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The Caine Mutiny

The Caine Mutiny (1954) starring Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray

The Caine Mutiny (1954) starring Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray

The Caine Mutiny is one of those movies where several elements work together to make an incredible film.   The acting is top-notch, with all of the actors at their peak.   Humphrey Bogart is believable, despicable, and, in the end, pitiable as the obsessive, controlling, paranoid Captain Queeq.   Van Johnson is utterly believable as the loyal, upright, by-the-book officer.   Fred MacMurray is absolutely unrecognizable, and I mean that in the best way possible.   He is not the loving, gentle patriarch of My Three Sons. Neither the likable father figure of various Walt Disney movies.  He is Iago, a little man who manipulates others into doing what he himself is unable and unwilling to do.   Jose Ferrer shines as the defense attorney in the court-martial.

Court martial?   Yes, the eager beaver young officer played by Van Johnson is manipulated slowly. Coaxed into taking control of the ship from the obsessed Captain Queeq, in order to save the ship. Queeg’s played to the hilt by Humphrey Bogart in what might be his finest acting.   Queeq responds by charging him with mutiny, and it’s in the courtroom that everything comes to a head.   It’s incredible acting wrapped around an incredible story — of the mutiny that never happened.

Editorial review of The Caine Mutiny (1954) starring Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, courtesy of Amazon.com

Humphrey Bogart is heartbreaking as the tragic Captain Queeg in this 1954 film, based on a novel by Herman Wouk, about a mutiny aboard a Navy ship during World War II. Stripped of his authority by two officers under his command (played by Van Johnson and Robert Francis) during a devastating storm, Queeg becomes a crucial witness at a court martial that reveals as much about the invisible injuries of war as anything. Edward Dmytryk (Murder My Sweet, Raintree County) directs the action scenes with a sure hand and nudges his all-male cast toward some of the most well-defined characters of 1950s cinema. The courtroom scenes alone have become the basis for a stage play (and a television movie in 1988), but it is a more satisfying experience to see the entire story in context. — €”Tom Keogh

On The Caine Mutiny DVD

Special features on The Caine Mutiny (Collector’s Edition) are dominated by a fascinating, two-part documentary, Inside The Caine Mutiny. Guest speakers — €“including Richard Pena from the Film Society of Lincoln Center and writer-producer Ken Bowser — €“recall how The Caine Mutiny‘s producer, Stanley Kramer, was in the vanguard of a new breed of independent filmmaker working on a contract basis with the aging studio system. Kramer had been losing money for Columbia’s irascible, longtime head, Harry Cohn, but proved very profitable on Caine, making up for other losses.

More important, Kramer — whose overall career receives some valuable commentary here — proved prescient in his choice of material. He picked up rights to Herman Wouk’s novel of Caine while reviews of the book were coming in mixed, and long before the story would pick up some major prizes down the line. Still, there were obstacles ahead, especially from the U.S. Navy, which didn’t want to participate in a tale about a fictional mutiny.

There’s also a lot of discussion about the film’s strong casting, especially Humphrey Bogart in a bluntly honest yet sympathetic performance, Van Johnson taking a marvelous break from light comedy, Jose Ferrer in a memorable role as a Navy attorney, and Fred MacMurray playing against type as a disaffected intellectual. Some very interesting comments are made about the film’s director, Edward Dmytryk, a once-blacklisted talent who became a friendly witness during the U.S. government’s witch hunt for suspected Communists in entertainment, and whose films reflect that change in stance from the 1940s to the 1950s. — €”Tom Keogh

Product Description of The Caine Mutinty

This is a classic film of modern day mutiny aboard a Naval vessel based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Herman Wouk. The nervous and inept behavior of Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) during maneuvers aboard the U.S.S. Caine a destroyer/mine sweeper attracts the attention of the ship’s crew members and it’s executive officer, Maryk (Van Johnson). When Queeg’s neurotic behavior reaches a breaking point during a fierce typhoon, Maryk takes command of the ship. Queeg then retaliates by having Maryk court-martialed. In a tense courtroom sequence, Lt. Greenwald (Jose Ferrer), assigned to Maryk’s defense, systematically breaks Queeg down on the stand. Maryk wins the case but the victory is short-lived as Lt. Greenwald reveals that the men have all been the unwitting victims of a deceptive shipmate named Lt. Keefer (Fred MacMurray), who actually instigated the mutiny for his own purposes. An all-star cast makes this film one to remember.


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