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Edward Dmytryk
Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Francis, May Wynn, Tom Tully, E.G. Marshall, Arthur Franz
Writing Credits:
Herman Wouk (novel), Stanley Roberts, Michael Blankfort (additional dialogue)

As big as the ocean!

Based on Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1951. The Caine is a battle-scarred Navy vessel under the command of Captain Queeg, who rules with an iron fist. But Queeg is a man who suffers from an acute case of insecurity and stress, which causes serious mental problems and faulty leadership that his underlings are beginning to notice. The situation comes to a head during a fierce storm, in which Lt. Steve Maryk relieves Queeg of his duties against Queeg's will in order to save the ship and the men. Undaunted, Queeg charges Maryk with mutiny. Thus begins a dramatic court martial, which strongly affects Queeg's state of mind and his future.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 5/8/2007

• Audio Commentary with Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director Richard Pena and Documentarian Ken Bowser
• “Behind The Caine Mutiny” Two-Part Documentary
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Caine Mutiny: Collector's Edition (1954)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 8, 2007)

Set during World War II, 1954’s The Caine Mutiny introduces us to newly-minted US Navy Ensign Willis Keith (Robert Francis). Sent off to join the USS Caine two days after his graduation, he leaves behind his rich, overprotective mother (Katharine Warren) and his nightclub singer girlfriend May (May Wynn). Keith goes to Pearl Harbor and lands on the ramshackle minesweeper Caine.

Along with fellow ensign Barney Harding (Jerry Paris), Captain De Vriess (Tom Tully) assigns Keith to work with communications officer Lieutenant Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray). We learn that over its 18 months of service, the Caine has yet to need to sweep an actual mine, and the crew seems cynical and disheartened by their lack of activity. This means that they lack much discipline.

Matters take a change of course when De Vriess gets his walking papers. In his place, Lt. Commander Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) takes charge of the Caine. Queeg declares that he runs a very tight ship, and he appoints Keith as morale officer with the duty to help straighten up the crewmen. Queeg proves oppressive, so much of the crew seems pretty happy when he messes up at sea and it looks like he might be in hot water.

This doesn’t occur, however. After a brief stay at port, the Caine returns to sea, and Queeg becomes even more of a hard-liner with his men. He also displays apparent cowardice during an invasion escort mission. Queeg shows signs of remorse, but the crew remains concerned, as some suspect he may be mentally unstable. The rest of the film follows events on the ship as the crew deals with Queeg and his potential problems, especially when amateur psychologist Keefer tries to convince Executive Officer Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) that Queeg’s gone nuts.

Mutiny becomes interesting partially due to the era in which it was created. Obviously a flick like this couldn’t have been made during World War II itself, as it probably would’ve been regarded as borderline traitorous at that time. Almost a decade after the war’s end, however, the times allowed for fare that wasn’t quite as gung ho and pro-military.

Not that Mutiny in any way seems anti-military. Indeed, it works hard to make sure we view the Navy in a positive light. However, it allows us to view the men who serve in the military as flawed and human, attitudes that allow it to become more three-dimensional than I might anticipate for something from 1954.

I very much appreciate the film’s character nuance. Most flicks would make Maryk a virtual superman and turn Queeg into a blithering madman. Mutiny never does that, as it keeps matters more evenhanded. To be sure, we’re supposed to view Queeg in a fairly negative light, and we’re meant to root for Maryk. However, the movie doesn’t portray any personalities without their flaws.

Even though Queeg is more flawed than most of the others, he gets enough human moments to make him sympathetic. Bogart provides a good performance to accentuate those elements. He gives Queeg some quirky mannerisms but not anything that makes the role over the top or cartoony. We maintain some dislike of Queeg, but the film allows us to see his point of view and not demonize him.

I suppose one could argue that Mutiny paints Keefer as its villain. That simplifies his portrayal but I could see it that way. I’d regard this as the movie’s biggest flaw. I don’t much care for the manner in which it paints the “intellectual” as the shifty one, and I think the film could’ve found a more effective – and less insulting – way to provoke its drama. The story implies that “dumb equals good and honest” while “smart equals manipulative and cowardly.

At least MacMurray provides arguably his best performance as Keefer. I’m in the minority because I find his turn in Double Indemnity to seem fake and forced, but he plays a much more effective semi-bad guy here. MacMurray brings out Keefer’s smugness and arrogance well in this fine piece of acting.

Mutiny works best when it stays onboard the Caine - or at least when it concentrates on military matters. I could really live without the totally useless subplot related to Keith’s personal life. Those elements have nothing to do with the story and feel stapled onto the picture. I get the feeling they exist solely to pander to the chick flick side of things. I’d guess the filmmakers thought Mutiny needed some romance to placate the ladies. Unfortunately, this actively harms the movie and causes distractions in an otherwise tight and efficient tale.

Despite those pointless moments, Mutiny becomes a success. It provides a surprisingly three-dimensional look at its topic and never becomes a caricature. The film ends up as an engaging, provocative military drama.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7857 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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