Caine Mutiny - 1954
I'd pit Jose Ferrer's lawyer Greenwald (the defense counsel in THE CAINE MUTINY) all by himself against the three attorneys of A FEW GOOD MEN. That Cruise/Nicholson film has many redeeming features, but it is rather shy about the issues of shared responsibility and what purpose authority (good, bad, or insane) serves. The CAINE MUTINY goes after the matter head on, and doesn't get lost hero-worshipping the attorneys (like FEW GOOD MEN does). Bogart is excellent as the Caine's captain, and Fred MacMurray smiles and charms his way perfectly in the role of Tom Keefer. Which one of them is the real coward? Van Johnson is also very good as Maryk, the officer that subverts his captains authority in the middle of a typhoon.
The film, despite the very good acting of the leads and the tight, snappy courtroom section, is burdened with a slow-moving romantic subplot. It is as if some other film somehow was sandwiched into the actual movie. There is also the very old-fashioned special effects during the typhoon, which stand out badly. They may have been cutting-edge in 1954, but versus the computer-generated illusions of today they simply look too much like toy model boats.
Regardless of the dated visuals and romance, this tale is still a remarkable movie. By the time Attorney Greenwald drunkenly thunders out the REAL judgment at the end, you find the "heroes" are not necessarily heroes, just suckers (if not worse). And Bogart's pathetic and ridiculous Captain Queeg is the... well, you have to see the film.
Original page 2002 | Updated Jan 2014