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Sanctuary Visual Entertainment presents
The Bounty: SE (UK Version) (1984)

"Now it will take us at least two months, and we have provision and water enough to last us for one week. Now, that is the situation, plain and simple."
- Lt. William Bligh (Anthony Hopkins)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 11, 2002

Stars: Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins
Other Stars: Laurence Olivier, Liam Neeson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Edward Fox, Bernard Hill
Director: Roger Donaldson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, nudity, flogging)
Run Time: 02h:10m:43s
Release Date: March 04, 2002
Genre: historical adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-BA- A

DVD Review

The film is primarily told in flashback, from the perspective of the court-martial of William Bligh (Anthony Hopkins) for the loss of the ship HMS Bounty. Sent to Tahiti in 1787 to obtain breadfruit plants for Jamaican plantations, the Bounty met with disaster a short time back out from Tahiti, when the crew mutinied, setting Bligh and 17 members of the crew adrift in a longboat. Astonishingly, Bligh managed to navigate the boat without charts over 4,000 miles on the open sea, with completely insufficient provisions. Meanwhile, the mutinous crew must decide where they are to go, knowing that a hangman's noose faces them if they are found by the British Navy.

Mel Gibson co-stars as Fletcher Christian, the Master's Mate of the Bounty and a friend of Bligh. Notable in the supporting cast is Daniel Day-Lewis as the seething John Fryer, the Master of the ship replaced later on by Christian. Liam Neeson, in one of his earlier major film roles, plays Seaman Churchill, who is mutinous well before the others—even before they reach Tahiti. Hopkins is splendid as always as Bligh, capturing both the positives and negatives of his force of will. Gibson makes for a fine Fletcher Christian, although in the mutiny sequence he goes quite over the top into being a bit ridiculous, screaming like a maniac. It's easy to see where his Lethal Weapon characterizations originated.

Unlike the familiar versions of the tale derived from Nordhoff and Hall's Bounty trilogy, which depict Bligh as a martinet whose harshness precipitated the mutiny, this picture takes a revisionist tack. Here the cause is seen more in the languid, relaxed and sensual way of life in the South Seas compared to the discipline and rigid life in both the Navy and Britain itself. Timing is critical as well, for Bligh had insisted on attempting to fight against the wind at Cape Horn for over a month, resulting in their arriving too late in the season for the breadfruit, in turn resulting in the opportunity for much of the crew to go native and take up Polynesian wives. The screenplay, by Robert Bolt, cleverly uses the flashback structure in order to both depict the adventures of the crew, as well as the detached commentary from Britain through the court martial.

The going is a bit slow, however, as befits a screenplay that was intended for David Lean. Director Roger Donaldson, of course, has none of the visual sense of Lean, but he does manage a number of attractive and striking images. One steadicam shot does a 360-degree circle around a group of sailors mingling with the Tahitian women, seeming to be there just to be flashy. It's quite out of place and jarring in the picture.

Despite the PG rating, the Tahitian native women are depicted with bare breasts, apparently under the National Geographic theory that if you're seeing natives in their habitat, then it's okay. The flogging sequence is quite gory and may be hard to take for viewers of much senstivity.

Note: I wanted to note that I experienced a serious problem with the review disc. It froze completely on my Sony player at chapter 12, 20m:40s, and on one occasion bounced back to the beginning of chapter 12. I was able to move to the next chapter and retrack back to 21m:35s, but nearly a minute of footage seems to be completely inaccessible. However, I tried the disc on a Toshiba player and it played fine, so there may be incompatibility issues at work here.

(*Note: See the Image Review section for a note on the NTSC coding of this disc.)

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, the colors are bright and lifelike, and the black levels are quite good. On the downside, there is some mild artifacting visible in much of the film. Jagged edges are particularly notable when boats are being moved by oar; the oars when diagonal appear as a jagged stairstep instead of a smooth line. Similarly, the rigging has a very digital and blocky look. Artifacts are particularly apparent in pans, such as across the front of the building where the court martial is being held. Occasional ringing is visible as well, though it is not apparent in many sequences where one would expect it to appear. Judicious application of edge enhancement is better than indiscriminate, but there's still too much of it visible here.

In comparison, the picture transfer appears to be identical to that on the MGM barebones disc. Much of the same artifacting can be seen there.

Since this disc is an import from the UK, where PAL format television is the norm and the DVDs are typically coded as region 2, I was astonished to find that it is in fact in NTSC format and region-free. The same is apparently the case with Sanctuary's The Dead Zone: SE. I was prepared to review this on my multi-region NTSC/PAL-converting DVD player, but was able to play it for this review on my garden-variety region 1 Sony DVD player. Thus, the disc can be imported to the US without fear of player incompatibility. That's the good news. The unfortunate part is that the disc does not play back properly on 4:3 televisions; instead, one gets an abnormally-stretched appearance. The grade, therefore, applies only to those viewers with anamorphic capabilities.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The sound of the 5.1 DD track, on the other hand, is quite good. There is vigorous dynamic range, with sizable amounts of bass. It is particularly effective in the sequences of the ship at sea, where the viewer is surrounded by the creaking of the ship, sounds of wind and the lash of the waves. The result during the storms in the Cape Horn sequence, complete with booming thunder, is downright terrifying. It's overpowering at anything approaching reference levels. There is some audible hiss in the courtroom sequences and other quiet moments. The Vangelis score, though drippy in its synth-laden smeariness, comes through without distortion or problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1) director Roger Donaldson, producer Bernie Williams, production designer John Graysmark; and 2) historical consultant Stephen Walters
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:46m:47s

Extra Extras:
  1. BookletBooklet on David Lean's involvement with The Bounty
Extras Review: This is one packed special edition. It took me the better part of an entire weekend to wade through this content. The first, and a highly intriguing extra, is a 24-page booklet. The top half of each page recounts (in fine print) the tale of David Lean's attempts to make this film, or more correctly, a pair of films, the first telling the story of the mutiny and the second telling what happened after, to be shot at once much like Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. This story is packed with detail and relates how the screenplay ended up in the hands of Dino de Laurentiis and was eventually made in 1984. The lower half of the booklet includes storyboards for a sequence in Lean's projected second movie, involving some captured sailors in chains being shipwrecked. This would certainly have made quite a sequence.

A pair of commentaries make up the bulk of the extras content. The first features director Roger Donaldson, producer Bernie Williams and production designer John Graysmark. This is rather a dry affair, though there are plenty of anecdotes regarding the filming, and notably the refusal to shoot clothed television coverage of the Tahitian sequences. More intriguing is the commentary by Stephen Walters, the historical consultant, who provides an enormous amount of background information that relates to the production design choices. Walters also provides numerous (and different) production anecdotes, rendering this the much more entertaining and interesting of the two tracks.

A lengthy (52m:31s) making-of documentary is included, but other than an historical examination of Bligh and the Bounty, it's pretty much a studio puff piece talking about the "magical nature" of the filming. There's plenty of blurry behind-the-scenes footage, for what that's worth. More interesting is a shorter (12m:18s) featurette on the history of the Bounty on film. This includes audio footage of an interview with Errol Flynn, a trailer of the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty and one of the 1984 film as well. These are presented in nonanamorphic fashion. The 1984 trailer is also included separately as an anamorphic widescreen extra (1.85:1 aspect ratio). Chaptering is not as generous as on the MGM disc, but the other extras are much to be preferred.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

A revisionist take on the Mutiny on the Bounty, propelled by excellent performances from Hopkins, Day-Lewis and Neeson. The picture doesn't quite measure up, but the sound transfer is excellent and there's a serious boatload of extras that will be essential for any fan of the film.


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