The Caine Mutiny Movie Review
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Francis, May Wynn, Tom Tully, E. G. Marshall, Arthur Franz, Lee Marvin, Warner Anderson, Claude Akins, Katherine Warren, Jerry Paris, Steve Brodie, Todd Karns, Whit Bissell, James Best, Joe Haworth, Herbert Anderson, James Edwards
Oscar Wins: No wins.
Other Nominations: Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Tom Tully), Best Film Editing, Best Musical Score, Best Sound Recording, Best Screenplay, Best Picture
What Davy Jones’ Locker is for those lost at sea, The Caine is for those Navy seamen lost in their own lives. The rust-covered battleship, which was supposedly designed by geniuses to be run by idiots, is “…an outcast ship manned by outcasts and named after the greatest outcast of them all.”
Set in the Pacific during World War II, The Caine Mutiny depicts the events on board a fictitious U.S. Navy minesweeper. The ramshackle crew, made up of Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray), Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson), Ensign Willie Keith (Robert Francis), and a handful of other misfits is whipped into shape by the new Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), a domineering man with a brittle composure.
Showing increased signs of paranoid behavior, Queeg makes foolish mistakes at sea, misdirecting his attention towards insignificant details, such as untucked shirts and missing strawberries. For the most part, these little faults are forgiven by the crew, who shake off his behavior as a factor of his old age and time spent at war. But when the time comes for Queeg to man up and actually make a life and death decision, he freezes, forcing his crew to take over command of the ship.
What the crew saw as a last-ditch effort to save themselves and the ship, Queeg saw as a criminal act. A court-martial follows, with Navy attorney Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) reluctantly defending the mutiny led by Maryk and Keith. This is where the meat of this drama picks up, as Queeg is put on the stand and prodded into revealing his insanity. And, I never thought I’d say it, but Bogart really excels here, turning this unstable villain into an almost sympathetic figure. I actually felt sorry for the guy. Seeing this powerful leader reduced to a mumbling shadow of his former self was easily some of Bogart’s best work, and would help earn him is third, and final, Oscar nomination.
Captain Queeg would also mark Bogart’s last great film role before he died of esophageal cancer in 1957. Though very obviously tired and bitter on screen (almost like an older version of Rick Blaine), he still delivers a strong performance that has gone down in history as one of his best.
Produced by Columbia Pictures, the same studio that also produced On the Waterfront, The Caine Mutiny didn’t get near the amount of press coverage that Waterfront did. However, it was still a commercial success. It was the fifth-highest grossing film in the U.S. in 1954, bringing in about $21 million in domestic sales. It received several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Bogart), Best Screenplay, Best Sound Recording and more, but lost in every category.
The Caine Mutiny is classic Hollywood in every way, a 3-part drama, a starlit cast and even a little romance thrown in to appease female viewers. Not only does it showcase the comradery of the armed forces, but also gives viewers a clear understanding of how isolating leadership can be. I mean, when Queeg tells his officers, “There’s the right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and my way – and if you do things my way, we’ll get along”, you get the picture. Leadership is a blessing and a curse, and sometimes power and control aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes the insecurities that come with not following the rules become a detriment to your character…and oftentimes, whether you’re a king, a president, a sergeant or a captain, it can drive you to insanity.