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Forgotten Films: The Bounty (1984)

August 21, 2011

Forgotten Films: a new feature for Ratpatootie about films that have (surprise, surprise) been forgotten about over the years.  Of course, there are plenty of average/sub-par films that have been forgotten and deservedly so (remember The Tourist?  Came out a few months ago, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp?  Even if you still have a vague recollection of it now, chances are you’ll have forgotten all about it and its $100,000,000 budget by the time 2012 rolls around).  Dozens of films come out each year that are so bland or pointless that its natural for them to disappear from public consciousness.  I’m more interested in those films where the lack of attention comes as a surprise.  Perhaps they have an amazing cast or director, perhaps they were nominated for hundreds of awards on release, perhaps they’re a sequel to a popular/well-received original…and yet for some reason, no-one remembers them.  I’ll be digging them out, reviewing, and giving my own reasons (as best I can) as to why these films are so ignored.

First up…

 

 

I hadn’t heard of The Bounty until a few weeks ago.  My husband, after seeing it mentioned on the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon TV show The Trip, requested that I put it on my LoveFilm list as he thought it sounded interesting.  I looked into it a little and couldn’t believe it had passed me by for so long.  With a cast including Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier, Liam Neeson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Bernard Hill and erm, Neil Morrissey (yes, really) showing off their prowess in a famous historical tale (the mutiny on the Bounty), I couldn’t imagine what must have gone wrong to have left it garnering so little attention nowadays.  And the answer?  Honestly, I’m still not really sure.  It suffered from a troubled pre-production; David Lean and scriptwriter Robert Bolt worked on the film for years before Lean eventually had to withdraw from the project at the last minute with health problems.  Roger Donaldson was drafted in as his replacement, and the movie perhaps suffered as a result.  While very competently done, there is nothing that really makes it stand out from a visual point of view.  Some set-pieces, for example a storm which almost capsizes the ship, are badly paced and contain little real drama.  The score, too, doesn’t really fit with the film.  80’s synthesizers don’t exactly scream 18th Century seafaring adventures.  These are niggles, really, but combined with the disappointment of losing Lean, this could have contributed to a mixed reception (which, in turn, may have kept audiences away).  Given that The Bounty was also a retelling of a story that had already been twice committed to film (with those previous films starring such well-loved names as Clark Gable and Marlon Brando), it’s possible that the troubles surrounding the film also made audiences doubt its ability to improve on those that had gone before.

Aforementioned niggles aside though, The Bounty is actually a great movie.  A large part of this is down to the cast; Anthony Hopkins in particular is simply outstanding, giving real depth to the character of Captain Bligh.  How he didn’t even get nominated for an Oscar is beyond me.  Mel Gibson, as Bligh’s friend-turned-adversary, isn’t quite on Hopkins’ level yet still acquits himself very well (and I say this as someone who can’t bear the man), and Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson are very memorable in early roles.  The story, too, is gripping.  What could have been a flat, two-dimensional tale is brought to life by a script which tries to understand the reasons for each of the protagonist’s actions and gives the viewer a choice in where their allegiance should lie.  This is rare, given that so many films love to present us with an obvious good guy/bad guy.

The Bounty may not be perfect, but it’s far more entertaining and enjoyable than a lot of the ‘five-star’ films I’ve seen recently for my Empire project.  It gets an easy 4/5 from me…though I should also state that my husband, who is usually less easily pleased than myself, is in no doubt whatsoever that it deserves a 5.

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