JT Film Review

6 – The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director- Edward Dmytryk

Cast- Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Francis


caine 6

The Caine Mutiny was adapted from a bestselling book published a few years before this films release, 1954. Quite simply, it is an excellent movie. The casting is perfect, both the stars (Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurray, Jose Ferrier) and the relative newcomers (Van Johnson, Robert Francis) all hold their own. The court scenes are riveting, and the scenes aboard the actual ship, the Caine, are excellent andcaine 4 hold the viewers attention. The only quibbles that can be had with the movie are the romantic side-plot (which seems a bit tacked on, however not so much as to be annoying) and the quite obvious splicing in of the WWII footage (which can be forgiven given that the movie WAS made in 1954, without the advantages we have today with film restoration etc.)

What is really great about the movie is that although these and a couple other flaws do exist, the rest of it is SO good that it easily makes up for it. The tension is palpable throughout the whole film, and the caine2cinematography is perfectly fitting. Of special mention is Humphrey Bogart’s performance, easily the best I have ever seen of his. Throughout he is nothing like the Casablanca or Maltese Falcon roles with which he made his stardom, but is quivering, nervous, and beaten down, but NEVER over the top. The scene in the courtroom where he begins to break down is Oscar-worthy. It’s a great film, with intrigue, tension, courtroom drama, and romance, recommendable to anyone.

The courtroom scene which focuses on Captain Queeg’s testimony is easily the best in the film. It is as riveting as it is tense. Humphrey makes you feel sympathy for him as well as feeling that he is indeed not fit to command a ship, which is what the movie hinges on.


This is an older movie, so some viewers may be automatically turned off by that. However, it is an excellent film, featuring excellent acting and a very well structured story. Deinitely recommended to lovers of older movies, and also to anyone looking for an intelligent, sometimes humorous story. And Bogart will blow anyone away, especially those just familiar with his mainly tough gangster type roles.



“The Caine Mutiny” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



June 7, 2009 - Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - War, Year - 1950-1959 | , , ,


  1. James

    How do I hate this movie? Let me count the ways.

    1 – The score was laughable. In the first thirty minutes, while the film dragged that abysmal “love interest” around, the violins and clarinets never stopped. Was I watching a bad rom-com? A satire of 50’s melodramas, perhaps? And then when the ships went a-sailin’, out came the martial themes. It’s a film about a dysfunfunctional institution! No wait, it’s a film about the spineless crew members! No wait, it’s about how we still love our navy! No, wait, it’s about an over-the-edge captain who should’ve been canned before he ever got on that ship! No wait, who cares, it’s whatever the director wants it to be about…cue the music!

    2- The first half hour was terrible. I just about turned it off. The romance was almost unbearable. I gave it a chance and yes, things did pick up once they were all at sea. But then came the scene at Yosemite. EEEEHHH!!!! More violins!!!!More bad acting!!! More hilarious dialogue (worse! than George Lucas’ romantic dialogue).

    3- Ok. The real bullshit. We are led through an hour where we see everything from the crews point of view. This guy is incompetent. For understandable reasons, granted. (Which begs the question, since this is a “serious” film, how did this guy get command of a ship. It’s preposterous. As the film says at the beginning, there has never been a mutiny on a US ship. I’m sure lots of nasty shit goes down on Navy vessels; I talked with a guy who once served on a US aircraft carrier who told me some interesting stories, but never a mutiny. I’d be holding the imbeciles who gave this guy a ship responsible for the mess.) And then, after all that, we see Fred MacMurray’s character inexplicably turn tail. Well, they needed a new “bad guy” now that they were about to suddenly turn the film on it’s head. He admits to being a coward in the film, but to totally turn tail like that? MacMurray’s character was sympathetic right up until that point, and he WAS correct in his diagnosis. But to hell with the first hour of the film, we have another story to tell, abracadabra, MacMurray’s a weasel. But the real problem is, as one reviewer on IMDB put it, is that the film wants it both ways. We see the captain is incompetent, but then at the trial we are suddenly presented with “the other side” out of the blue. Can you spell M-A-N-I-P-U-L-A-T-I-O-N not seen since the day I suffered through A Beautiful Mind(fuck). Oh, and then the captain has the breakdown proving the crew was right, but they’re still assholes because the lawyer comes in at the end and spanks their bottoms because essentially, the captain is the captain no matter how fucked up he is and no matter how many lives he may be endangering. I read on IMBD the navy had to approve this script in order for the studio to get thier cooperation. This is what is wrong with a lot of war films. They need the military to shoot the film because they have the cool toys, the military gets script approval rights, and this is the conflicted mess that results. Enlisted men were shooting their incompetent officers in the back in Vietnam before they got someone killed. What these dudes did was pretty mild. I would’ve done the same, and it was just insulting for the makers of this piece of propoganda to play with their audience like this. Again, to quote a review from IMDB, the courtroom scene went down like bad medicine, and left a bad taste in my mouth.

    4- The pivotal moment where the captain asks for help. It’s the crews job to hold the captain’s hand? They are trained from day one to unquestionably follow orders, and here’s the new, erratic captain saying “Jeez boys, I’m kinda fucked up. Think you could help? It’s such a big ship…” Help how? Decision by committee when the shooting starts? BULLSHIT.

    This film is an infuriating turd. A well produced, well acted piece of infuriating turd, which I think is what deceives it’s many supporters. Oooo, Bogart was so good. Oooo, the acting was terrific on board the ship. Oooo, star-studded cast. Oooo, give the turd some Oscar nominations (Out of Africa, The English Patient, The Hurt Locker).

    The director, to his credit, was dissappointed with the film. After the navy and studios had butchered the script, what was left wasn’t what he wanted. I haven’t read the novel, or any of Herman Wouk’s books, but I gather he is as dry and bloated as James Michner. I read the novel goes into the class divisions and conflicts within the navy, and that the captain is more blemished than the film depicts. The navy didn’t like the way it was portrayed in the original script, which resulted in the mess we get. This film, again, wants it all ways. The captain is incompetent. No, the crew were cowards. No, the military dictum that the captain is always to be supported is the final word. And the viewers, most of whom I believe would have been siding with the crew throughout the movie, get slapped in the face at the end.

    Bullshit. I’d give this a 8 out of 10 for the acting. I’d give it a slap right back in it’s own manipulative face for it’s “message”. Overall, a 4 out of 10. Although I’d mostly like to just stomped up and down on every print of this film and grind it into dust.

    Comment by brent mosher | February 12, 2011 | Reply

    • Holy shit… you REALLY hated this movie didnt you. I guess I’ll respond point by point.

      1. I disagree. The music is a good representation of ’50s movie music.

      2. I agree the romantic subplot was both unnecessary and over-done. But I don’t think you’re taking into account the style of filmmaking of the time… Of course the music, acting, and dialogue will seem over the top by todays standards. So will ours one day.

      3. There’s a lot in there, but I disagree with it. The big one that seems to piss you off is the lawyers talk at the end. The movie isn’t saying “They’re the asshole”. I don’t get where you’re getting that… The movie never says “The captain is the captain no matter how fucked up he is and no matter how many lives he may be endangering.” It merely presents the other side. The crew DIDN’T do all they could, but the lawyers rant was directed at MacMurray for being such a dick and taking advantage of his fellow crew-members.

      4. Bogart never said “Jeez boys, I’m kinda fucked up. Think you could help? It’s such a big ship…” or anything like it. In fact he never asked for help… That’s kinda the point. The movie doesn’t want to make the captain the hero, or to make the crew the heroes. I thought you’d be up for a little presentation of moral ambiguiety, especially as the 1950’s weren’t really known for that (to put it lightly).

      Man you really went all out against this movie here… I have to say I disagree on almost every point. I do agree about the romace scenes, but even that has to be looked at in context of the time it was made (especially when it comes to the writing and acting styles).

      I don’t know what else to say man haha…

      Comment by jamesturpin | February 13, 2011 | Reply

      • James

        1. Ok. But then 50’s music sucked as bad as 80’s music.

        2. I did take into account the acting style of the time, but the romance was beyond just being stylistically alien. It was bad acting, bad writing and unnecessary. And the music just made it all worse.

        3. What could the crew have done? The man was paranoid, argumentative, irrational. It seemed to me to be one of those situations where you make peace for the sake of making peace, and then two hours later everything is right back to where you started. The lawyers just say they ganged up on him and never helped. What were they supposed to do? What procedure should they have followed? And how did this man get a ship given his condition, and why weren’t those who gave him the command ever called to account?

        4. I pharaphrased Boogey very loosely. Yes, he never did actually ask for help. Yet their own lawyer in the final scene specifically says the crew turned the captain down when he asked for help. That was the hinge, and it never happened. There was a pregnant moment in the mess room, yes. But again, what were they supposed to say? “Well captain, maybe you need to stop being so (insert description of paranoia here, but in a nice polite way) and we’ll walk on eggshells and pray you don’t get us all killed?” The man was incompetent. It was war. He should never have been there. The crew removed him. I don’t see what they did wrong. Even if they had come to some understanding in the mess room, what would have happened as soon as the next crisis occurred? The captain would have fallen apart again and there would have been another confrontation. Someone would have had to take over, because you cannot be coddling the captain and giving swift orders and the same time.Yes they ridiculed him. The book apparently made the class antagonisms more of an issue, and rightly so. Go into any workplace where the working class serve the middle class and listen to the (often justified) resentments. MacMurray’s character is belittled for being a wannabe author, so it seems everyone was doing their fair share of ridiculing. And finally, there is the improbability of the whole scenario. How did the ship get so lax? Did a shore officer never take the previous captain to task? No, the 50’s weren’t known for moral ambiguity, and I don’t think this film was either. It was my perception that the speech at the end held the crew responsible. One of the them even says “That would make us guilty” of mutiny. The final important line of the lawyer is something like “The captain is the captain and you support him to make yourselves better.” The captain was incompetent. The crew saw it and had to deal with it. They did what someone else further up the chain of command should have done and got blamed for it. Sound familiar?

        I think we talked about The English Patient once. I am a fan of Ondaatje. The novel was very good. The novel he wrote before that was called In the Skin of a Lion, which had some of the characters from The English Patient in it. Both were quite political. The movie gutted the politics and turned the story into a romance, much like Out of Africa. If you read the novel, you’ll see why I didn’t like the movie.

        Comment by brent mosher | February 14, 2011

    • Oh, and can you explain why you hated The English Patient? I won’t say which side I’m on, I want to hear what you thought.

      Comment by jamesturpin | February 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. PS – Aren’t you curious as to what was in the script the navy wouldn’t approve because it didn’t like the way it was portrayed?

    Comment by brent mosher | February 14, 2011 | Reply

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