cerebral persona another work out as the prosecuting lawyer.  I found Queeg’s courtroom disintegration too Perry Mason simple and unconvincing, but it is on the whole an involving courtroom scene in line with other courtroom dramas the 50s excelled in (The Wrong Man, Billy Mitchell).  Surely this had a lot to do with McCarthy, a Hollywood riposte to McCarthyite hearings.

The film seems to delight in our ambivalences about military authoritarianism: we consider it acceptable when it assuages our vanity in being deemed to be worthy of us and when it puts on an affable face, but when it acts according to an original personality(Queeg’s), we feel the need to undermine it, this is what the officers did.  Ferrer exposes the duplicitously shitty McMurray at the end, and he gives a speech about acknowledging the war experiences of everyone.

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One response to “The Caine Mutiny

  1. Cathryn

    May 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Hi John – we watched Hitchcock’s ‘The Wrong Man’ on the weekend. I did not rate it at all. What makes it a classic? Was it a first for using specific techniques (that are now so commonplace that they would have passed me by unnoticed), or something similar? Even Henry Fonda was disappointing.

     

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