Yesterday when I was bumming around town and playing videos games with my pal Bear he asked me what was my Sunday Night Movie feature going to be and I replied that I was thinking of re-watching Robocop.
After my sweetie-wife went to bed and it was time to start up a feature I realized that I was in the mood for something meatier that Robocop. I wanted a dramatic film, not a genre piece. I scanned my collection and my eyes fell on The Cain Mutiny.
I can’t remember the first time I saw The Cain Mutiny. I know it was television during the 80s’, before the dreaded infomercials had pushed movies out as the low-budget local tv station fare. I remember tripping across the film fairly close to the start and I was pulled in at once by the riveting writing, characters, and performances.
If you only know Humphrey Bogart as the cool always in control detective then this film is one you really should see. It’s a film he did after he escaped the studio system and could be in the kind of roles that would stretch him as an actor.
The central character of the film is Willis Seward Keith, a young 90-day wonder of an Ensign. Willie has problems, mainly he’s too attached to his mother still and has not learned to be his own man. He’s got an on-again/off-again relations with a lovely signer, May Wynn, and has been assigned to a worn out, rusted hulk of a ship, the DMS Caine. Willie saw himself making an important contribution to the war effort, (the setting is WWII), but instead he’s on an ‘outcast ship, manned by outcasts, and named after the greatest outcast of them all.’ Or so Communications officer Lt. Keefer informs him. Things seem to take a turn for the better when a new captain is assigned to the Caine, Lt. Commander Phillip Francis Queeg. Queeg is old navy, a life-long naval officer and a by the book man. When the new captain makes it clear that the Caine is going to become a new ship and taunt ship Willie couldn’t be more pleased.
However, Queeg has his own demons and the drama of the story is rich with loyalty, betrayal, and cowardice.
This is a movie that every time it came on TV and I caught even a portion I stopped and I would always end up watching it to the end. I eventually copied off the air on a VHS tape, and then later got it on laserdisc. Now it’s one of my favorite DVDs. When it comes out on blu-ray I will replace it without qualms or any need for additional bonus material.
I tracked down a library copy of the Pulitzer prize winning novel a few years ago. This film is a pretty good adaptation of half the novel. I don’t begrudge them that they only told half the story. Even at that the running time was 2 hours 5 minutes. There is little that is in the film that was’t in the book. Contrary to popular myth, Bogart did not invent the bit with Queeg and the ball-bearings, that was in the book.
If you get a chance see this movie and read the book.