The drama concerns the growing conflicts among the officers and crew of an aging Navy destroyer—minesweeper in the Pacific in World War II—which lead to the subsequent court-martial trial of the ship’s captain. Films such as Mutiny on the Bounty, The Sea Wolf, and Billy Budd also covered the same theme. It was previously made into a Broadway play starring Lloyd Nolan as Captain Queeg and Henry Fonda as Lt. Keefer. Humphrey Bogart plays the twitchy mentally-disturbed Captain Queeg (a man who cracks up while hiding an inferiority, is obsessed about the theft of frozen strawberries and has the nervous habit of continually rolling steel balls in his hand) in his last major role before his death three years later. The Navy Department initially balked at cooperating with the filming over the use of the word ‘mutiny’ in the film’s title. After minor concessions were made, the Navy fully cooperated with Columbia Pictures and gave them access to Pearl Harbor and the San Francisco port. The film opens with the disclaimer that there has never been a mutiny in the United States Navy.
The Caine Mutiny centers around the bright-eyed new Ensign Willie Keith (Robert Francis), an idealistic 1941 Princeton-graduate. Keith is assigned in 1943 to the destroyer-minesweeper U.S.S. Caine and it’s through his eyes that the story is told. Keith has a bumpy relationship with his lax skipper, Lt. Comdr. DeVries (Tom Tully), partly through his own inexperience and as a result of his disapproval of DeVries’ slovenly way of running the ship. DeVries retires and the new captain, a hard-nosed, no-nonsense veteran officer named Lt. Comdr. Philip Francis Queeg, greatly pleases Keith. Out at sea, Lt. Keefer (Fred MacMurray), the novelist in civilian life and glib communications officer, is the first to notice the captain’s behavior is irrational. After a series of incidents Queeg displays a hot temper, neurotic tendencies and a spell of cowardice. Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson), the first officer, refuses to believe Keefer when he states that the captain may be mentally unbalanced. But when Queeg orders the ship turned upside down over stolen strawberries, he begins to have doubts about the captain. Things come to a head during a typhoon, as Queeg’s panic and inability to deal with the situation forces the executive officer Maryk to assume command, with Keith’s support as officer-of-the-deck. Queeg will use this incident, when he cowered in his duty, to bring the two mutineering officers under him to a court martial. It all builds to the courtroom dramatics that’s decently done but is too stodgy to be riveting. Greenwald (Jose Ferrer), a pilot and lawyer in civilian life, reluctantly agrees to be the lawyer for Maryk and Keith. During the trial the officers display their inexperience, but the lawyer wins the day when he gets Queeg to crack on the stand. Keefer, the one who egged on the others to mutiny, becomes the villain when at the trial he backtracks and gives a gutless testimony that gets him off the hook as the instigator. —Ozu’s World of Movie Reviews
A messenger boy at Paramount in the mid 1920s, Edward Dmytryk became an editor in the 1930s and began directing in 1935. By the mid ‘40s he had such impressive credits as The Devil Commands (1941) with Boris Karloff; the anti-fascist Hitler’s Children (1943); the noirs Murder, My Sweet (1944) and Cornered (1945), starring Dick Powell; and Crossfire (1947), one of the first Hollywood films to confront anti-Semitism. In 1948 Dmytryk became one of the “Hollywood Ten” when he was accused of having ties to the communist party and was sentenced to a year in prison for contempt of Congress. Following his imprisonment, Dmytryk was blacklisted in the U.S., so he directed three films in England, but returned to the States in 1951. Upon his return he went before the House Un-American Activities Committee again, this time as a “friendly” witness, and his name was dropped from the blacklist. He then resumed his American career and directed four films for producer Stanley Kramer, most notably The… read more
Boring middlebrow prestige picture, with the usual cast of big-stars not really doing their best work, hackish direction, and constant Big Speeches about Big Themes. Just "meh" in nearly every aspect.
Perhaps the film doesn't take enough time to explore its moral revelations, but they're present nevertheless. Playing a character reminiscent of Melville's Captain Ahab, Bogart commands the screen whenever he's on it. Edward Dmytryk effectively charts the mounting tension of the script, maximizing on the abilities of a skilled cast. A flawed masterpiece.
The Caine Mutiny is one of those movies that falls into the alright or pretty good categories until the last 15-20 minutes. Then something happens and it becomes pure brilliance. The Robert Francis scenes off the boat are pointless nonsense but anyone who even thinks about accusing Humphrey Bogart of being a one-trick pony is cordially invited to watch this movie. Picture Mister Roberts' older dickish brother...
A pair of stunning giant posters for Dreyer’s masterpiece, and other over-sized posters by the artist René Péron.