Viewer Guide: The Caine Mutiny and Resistance

October 18, 2019 | Richard Peña

The Caine Mutiny (1954)


This week’s classic is The Caine Mutiny, from 1954, starring Van Johnson, Fred McMurray, José Ferrer, and Humphrey Bogart.

The film was based on Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, which itself was loosely based on an actual World War II incident that had already been adapted into a successful Broadway play under the same title. But the idea of “mutiny” and the movies proved too much at first for the US Navy, and they balked at cooperating; only after the studio agreed to put a title card proclaiming that “there has never been a mutiny in the US Navy” did they agree to cooperate—otherwise, there’s no way this could have made it to the screen. Filming took place in naval bases at Pearl Harbor and San Francisco, as well as in Hollywood.

In one of his last major roles, Bogart plays Lieutenant Commander Phillip Queeg, a veteran Navy captain assigned to a destroyer just as it’s about to head out to sea. Queeg at first tries to instill some much needed order and discipline to the Caine, but his commands become more and more eccentric and his behavior more erratic. During a violent typhoon, the executive officer, Lieutenant Stephen Maryk, played by Van Johnson, pleads with the captain to take emergency action to save the ship. When Queeg seems incapable of responding, Maryk relieves him of his duty. Upon returning to port, Maryk is arrested, and a court-martial for mutiny is ordered.

The trial scene is of course classic, and it’s always a pleasure to see several of Hollywood’s finest actors really performing their hearts out while chewing up a little scenery on the side. I think my favorite moment is the testimony of Fred MacMurray, one of Hollywood’s great sleazy guys. There’s such an attractive, reassuring exterior to the man that when he turns out to be a creep—as in Double Indemnity, The Apartment or here—it’s always especially effective.

The Caine Mutiny was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Score, Screenplay and a Best Actor nomination for Humphrey Bogart. Bogart lost the award to Marlon Brando for his role in On The Waterfront – which seems only fair, considering Brando lost his first Oscar race three years earlier to none other than… Humphrey Bogart, who took home his only Academy Award for his performance in The African Queen.

Resistance (2011)


This week’s indie is Resistance, a 2011 World War 2 drama directed by Amit Gupta.

Based on the 2007 novel by the same name by Owen Sheers, Resistance recounts an eerie alternative reality of World War 2: what if the D-Day invasion had failed, and Nazi Germany’s invasion of Europe had continued unchecked into Great Britain? Such an unthinkable outcome is the grim reality of a small town on the Welsh border, located in a magnificently scenic but remote valley. Andrea Riseborough stars as Sarah, a young farmer’s wife who awakens one morning to find that her husband Tom is missing, an unsettling discovery that is soon found to be the case with all the other local men of the village. With radio reports of the imminent arrival of German invaders, the women find the baffling development all the more unnerving. Why would a group of farmers—with crops and livestock to tend—simply vanish without a word, leaving them to face the Nazis alone? There must be a very good reason, with the women hoping against hope that their men will return. However, when the intruders do arrive to establish an observation post in the valley under the leadership of Captain Albrecht Wolfram—played Game of Thrones cast member Tom Wlaschiha—they waste no time in executing the male population they find in their path. Soon it’s clear that the Germans are looking for something else other than just resistors, and in particular Captain Albrecht seems to have an agenda of his very own—as well as a personal plan that ultimately includes Sarah.

Also featured in supporting roles are Michael Sheen as a British resistance leader, along with Iwan Rheon—another Game of Thrones veteran—who plays a covert resistance agent.

Filmed on location in the Black Mountains in southeast Wales at the insistence of Resistance’s Welsh author Owen Sheers, Sheers found his inspiration for his novel from his research on the British Auxiliary Units, an actual World War 2 era secret force trained in guerilla warfare should England ever find itself invaded by Nazi Germany. Taking a page from Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, Sheers went on to imagine the unthinkable prospect of what might have transpired if the Nazis had not lost the war, creating a sobering wartime fable for our similarly sobering contemporary times. The threat of imminent invasion makes us painfully aware of how thin the veneer of civilization we like to think surrounds us actually is.

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