Bounty, The (1984): Roger Donaldson’s New Version Starring Mel Gibson in the Gable and Brando Role

This new screen dramatization, directed by the Aussie director Roger Donaldson, of the 1789 mutiny aboard the H.M.S. Bounty is based not on the familiar Nordhoff and Hall book, but on Richard Hough’s novel Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian.

The Bounty
The Bounty.jpg

Theatrical release poster illustrated by Brian Bysouth

As is well known, the best version is still the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, which won the Best Picture Oscar.

In 1962, the film was remade with Marlon Brando in the Gable role, and Trevor Howard in Laughton’s.

In this retelling, scripted by Oscar-winning playwright Robert Bolt, who wrote for David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) and Fred Zinnemann (A Man for All Seasons, in 1966)

The infamous Captain Bligh (well played by Sir Anthony Hopkins) is strict and disciplinarian, but he is not a tyrannical monster.

Faced with his crew’s increasing laxity after an idyllic visit to Tahiti (the search for breadfruit takes second place to limitless sex with the island girls), Bligh is forced use severe means to keep his men in line.

Christian (played by the young and handsome Mel Gibson), formerly Bligh’s friend, is of no use to the captain, because he himself has fallen for a native girl.

In this tale, Christian is a reluctant hero: He becomes the leader of the mutiny virtually in spite of himself.  When the mutineers try to seek refuge on Tahiti, they find that the local chief wants no part of them, which is why they settle for the nearly uninhabitable Pitcairn.

Though decently received by critics, the movie was a commercial flop, perhaps because of the familiarity with the sorce material.  Both the Gable and the Brando versions are often shown on TV.


Directed by Roger Donaldson
Screenplay by Robert Bolt, based on Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian by Richard Hough
Produced by Bernard Williams, Dino De Laurentiis

Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson, BSC
Edited by Tony Lawson
Music by Vangelis

Production companies: Dino De Laurentiis Corporation; Bounty Productions Ltd.

Distributed by Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment

Release dates: May 4, 1984 (US); October 5, 1984 (UK)

Running time: 132 minutes
Budget $20 million
Box office $8,613,462

DVD: Nov 21, 2000