This is the third in a series of blogs I’m calling “Mashup Storypitches,” where I take two or more stories from popular culture–movies, books or TV shows–that share a trivial commonality, and envision what it would be like if they were mashed together. Nothing is sacred and stars, writers or concepts from different eras, genres or universes can coexist. Consider it “metaphorphic fanfic,” if you will!
Today’s Source Material: Amadeus (1984 movie, directed by Milos Forman), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935 movie, directed by Frank Lloyd). Note, the 1935 movie, itself based on a novel, is a highly fictionalized version of the real events of the Bounty story.
Trivial Commonality: Both films take place in the late 1780s, and both won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Vienna, Austria, 1787. Mediocre composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) is jealous of the seemingly divinely-talented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce). Salieri, who is Court Composer to Emperor Joseph II of Austria (Jeffrey Jones), wants to kill Mozart, but after wrestling with his conscience decides he just can’t do it. Instead, he arranges an elaborate scheme to get Mozart out of his hair forever. Salieri hoodwinks the Emperor into sending Mozart on a royal musical commission to King George III of England as a goodwill gesture. Mozart is supposedly charged to write an opera based on King George’s life. Mozart will have to get to London via Portsmouth, where British Navy press gangs are operating. Salieri secretly pays a British agent a large sum of money to waylay Mozart in Portsmouth and deliver him to a press gang, where Salieri hopes he’ll spend the rest of his days at sea.
Mozart, a heavy drinker, never realizes he’s being set up as the agent meets him at his ship and then takes him on a wild tour of cavorting around the waterfront bars of Portsmouth. While drunk, Mozart gets into an altercation with Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable), who, after punching the wily little composer in the jaw, orders the press gang to clap him in irons. The press gang happens to be from the HMS Bounty, commanded by the tyrannical sea salt Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton). The Bounty sails in the morning for Tahiti and Mozart awakens on the gun deck, bewildered as to what happened to him.
Mozart tries to convince anybody who will listen that he’s in the wrong place, that he’s not a seaman, and in fact is a composer on an official errand from the Emperor of Austria. When he tells this to Bligh, the captain is so incensed he orders Mozart flogged on the quarterdeck in front of the whole crew. However, Fletcher Christian, who comes to like Mozart, begins to believe him when he finds excerpts of beautiful music scribbled in the margins of newspapers hidden in Mozart’s hammock. Christian, who befriends Mozart, secretly gives him paper and pens to write music after hours. Mozart decides he’ll while away the hardships of sea life by writing his greatest opera, The Magic Flute. Christian also agrees to help Mozart desert the ship when they get back to civilization.
Bligh, who intensely dislikes Mozart, begins to single out both him and Fletcher Christian for increasingly petty and outrageous punishments. When the ship reaches Tahiti and the crew begins to fraternize with the local Polynesian women, the conflict comes out in the open. Mozart marries a Tahitian girl and continues to write The Magic Flute. Christian and several other crewmen decide that, shortly after the Bounty leaves Tahiti, they will mutiny to return to Tahiti with their wives.
The moment of the mutiny comes. Christian tries to take the ship from Bligh, but the crew is evenly split; Mozart, who is now beloved by the crew for the wonderful songs he’s been teaching them, proves to be the swing vote. After an anguishing decision he decides to throw in with Christian and the mutineers. They set Bligh and a few loyalists adrift in a boat, and take off for Tahiti.
Hunted by the authorities, Christian, Mozart and the mutineers realize they can’t stay on Tahiti. So, they take their Polynesian wives and instead sail to Pitcairn Island aboard the Bounty. In order to stave off the crushing boredom of living on a deserted island the mutineers begin building musical instruments out of bamboo and coconuts. Mozart continues to work on The Magic Flute but realizes he is dying. With great difficulty he finally finishes the opera. The Bounty mutineers, led by Christian as conductor, perform his opera with their makeshift musical instruments. Mozart dies at the end of the performance.
Years later one of the Bounty mutineers, Byam (Franchot Tome) appears in Vienna with a package. He delivers it to the home of Antonio Salieri, now aged and retired from composing. Byam tells Salieri that he’s the only survivor of the mutiny, that Fletcher Christian and the others are dead, and that he crossed the whole world to bring him the package. The package contains Mozart’s mummified head and the original manuscript of The Magic Flute. “He would have wanted you to have this,” says Byam. Salieri, consumed with guilt, kills himself. The overture from The Magic Flute plays over the end credits.