Caine Mutiny, The (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954), directed by Edward Dmytryk.

November 1943: a new Midshipman from a rich family arrives at his first ship, a broken down minesweeper in the "junkyard navy". He doesn't like it very much, but things take a turn for the worse -- much worse -- when a new captain arrives. Our hero must survive command abuse, terror at sea, mutiny, and the ensuing courtroom drama and aftermath.

Among it's many strengths is the film's casting against type: the usually comic Van Johnson is a sober Lt, careful and serious in his work, but over his head and too much influenced by affable Fred MacMurray, who sets up others for the fall in a sarcastic, snake-like fashion.

And, of course, Capt Queeg is one of Bogart's most remembered roles. Insecure and tyrannical, insisting on perfection from his men while making excuses and lying about his own failures: a tendency to panic and freeze during emergencies. And actual insanity. Bogart deserves great credit for being willing to play characters -- as in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) -- that are unlikeable but not majestic or distinguished in their villainy. But the men he has wronged pity him in the end, as do we.

We also have some big flaws: (1) our midshipman is a bland character and the actor seems pretty limited (he died the next year in a plane crash and made only four films), and (2) the romance subplot is not very interesting and has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

Maybe I'm wrong about that: the romance plot is about his hesitant attempts to be free of his mother's apron strings, while the shipboard story is his search for a father figure, with all candidates inadequate in some way. In the very last scene we see he has finally found one.

Max Steiner score.

Available on Blu-ray.