The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Reviewed on 2008 January 19
Recently I discovered something interesting about Mr. Shukti and myself — we somewhat overlap in terms of classic movies, with one of us seeing milestone pictures the the other missed. Here’s a brilliant one that I just caught last night, and I now understand all of the “Queeg and strawberry” jokes.
Ensign Willis Seward Keith (Robert Francis) is an academy-fresh officer signing on the Caine, an old battleship in the Pacific in World War II. His crispy uniform and new ideas jar somewhat with Commander Devriess (Tom Tully), an old warhorse who’s revered by his scruffy-looking (but competent) crew. After Devriess chews him out, he’s glad to hear the old man is stepping aside.
Unfortunately Keith learns the full meaning of the proverb to be careful what you wish for. The Caine is now under the command of Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), the sort of petty despot that should be the CEO of a ball bearing factory, not leading on a warship. Rather than letting small stuff go when the men perform well, Queeg worries about such important and critical things as whether or not their shirts are neatly tucked in. The sailors are a tough lot that can ignore fits of mindless pique if their captain can lead. When it becomes evident Queeg can’t, they have to do something desperate.
It was surprising to see Bogart play Queeg, since I always think of him as the urbane Rick from Casablanca, and he nailed it. Jose Ferrer was also very good as Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (though I didn’t agree with a word of what he said at the end). I think I felt the most sympathy for Van Johnson as Lieutenant Steve Maryk — watch it and you’ll know what I mean. I think parts of it are a little dated but the acting and story still hold it up. Anyone dealing an incompetent or crooked boss should be able to relate to this.
Four chocolate morsels.