Published on February 28th, 2008 | by Chris1
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
There has never been a mutiny, legal or otherwise, on board a US Navy vessel. Ever. At least not in real life, but in 1954's The Caine Mutiny, that's exactly what happens. We're borne witness to the events leading up to the eventual takeover of the fictional USS Caine, and the events that happen after.
The story follows one newly-christened Ensign Keith (Robert Francis) as he's sent aboard the rather unkempt and unoccupied minesweeper, the USS Caine, and its ragtag crew. When their captain is called away, and replaced with the overbearing Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), their lives are changed, and so is their path towards the inevitable downward spiral which follows.
Queeg starts off on a well enough note, like a lot of commanding officers, doing things by the book, changing things for the better, turning this motley crew around.... but it quickly becomes apparent to the Caine's subordinate officers that there's much, much more to it than that.
Event after event brings out the true personality of Queeg, and display his failure as a commander, despite his best attempts. Lt. Keefer, (Fred MacMurray) recognizes his behavior as symptoms of a paranoid disorder, and begins to plant the seeds of discontent among the officers, Keith included. However, Queeg's executive officer, Maryk (Van Johnson) doesn't sit well with the idea, and continues to give Queeg the benefit of the doubt until the very end.
That end comes when Queeg's overbearing persona puts the ship in grave danger of sinking, and Maryk takes over, citing regulations, and informing the rest of the crew of his assumption of command.
Of course that's just half the story. The remainder of the tale takes place at Maryk's court martial, where he's having to explain himself, and prove his innocence, or at the very least, honorable intentions in his mutinous action. In typical military fashion, the veteran officer Queeg is continually given the benefit of the doubt, due to his previous service.
That is until he's called to the stand, and in one of *the* classic Hollywood moments of all time, collapses into a paranoid rant which leaves the room stunned and silent, sealing his fate, and ultimately proving that Maryk was in the right.
Quite frankly The Caine Mutiny has to be one of Bogart's best performances of all times. Contrast this excellent portrayal of a man on the edge with more-or-less flat roles like in Sahara. His seamless switching from ranting officer to panicking incompetent is sheer brilliance.
Also of note is the character of Keefer, played by Fred MacMurray. His actions quickly take on a sinister note, and eventually you start to wonder exactly what his motives are, and in the end, his portrayal of the apologetic cowardly conspirator is nearly as good as Bogart's.
Interestingly enough, notice war movie icon Lee Marvin and Jose Ferrer playing a pair of goof-off enlisted sailors. Unfortunately there's not enough of their antics in the picture!
The Caine Mutiny is one of the defining Hollywood Classics, and if you've not seen it, I can't recommend it enough.
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Summary: Quite frankly The Caine Mutiny has to be one of Bogart's best performances of all times. Contrast this excellent portrayal of a man on the edge with more-or-less flat roles like in Sahara. His seamless switching from ranting officer to panicking incompetent is sheer brilliance.