The Bounty (1984)

Forgotten DVDs


18 August 2017| No Comments on The Bounty (1984)     by Sean Chavel


“Mr. Christian, your brain has received too much sunlight and your body overindulged in sexual excess.” – Captain Bligh

One of the nicest and more unexpected surprises I’ve had in months in the discovery of this Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson take on the English historical figures Captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian. I had one of those moments, “I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this way earlier in my life!” The Bounty (1984) sets off as your usual high seas adventure in the old eighteenth century with blistered and discontent seamen warring the usual quarrels with each other (so the usual, but it’s not bad at that), only to come distinguishably alive when the ship disembarks in Tahiti. These English seafarers have literally crashed upon a paradise. It’s no ordinary paradise. Of this or any other century, it is a taboo paradise. I as a viewer had a shock: I don’t think there’s a paradise that exists in our current century that can equal this one. Beautiful naked women, folk song traditions, endless fruits, straightforward community sharing and trading, and a beach that is as splendid as any in our dreams of the South Seas.

It’s not a place that any lustful man would want to leave. Many of the men, and certainly Gibson at his most hunky period as Fletcher Christian, obviously don’t want to leave this most alluring place on Earth. Yet the formal and uptight Captain Bligh (Hopkins) insists that everybody must leave to continue on their circumnavigating around the world expedition on their ship, the HMS Bounty (His Majesty’s Ship). Captain Bligh is obviously a man of integrity, with unassailable loyalty to country, and he has the responsibility to adhere to the rules. While he understands the virile nature of men, he decides that the deserters must be punished just to keep order. This however sparks a major riff between the men, between the devout and the pleasure seekers.

Bounty_1984 -FlickMinute_ Forgotten Underrated MoviesThey make it back onto the seas to continue their voyage, where there is of course the mutiny with an out of control led by the ship’s first mate (Mad Mel!) taking over the steer. Fletcher wants to return to paradise forever, and give desertion rights to any man who chooses island life. The Tahitian King, not so welcoming to their return, thoughtfully explains why that idea is not so simple. He fears retribution by King George of England, and suggests that Fletcher take his daughter and relocate.

Admittedly, I have avoided seeing every version of this story. I learn that this was the fifth “Mutiny” film. Having seen it, I have no desire to go back and see every tame and creaky old version of the past. I can’t imagine drubbing my way through the 1935 version for instance, which couldn’t possibly deal with the sexual allure of what a paradise really meant. I understand that previous versions dealt with the contentious relationship between authority and underlings, with surplus emphasis of Captain Bligh simply painted as a blowhard martinet. Sorry, pass.

Historically, Christian Fletcher wanted more than just sex and relaxation – he attempted in various islands to piously spread Christianity. In this case, Gibson just wants to indulge in the lustful life. It’s definitely a flaw for the film not to investigate thoroughly with this late chapter history of Fletcher Christian’s evangelism, but the way that “The Bounty” goes about its own business, it nevertheless has an audacious way of saying what it says. I think only in the risk-taking of the mid-1980’s, when there was still some leftover do-it-for-art sensuality that defined the 1970’s, was a take like this able to actually make it to the screen. In today’s times, this kind of nudity and bold statement about man’s surrender to hedonism could not, and would not, be presented in a major Hollywood film.

In addition to the dignified acting by Hopkins and tenacious acting of Gibson, there are also superb early performances by both Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis who both come through vividly, and venerable appearances by Laurence Olivier and Edward Fox.

“The Bounty” was directed by the underrated New Zealander Roger Donaldson who made this his first Hollywood production, and has made other films that I truly admire: “Smash Palace” (1981), “No Way Out” (1987), “Thirteen Days” (2000) and “The World’s Fastest Indian” (2005).

132 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935); “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962); “Rapa Nui” (1994); “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003).

Bounty_Post_ Underrated-Films (1984)

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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