Pros: Bogart, Ferrer, MacMurray. Naval buffs will love this movie.
Cons: Covers too much of the book in a short time, creating in-the-way subplots.
(4/29/04: I apologize for the unoriginal introduction to this review; it was early in my site career. Anyway, I have updated this review by getting rid of the question marks that have plagued it since a format error on Epinions. Anyway, enjoy!)
The Caine Mutiny follows the story of the men aboard the minesweeper U.S.S Caine during the period of 1943-44 in the pacific war. After the Caine is assigned a new captain, Philip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), the officers start to get suspicious at various acts the captain does: His attention to small details such as shirttails and erratic behavior like rolling ball bearings in his hand when hes nervous and the spouting of catchphrases like I kid you not. His behavior reaches a climax during a typhoon. Executive Officer Maryk (Van Johnson), after being advised by some others, relieves the captain with the firm belief that the ship would founder with Queeg in charge. Now Maryk has to defend his actions in a court martial.
It may seem surprising today, but at the time of this movies release, Jose Ferrer was one of the hottest actors around. He was already an Oscar winner for 1950s Cyrano de Bergenac. Here, he plays Lt. Barney Greenwald, who is assigned to Maryks defense, but isnt so enthusiastic (I've read the preliminary investigation very carefully and I think that what you've done stinks he states bluntly). He seems at first to not be a competent attorney, but was only waiting for the moment to strike. And when he does strike, boy does he strike.
My favorite performance is Fred MacMurray as Lieutenant Keefer, the communications officer, who doesnt think too highly of the Caine. You can detect much cynicism in his discussion of it (The first thing you've got to learn about this ship is that she was designed by geniuses to be run by idiots.) And, though not a psychologist himself, he is also the one who raises it to Maryks attention that Queeg may be nuts. Since he does this, it makes one assume that he would be willing to go all the way by alerting the top navy brass. But we soon learn that he is nothing but a scheming coward. He brings it out that the captain may be paranoid, yet has A yellow streak 15 miles wide. And deliberately goes blank while testifying in front of the navy court. MacMurray, I thought, played this role so well and very convincingly. Surprisingly, he never got Oscar nominated for any of his performances. Perhaps the academy thought that this actor-whos best known as the father on My Three Sons and for a track record in light comedies- wasnt prestigious enough to win the gold. Its like his against type roles in Double Indemnity, The Apartment and this movie never existed!
In the beginning of the film, we tended to dislike Queeg because hes a nut. One example is his very simple solution to solve the mystery of some missing strawberries. But at the end, when Keefers plan is revealed, when sympathize with Queeg at how he was used and mistreated by his crew. Had the crew supported and helped the captain, things might have turned out different in the typhoon. This is one of Bogarts better roles, maybe his last great one, and it netted him his last Oscar nomination. He made only about three or four other movies after this one, with the last, The Harder they Fall, coming out in 1956, just months before his February 1957 death from throat cancer.
If there is one problem with The Caine Mutiny, it is the romance plot between Ensign Keith (Robert Francis), junior officer aboard the Caine and his girlfriend May, played by May Wynn (Coincidental?). Keiths character is the first we are introduced to in the film. His involvement in the film is sort of like that of the newsreel reporter in Citizen Kane: He serves as a guide, a plot device to the events that follow. And only a handful of scenes are dedicated to Keith and May. However, these end up in the way of the much more exciting action involving Queeg and the other officers. I have read Herman Wouks novel and am aware that this wasnt manufactured for the film, but was actually in the book (And was the main plot, if Im not mistaken). This shows how much the screenwriters tried to remain faithful to the book. But the only way the movie could have been truly faithful to the novel would be if it had been two and a half or even three hours long. With a roughly two-hour movie, the writers should have figured out what was more important to focus on. If they had either dumped or worked out the romance plot better so it fit more into the plot, the movie would have been even better.
Otherwise, The Caine Mutiny is a great film, one that many persons can find something to like. Naval buffs will enjoy beautiful shots filmed aboard naval destroyers at port and sea to represent the DMS Caine. Fans of court room dramas will find a very tense, well played one thatll satisfy them (A 1988 T.V movie, The Caine Mutiny court-martial, was said to do a better job. Having not seen that, though, I cannot form an opinion). Bogie fans will most likely judge this one of his career highlights. And skeptics of Fred MacMurrays talent will be put to rest. Add in a supporting cast that includes Tom Tully, E.G Marshall and Lee Marvin and you have great entertainment, I kid you not!