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The Bounty is a British historical drama produced in 1984. This cinematic adaptation is based upon the historical account of the mutiny on the bounty as written about in the book Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian, which was written by Richard Hough in 1972. Directed by Roger Donaldson (The World's Fastest Indian, Dante's Peak, The November Man), this take on historical events explores a new cinematic approach to telling the tale.
The story in the film focuses upon how Lieutenant William Bligh (Anthony Hopkins) lost his control over the ship on which he served as Captain. Bligh is in British court and explaining events to Admiral Hood (Laurence Olivier). As he recounts the story, Blight explains how his friend Fletcher Christian (Mel Gibson) convinced others to rebel and attempt to take control of the ship.
The year is 1787 and the crew was going to circumnavigate around the entire globe. The journey taken was not one that went down exactly as was predicted. The crew failed getting around Cape Horn and the sea's harsh weather brought them to Tahiti instead. The experience was surprising and eye-opening for the entire crew as they witnessed the very different culture of the people of Tahiti right away.
Many crew members began romances with the women in Tahiti. Several individuals became so involved that they ended up wanting to stay with them. The concept of returning to England seemed unfavorable at this point. Christian had fallen in love with someone and did not want them to return. Lieutenant Bligh faces considerable challenges as one of the only individuals wanting to complete the original mission.
Bligh believed his crew was blindly ignoring the mission and gave disciplinary action that was cruel to his crew: bypassing the kind leadership that was necessary to get them on board with the plan again. Sensing the distress of the crew members, Christian eventually attempts takeover of the ship. Things complicate when the ship is brought back to Tahiti and King Tynah (Wi Kuki Kaa) becomes concerned that war will be declared against the people of Tahiti for the crew's disobedience.
Produced by prolific executive producer Dino De Laurentiis (Dune, Army of Darkness), the project was originally intended to be directed by David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago). The film was to reunite the filmmaker with his collaborator Robert Bolt, who had written the screenplays for Lean films like Lawrence of Arabia, Ryan's Daughter, and Doctor Zhivago. For multiple reasons, this version of the project was not to be.
Despite the amount of work already accomplished with regards to the film's production, Lean left the film following the removal of backing from Warner Bros and because of health problems for screenwriter Robert Bolt. The original plan was to do a two-part film or mini-series and this was something that was left off the table. The production began to run into trouble and it faced some degree of uncertainty. What would happen to The Bounty?
Ultimately, Laurentiis decided to move forward with the production because of the work and financing already invested in the project. Actor Mel Gibson brought in close friend, Director Roger Donaldson to direct the film and use the script work by Robert Bolt. Additional script material was written by Melvyn Bragg, though without credit. (Determining how much of the original script was left intact is considered difficult to ascertain.)
Despite some troublesome production problems behind-the-scenes this ultimately remains an interesting film (even if it is an imperfect one). The film stars many accomplished actors (some of whom hadn't become huge in the filmmaking industry at the time of production) such as the great Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Laurence Olivier, and Liam Neeson. The casting was tremendous and the actors sank into their roles with precision. Hopkins gave a brilliant portrayal of William Bligh and Gibson excelled in his role. Even with a small part, the performance by Day-Lewis capably convinces of his strong acting skills.
The score for The Bounty was composed by Vangelis (Blade Runner). This is one of the best aspects of the entire experience. Vangelis has composed terrific film scores and this one is an entirely compelling one which will draw in viewers from the get-go. The score even gets a nice intro and outro as it leads the film from blackness to picture and the end credits close the film with extended music that keeps on playing until the perfect moment of musical closure. This score magnifies the emotion without overplaying the work done by the filmmakers. It gives serene spectacle to the locale and adds to the impressive production merits. A great music accomplishment.
The cinematography was done by Arthur Ibbetson (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). This is certainly one of the more interesting aspects of the production. The sequences on the seafaring ship are somewhat drab in color and suggest a claustrophobic vibe. The ordinary routine of the crew is given a somewhat standard and life-like flair throughout these scenes. During the shift to the Tahiti scenes, the colors are greatly expand and the photography seems a lot more bold and visually striking. This approach actually reminds me a bit of Wonka, which showed a drab-looking ordinary existence before the cinematography matched the cue of the production design and was heightened during the visit to the chocolate factory. Ibbetson has done an effective job of adding his unique visual approach to The Bounty.
The costume designs are by John Bloomfield (The Mummy, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). In regards to the crew characters, these costumes seem highly effective for the type of setting in which the film takes place. The design of the Captain's attire and those in various stages of command on the ship works. Bloomfield's effort is complementary to the overall artistic approach taken within the production.
Donaldson managed to bring The Bounty together with skill and precision. I would have been thrilled to see a version done by Lean but Donaldson is an effective filmmaker who brought interesting camera-work, delicate pacing, and great performances to the version made. This production bears the mark of Donaldson's style and is better for it. The Bounty is a polished, well-executed, and fascinating film that is well worth one's time.
The Bounty arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with an inconsistent but generally satisfactory presentation. The film is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been encoded in MPEG-4 AVC 1080p High Definition. This release isn't quite as strong as many other Twilight Time releases but it is still certainly a release that is worth one's time.
The image is somewhat disappointing because some sequences seem to come from dated source material and have frequent white specks, faded colors, and other small print issues. There is also a general softness to certain passages of the film. The sequences most affected by this are generally towards the beginning of the film and specifically during scenes occurring on the ship. Viewers hoping to find a perfect remastered edition simply won't find it here but the transfer is not without some strength.
Having said that, I thought the image was more impressive during the second half of the film and the print seemed to be in better condition and exhibit fewer problems during those later scenes. Some sequences were in great shape and during those passages this presentation is much more exemplary as a filmic experience.
I think viewers will find that even though the presentation was inconsistent and could have potentially been a little better, it's a reasonably satisfying transfer overall. The Bounty has unquestionably never looked as good on home media before. This Blu-ray marks a huge improvement and visual upgrade for fans looking to own the best version available.
The audio is presented with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation. This sound mix is one which occasionally uses surround effects to reasonably good use, which is quite nice as the original sound design was stereo. The music score by Vangelis is easily the best sounding element of the audio track and fans of the composers will be pleased with the sound here. Dialogue sounds slightly muffled at times and a few lines have some very slight audible distortion, which is disappointing. However, the bulk of the film is easy to understand.
English SDH subtitles (for the deaf and hard of hearing) are included.
Twilight Time has included a printed booklet featuring an essay written by critic Julie Kirgo.
Supplements on this release include two audio commentaries: the first commentary includes Director Roger Donaldson, Producer Bernard Williams, and Production Designer John Graysmark. The second commentary is with Historical Consultant Stephen Walters.
The release also includes an isolated score track. For film score buffs, this will be appreciated because the score composed by Vangelis is terrific and sounds quite good on this Blu-ray. It's always a bit odd to listen to an isolated score during the quiet parts but fascinating to listen to when thinking about how a score was composed and how the music can affect or even alter a film's tone.
Lastly, the original theatrical trailer is provided.
The Bounty is a successful telling of a historical account. The direction is impressive, the music soars, and the performances bring an emotional depth to the story. Fans of this film will find it well worth revisiting and will enjoy seeing it again on Blu-ray.
This Twilight Time Limited Edition of 3,000 units is well worth picking up for fans of the film.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.