Saturday, May 2, 2015

#1,720. Mutiny (1952)

Directed By: Edward Dmytryk

Starring: Mark Stevens, Angela Lansbury, Patric Knowles

Line from the Film: "Born British, forever British. That's His Majesty's law!"

Trivia: This movie was shot in 18 days

I love seafaring adventures, and 1952’s Mutiny kicks things off with an exciting sea battle, which starts before the title even flashes on-screen. More than this, though, the movie features another great turn by Angela Lansbury, playing a woman every bit as conniving and vindictive as the character she portrayed in The Manchurian Candidate.

The War of 1812 has begun, and in order to win it, the United States needs money… and fast. Fortunately, some French entrepreneurs have pledged a total of $10 million in gold to help the U.S. in their fight against the British. Of course, they aren’t willing to risk open war with England by delivering it themselves, so the U.S. will have to sail to France to pick up the gold. Capt. James Marshall (Mark Stevens), whose boat, the Concord, is the finest in the fleet, is offered the assignment, and agrees to do it on the condition that his old mentor, Capt. Ben Waldridge (Patric Knowles), accompany him as First mate. Having been drummed out of the British military for theft, Capt. Waldridge is at first reluctant to sail as second-in-command, but decides to do so on the off-chance he can reconcile with his lost love, Leslie (Angela Lansbury), who, for the past 4 years, has been living in Paris. So, Waldridge assembles his old gun crew, including chief gunner “Hook” (Gene Evans) and Hook's assistant Redlegs (Rhys Williams), and together they board the Concord.

Not only does the ship and its crew manage to pick up the gold (avoiding the British fleet to do so), but Waldridge also tracks down Leslie, who will accompany him back to America. Alas, the trip home will prove even more treacherous for Capt. Marshall and the Concord, mostly because Hook and the others, upon discovering the cargo is $10 million in gold, have decided to stage a mutiny, and have asked their old commander, Capt. Waldridge, to lead it. Leslie, who longs to live the life of a wealthy woman, also tries to coerce Waldridge into betraying Capt. Marshall, saying that if he doesn’t, she’ll leave him once again. With nowhere else to turn, Waldridge agrees to take part in the uprising, and soon gains control of the ship. But will his mutiny pay off in the end?

Produced by the King Brothers (who were also responsible for the underrated Civil War adventure Drums in the Deep South), Mutiny boasts a number of thrilling battle scenes, which are scattered throughout the film, and its tale of treachery on the high seas is just as engaging as that of either Treasure Island or Mutiny on the Bounty. As for the performances, Mark Stevens is a bit too straight-laced as the ship’s captain, making him one of the film’s least interesting characters, while Patric Knowles looks convincingly torn as the former commander forced to choose between honor and riches. The crew itself is equally as strong, especially Gene Evans as the boisterous Hook (so named because he has a hook where his right hand used to be), but even more villainous than the mutineers is Angela Lansbury’s Leslie, who knows exactly how to manipulate Capt. Waldridge. Lansbury has always been an interesting actress; aside from The Manchurian Candidate, she was also good in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), The Long, Hot Summer (1958), The Company of Wolves (1984), and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991), voicing the kindly Miss Potts. In Mutiny, she plays a gold-digger of the highest order, and she’s damn near perfect in the part.

From the classics (Captains Courageous, Reap the Wild Wind) to more recent offerings (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), the ocean has played host to many exciting adventures, and while I hesitate to rank Mutiny among the best of this particular subgenre, it’s nonetheless a taut, entertaining entry.

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