We're introduced to the crew: career naval man Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson), glib communications officer Lt. Keefer (Fred MacMurray), comic relief provided by a young Lee Marvin and Claude Akins as Meatball and Horrible, and the idealistic new Ensign (Robert Francis), newly graduated from Princeton.
Actor Robert Francis continues the tradition of young actors in the 1950's, handsome but a bit over their head with veterans like Bogart and MacMurray. Francis reminds me of the young Jeffery Hunter with John Wayne in THE SEARCHERS (1956) or Geoffrey Horne with William Holden in THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI (1957). I'd never seen Francis in a film before and sadly, I learned he died a year later in 1955 in a small plane crash, having only made 4 films.
The first third of the film is a bit silly with a side love story involving Ensign Keith (Francis) and his singer girlfriend. A brief side trip to Yosemite for the two love birds is a mild annoyance and even the beauty of Yosemite National Park is underused.
But the film picks up with the introduction of Bogart's Queeg as he takes over command of the Caine and his determination to clean up the lackadaisical atmosphere of the ship. Director Dmytryk make great use of actual navy warships that add great authenticity to the story. The film was made just 9 years after WWII ended.
The final third of the film is where THE CAINE MUTINY really shows its teeth. Van Johnson and Robert Francis "mutiny" to save the Caine during a typhoon as Queeg struggles to maintain command and his sanity. At the subsequent military trial, a great battle of wits ensues between military defense attorney Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) and prosecuting defense attorney Lt. Commander Challee (E.G. Marshall). The trial is well written and staged.
Jose Ferrer steals the movie in the final act in my opinion. He'd rather go after the mutineers then the captain but realizes his duty. And, Fred MacMurray who we all know as the benevolent father in the TV show MY THREE SONS shows depth as an immoral cad.
I was glad to finally watch THE CAINE MUTINY. It listed a bit at the beginning like an old war ship but once it got going, it was a compelling drama.