Interesting -though far from complete- list by Darren Ruecker, focusing on ten films he feels changed considerably and for the better, via tone or story, in one scene:
The comments section lists films that Mr. Ruecker missed, one of the bigger being Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. If there’s a film that deserves the designation of changing completely with one scene (and a very famous one it was!), then Psycho sure fits that designation. Then again, Mr. Ruecker’s focus appears to be on more recent movies, so anything released more than fifteen years before receives little -actually no- attention.
But the idea of the list reminded me of one of my favorite films featuring a twist that totally changed the direction and my view of the film…for the better.
I’m referring to the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t let the fact that its an older film keep you away. It is a great drama with an incredible payoff, and a twist that I didn’t see coming at all.
For the first half of the film we follow the lives of several young officers are stationed on a training vessel under the command of the increasingly irrational Lt. Cmdr. Phillip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart, in a terrific performance). During this segment we, along with the cast, wonder whether Queeg has, to put it bluntly, “lost it” and is no longer fit for command. Ultimately, during a mission that endangers the vessel and crew, the officers decide to mutiny and take over command of the ship from Queeg.
This, in turn, leads to the film’s second part: the court-martial. For taking over a ship from a commanding officer in the navy is obviously not something one does lightly and it can lead to severe repercussions. It is during this court-martial trial that the mutineers and their actions are put under the microscope and what we thought we saw so clearly in the movie’s first act is subtly -than completely- subverted.
For it turns out that one of the officers, Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray in another of the fillm’s incredible performances), is slowly revealed to be nothing short of an agent provocateur, a man who needled everyone into this mutiny and, now that the piper has to be paid, slinks away and tries his very best to not accept any responsibility for his actions. The fact that for most of the movie Keefer is presented as a “good old boy”, a mellow friendly sort who appears, at least on the surface, is a caring, engaging person but one who is ultimately revealed to be a despicable rat is an incredible change…made all the more amazing because when the realization hits, we as movie goers can’t help but look back at the movie and realize the evidence of his being a rat was there all the time.
The Caine Mutiny is a classic film that justifiably deserves its place among them. A terrific piece of work that surprised and delighted me with its mind bending (yet logical) shift from first half to second.