Watching Humphrey Bogart give a performance in the frozen TV dinner called The Caine Mutiny is a bizarre experience. This was my second viewing after an early 1993 one inspired by a couple critics dismissing A Few Good Men as a cherub-faced ripoff. What I didn’t expect now was how ponderous and turgid this adaptation of Herman Wouk’s novel remains: scenes between Tom Tully and a colorless version of Grace Kelly’s It Girl from Rear Window to dispel the preponderance of testosterone and Navy spunk; battle scenes filmed on the back lot; Fred MacMurray, as a fifties version of a Serious Scribbler (which means bits of wisdom like “A writer studies the human condition”), playing a most unconvincing schnook; and an entrance to the dying Bogart as poor Captain Queeg so anonymous that he could be a B-list actor just given a parking pass. A Few Good Men is the more entertaining film! But Bogart, playing a variant on his Fred C. Dobbs in modest box office hit The Treasure of Sierra Madre, injects genuine strangeness into his characterization. Of course the deck is stacked against Queeg: like Rob Reiner’s later film, the suspense is not how the court will rule but when and how. Before director Edward Dmytryk shoots Bogie massaging a pair of silver balls in extreme closeup, we know Queeg is a paranoid case. Eyes shifting in search of enemies, speech switching from breathless rush to unexpected lucidity, he’s an early incarnation of Richard Nixon — he even invokes a dog, a year after Dick immortalized Checkers in his address to the nation. Bogart received his third and final Oscar nomination for the film, one far less famous than The African Queen (his only win) and Casablanca. It’s not a great performance but it survives as an example of how to tickle what Manny Farber would call white elephant art.