DiscoverLaw on FilmThe Caine Mutiny (1954) & The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) (Guest: Gene Fidell) (episode 25)
The Caine Mutiny (1954) & The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) (Guest: Gene Fidell) (episode 25)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) & The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) (Guest: Gene Fidell) (episode 25)

Update: 2024-05-01


The Caine Mutiny (1954) is based on Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. The film, directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced by Stanley Kramer, portrays the fictitious events on board the U.S.S. Caine, a Navy destroyer-minesweeper in the Pacific during World War II.  Lt. Stephen Maryk (Van Johnson) relieves the seemingly unstable Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, Captain of the USS Caine, of his command after Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) endangers the ship and its crew . The ship returns to the U.S. and Maryk is court-martialed for mutiny. He is represented by Navy lawyer, Lt. Barney Greenwald (José Ferrer), who despite disapproving of Maryk’s actions, believes Maryk was misled by the ship’s communications officer, Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray), into believing Queeg was mentally unfit for command. Maryk is acquitted after Greenwald exposes Queeg’s erratic and paranoid behavior. The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023), directed by the late William Friedkin, is based on Wouk’s adaption of his own 1951 novel for the stage. The cast includes Jake Lacy as Maryk, Jason Clarke as defense attorney Greenwald, Monica Raymund as prosecutor Lt. Commander Katherine Challee, the late Lance Reddick as the presiding judge Captain Luther Blakley, and Kiefer Sutherland in a phenomenal performance as Queeg. The films are not only gripping courtroom dramas, but also explore larger themes around military justice, ethics, and morality.  With me to discuss these films is Eugene (Gene) Fidell, a visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and co-founder of the National Institute of Military Justice.


0:00      Introduction
3:58      What's a court-martial?
9:14      The crime of mutiny
17:48   Relieving Queeg of his command
27:36   Putting Queeg on trial
29:33   Taking some poetic license with a court-martial
34:44   The defense lawyer’s post-trial critique of the mutiny
41:21   The dramatic changes in the Navy and armed forces since the original movie
47:12   More context for the two Caine Mutiny movies
50:21   Other great movies about military justice   

Further reading:

“The Humphrey Bogart Blogathon: ‘The Caine Mutiny’ (1954),” Dec. 23, 2016,

Kelly, Kevin M., “You Murdered Queeg: Lawyers, Ethics, Military Justice, and ‘The Caine Mutiny,’” 1991 Wis. L. Rev. 543 (1991)

Melville, Herman, Billy Budd (1924)

Rosenberg, Norman L., “‘The Caine Mutiny’: Not Just One But Many Legal Dramas,” 31 J. Mar. L. & Com. 623 (2000)

Wouk, Herman, The Caine Mutiny (1951)

Two errata: the reference to a mutiny aboard HMS Tyger but should have been to the HMS Wager; and the unfortunate accused in the USS Somers mutiny was Midshipman Philip Spencer, not Sinclair.

Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember.
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The Caine Mutiny (1954) & The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) (Guest: Gene Fidell) (episode 25)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) & The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) (Guest: Gene Fidell) (episode 25)

Jonathan Hafetz