#88. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Mutiny on the Bounty is great, maybe my fourth favorite movie on the List so far after Blackmail and Little Caesar and Dr. Mabuse, I’m surprised to find myself totally in love with it. But I’m curious, too, about the influence it seems to have had on me, this movie about a crew of seamen (ha) who turn against their cruel Captain Blight (an amazingly contemptible performance by Charles Laughton).

I started watching it late on Friday night, after getting home from my first of two consecutive ten-hour shifts at the restaurant, and then finished watching it on Saturday morning, about an hour before getting to work. I was exhausted from Friday’s shift, ankles and lower back all stiff and hurtsome, and it also happened to be the busiest day I’ve seen at the restaurant. The waiting list was backed up with fifteen or twenty names for a solid ten hours.

For the second half of my shift I worked under the guidance of one of my nineteen-year-old superiors. I don’t wanna use her name because it’s distinct. We’ll call her Putrescence. Putrescence cannot handle stress. She gets condescending with guests and edgy with colleagues. Me in particular, I think. I’m the only guy at the front desk, among six women, and the oldest by six years. Putrescence will snatch shit outta my hand, ignore my questions, roll her eyes at almost everything I say. She’s fine when she isn’t working, or when business is slow, but when the lobby gets packed, and legions of people start treating us the way it seems most Americans treat people in the service industry (badly), she becomes this malignant fucking dwarf who wants everybody around her to know that she hates them. She’s an absolute nightmare. Saturday night she was driving me up the wall so when my shift was over I confronted her. Clark Gable like a motherfucker. Asked if she had a problem with me. She said no, actually seemed wounded by the question, and asked me what prompted it. I listed reasons. She rolled her eyes. Said, “it’s not personal, Alex, I’m like that with everybody.”

This is her response to somebody telling her she’s being unnecessarily mean and making work miserable: not remorse, not even a superficial apology. Instead, it’s entitlement, repose. I’m awful to everybody, get used to it.

Fucking nineteen years old.

I left work in a funk and stewed over the offense all night. Felt degraded, frankly – and not because of how she treated me or even necessarily what she said. Not entirely. It’s just the way that it illuminated the truth of my situation: I’m a college-educated and, I think, fairly capable, friendly, hard-working guy and yet, despite all of this, I’m the guy who carries menus and cleans windows, wipes piss off the toilet seat and changes the rolls. Sweats and strains for $9 an hour while a teenage tyrant oversees my performance and directs me.

mutiny blight on water Anyway. The timing, int hat case, of my watching Mutiny on the Bounty is striking. What the boat’s crew does is, under the guidance of Clark Gable, they overthrow Laughton and his most loyal attendants, sending them out to sea on a little boat where they’ll presumably die, and then they lay down roots on an island and, eventually, take back to the sea with Gable as their benevolent pirate-esque captain. Laughton guides his skeleton crew back to shore over so many days, a valiant episode, masterful in how it turns this fucking monster into a human being with whom (or at least I) sympathize, and for whose salvation we yearn. He achieves that salvation, he’s landed, and reclaims his venomous tyrranical bent, the cunt, leading our heroes to a reckoning with their actions.

I’ll be watching this movie again, maybe many times, and it’s so exceptionally good, caters so well to my personal taste, that, in my urgency to communicate that goodness, I’m implementing a new mark. The Thousand Movie-Approved badge. The T-Map — if that doesn’t sound ridiculous. I’ll have to do some work looking into how I’ll implement it, but I’ve been looking to do something like this all along: one of my long-term goals with the Project is to come up with a reduced List of my own toward the end. The Best of the Best (by Alex’s standards). For now, within these first 90 movies, there’s no questions Mutiny on the Bounty will be in the Top 10. We’ll wait and see about the Top Five.


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