Building the Titanic has been a huge financial effort, and White Star Line president Ismay wants her maiden voyage to hit the headlines. He urges Captain Smith to make the fastest possible crossing to New York. When iceberg warnings come in, the captain must ask himself if he is willing to risk the safety of his ship just to please Ismay. Written by
Wilhelm Noeker <email@example.com>
The sinking scenes were filmed on board the former luxury liner Cap Arcona. This boat was used in 1945 to evacuate thousands of prisoners of the concentration camp Neuengamme (near Hamburg) to Denmark. The Cap Arcona was accidentally bombed by Allied forces in the bay of Luebeck. Only a few prisoners survived the sinking of the ship. Most were killed on board or shot by SS guards and Hitler Youth, who took position on the beach not far from the sinking ship. But the evacuation turned out to be a ruse. The Nazis secretly ordered all prisoners to be killed and the ship was laden with explosives so everyone would perish when the ship was hit by an Allied bomb. See more »
In the film when the lookout sees the iceberg he says "Ice! Ice to starboard" but the lookouts used a phone to tell about the iceberg not by talking. See more »
A Dramatic, Effective Telling of the Titanic Story - From Nazi Germany
It's not that common in movie history that a director angers the producer/distributor of his movie so much that the latter has the former murdered. That's what happened to co-director Herbert Selpin in 1942 before the release of Germany's film contribution to the Titanic saga. Dr. Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister and self-anointed arbiter of culture in the Third Reich, had the Gestapo arrest Selpin who was reported dead in his cell the day after. Suicide? Ridiculous.
The Titanic story has been told many times on film, both as documentary and as drama. Interest currently appears to intensify with the same speed as the over-visited wreck rapidly succumbs to a final ballet of disintegration.
Years ago The Film Society of Lincoln Center ran a retrospective of movies produced during the Third Reich. For most attendees it was a revelation, and a disturbing one at that. Many are familiar with the late Leni Reifenstahl's documentary paean to the Olympics (propaganda aside, one of the greatest films of that genre) and the odious "Jude Suss" is the iconographic movie symbolism of Nazi antisemitism. Few were aware how much genuine creativity, free of obvious dogmatism, emerged from that twelve-year period of German darkness and depravity. The retrospective made many think about the complexity of life in 1933-1945 Germany.
One of the films I saw was the 1943 "Titanic" which had a small premiere followed by an order from Goebbels pulling the movie. Ostensibly, Germans were not to be exposed to seeing the panic on the great liner as it foundered (actually most Germans, especially those in urban areas, had more visible frequent reasons to panic by 1943.
Selpin (with co-director Werner Klingler) turned out a sumptuous, ornate and dramatically compelling movie. Largely using the known facts, "Titanic" tells the well worn tale of a ship driven to unreasonable and dangerous speeds in order to set a record. There are some significant deviations. Here, the English first officer - seized with some malady - is replaced by a German seaman named Petersen, a model of experience and rectitude. J. Bruce Ismay, whose social life was justifiably ruined because of his escaping the sinking behemoth, is unrealistically portrayed as a grasping cad whose crudity was not found in the self-absorbed, rich and supinely confident real shipping magnate. The vessel's master, Captain Smith, is overly subservient to Ismay but he responds well to the disaster.
This movie wasn't made on the cheap. Given the deteriorating wartime situation, a lot of marks were expended for terrific sets and fine attire.
There's no real Nazi propaganda. The movie ends with a comment that English greed occasioned the loss of so many lives but very many books and articles from Old Blighty and the U.S. echo that view.
Because of its anti-British utterances, the Allies banned the movie in their sectors in Germany at first while it was freely available in the Soviet zone. Hardly a surprise-that movie maven, Stalin, probably loved this capitalist-bashing film.
KINO VIDEO has performed a real service by releasing the film on DVD. There are two versions-this release is the shorter one without the trial scene in which survivor Petersen rails against the British in court. Actually the movie is stronger for that omission. After she goes down, what else is there really to say?
There are some interesting special features on the disc including an early commercial short made by the White Star Line showing the amenities of RMS Olympic, another luxury liner built before Titanic (technically, Olympic wasn't a sister ship of its more famous and briefly triumphant successor but the differences aren't important).
This is an important release for Titanic buffs but also for those interested in film-making in Nazi Germany. There were movies made that deserve current viewing for reasons apart from their historic association with a barbaric regime.
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