The Caine Mutiny appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although much of the film looked quite good, too many inconsistencies occurred for it to become a great transfer.
Some of those affected sharpness. Much of the movie offered nice delineation and definition, but a mix of shots came across as a bit soft and fuzzy. This meant too many scenes without the expected clarity, though most of the film looked fine. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and only a little light edge enhancement occurred. As for source flaws, grain was a bit heavier than expected, but other defects remained minor. I noticed a few specks and that was about it, as the movie usually seemed pretty clean.
Colors varied. The film showed a low-key olive drab tone much of the time, so it didn’t boast great vivacity. The brownish sensibility tended to be a little heavy, but the colors were usually acceptable. Blacks appeared reasonably deep and firm, while low-light shots presented decent delineation. This was a strong enough transfer for a “B-“.
The monaural soundtrack of The Caine Mutiny presented a perfectly adequate mix for an older film. Speech tended to be a bit hollow at times, but the lines showed good intelligibility and no overt flaws like edginess. Music had some nice moments, such as during Kay’s nightclub act; that scene displayed very good low-end. The rest of the score was less dynamic, but the music seemed fine overall.
Effects fell into the same category. Those elements lacked significant dimensionality, but they were pretty solid given the audio’s age. At least the effects didn’t suffer from any distortion or related concerns. Overall, this became a slightly above-average soundtrack for a movie from the Fifties.
A few extras fill out this DVD. We start with an audio commentary from Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director Richard Pena and documentarian Ken Bowser. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They cover cast and crew info, locations and sets, changes from the original novel and play that preceded the movie, thematic, character and story issues, the manner in which the film reflects the era in which it was made, and other production details.
After a very good start, the commentary loses some steam as it progresses. That makes it a little bit of a disappointment, but not a major one. We get enough good notes and details to allow the commentary to prosper despite the slow spots. I especially like the participants’ willingness to poke fun at some goofy aspects of the movie like the scene in which our leads blow off Admiral Halsey. They don’t quite become irreverent, but they add some spark to the proceedings. Though not a great commentary, this is a generally useful one.
A two-part documentary called Behind The Caine Mutiny fills a total of 35 minutes, 10 seconds. It mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Pena, Bowser, and film critic Bob Castle.
The show looks at the status of Hollywood in mid-Fifties society and how this led to the production of Mutiny, producer Stanley Kramer, his work, and conflicts with studio head Harry Cohen, the story’s path to the screen. From there it goes into cooperation from the US military, notes about the director, cast, and crew, the novel’s adaptation, realism and accuracy, characters, themes and story.
The “nuts and bolts” issues described above dominate the first part of this piece, while the second segment concentrates on the thematic interpretation. Both work fairly well. Inevitably, a fair amount of material repeats from the commentary, but the piece comes across as tighter than that occasionally meandering track, and it digs into a few other notes not discussed in the earlier piece. “Behind” provides an effective documentary.
Why it’s good to be able to go back during a DVD: I confirmed that Castle really did refer to the ship doing a “280”. I think he meant a “180”, though a “280” is possible, I suppose.
Finally, the disc presents some Previews. This area includes ads for Edison Force, Hard Luck and Walking Tall, The Payback. No trailer for Caine appears here.
Despite a few flaws – such as a useless romantic subplot - The Caine Mutiny gives us an engaging and effective character drama. It avoids many of the usual genre pitfalls to become fairly three-dimensional. The DVD offers reasonably positive picture and audio along with a couple of good extras. These amount to a DVD that earns my recommendation.