Orion Pictures Corp. 1984, 2 hours
Starring Anthony Hopkins & Mel Gibson
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
The year 1787 marks a milestone in American history: the Constitutional Convention. In December of that same year, the HMS Bounty, a frigate of the British Navy, left England for Tahiti. Its mission was to collect breadfruit seedlings for transport to the West Indies. A milestone in British history unfolded when the Bounty set sail for the West Indies with its cargo from Tahiti. Led by Fletcher Christian, the midshipman, a group of disgruntled sailors mutinied against the harsh commander: Captain Bligh was forced into a boat with a few loyal seamen, and set adrift on the open sea with no land in sight.
Yet more newsworthy than the mutiny itself was its aftermath. Captain Bligh, a seasoned navigator, was able to steer the longboat and its crew through the treacherous waters of the South Pacific. Relying on his compass, the intrepid Bligh managed to keep the boat on course for 3,600 miles, until the starving survivors reached the island of Timor in the Dutch Indies. Bligh’s detailed account of the month-long ordeal is preserved in his diary.
Meanwhile, the Bounty had returned to Tahiti. Soon after the mutineers were reunited with the women with whom they had bonded during their earlier visit, the ship departed from Tahiti sailing into uncharted waters. To avoid future contact with the British navy, Fletcher Christian steered the Bounty towards a remote uninhabited island (unmarked on contemporary maps) about 1,000 miles from Tahiti. Pitcairn Island, the final destination of the Bounty, is still inhabited by descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian wives.
The story of the Bounty has been told and retold usually from a perspective that is critical of Captain Bligh. Four out of the five adaptations for the screen reflect this popular bias. However, the fifth version adopts a historically more balanced account of the notorious mutiny. The plot of The Bounty unfolds as a series of flashbacks in the course of a court-martial of William Bligh for the loss of a frigate of the British Navy. We first meet Bligh, played by Anthony Hopkins, as an affable officer, before we learn about his darker side: an arrogant commander prone to bouts of irrepressible anger. No less surprising is Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Fletcher Christian as a long-time friend of the irascible Bligh. But the arduous voyage to Tahiti would test their bonds of friendship to the breaking point.
A digitally re-mastered copy of the original film was released as a Blu-ray disc in 2019.