Third Reich's Nazi propaganda epic about a heroic fictional German officer on board of the RMS Titanic. On its maiden voyage in April 1912, the supposedly unsinkable ship hits an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean and starts to go down.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the original script, Sybille Schmitz's character was a Danish aristocrat named "Sigrid Oole." For reasons unknown, Joseph Goebbels ordered Sigrid to be re-written as a Russian countess and the surname changed to "Olinsky" during the shoot. See more »
The New York Herald and the New York Tribune did not merge into the Herald-Tribune until 1924. See more »
John Jacob Astor:
[to Ismay, as Astor has just beat him at billiards with an unexpected shot]
He who doesn't plan for everything sees his plans go awry.
See more »
The censored print was released on video in 1992, most recent DVD and Blu-ray releases are sourced from a slightly damaged, but more intact 85 minute version. See more »
Too many just dismiss this film outright as Nazi propaganda, and don't examine the film as a film. Certainly when compared to the 1953 Hollywood TITANIC it's a far better made and less sappy piece of drama. And if it has a lot to be desired as history -- well then so did the Hollywood film. The performances, direction, and special effects are all excellent for the time. In fact, it's very surprising that the German film industry was able to mount such a first class production as this in the midst of the war.
Which brings me around to the propaganda aspect of the film: to my mind it's been very much over stated in accounts on the film that I've read. Apparently, the most vicious part of the film's propaganda content, a trial scene and end title which condemned Britain as a country driven by greed, have been omitted from all current prints. Still, were it the "Hate the British" film it's often dismissed as, it's truly amazing to see the propaganda aspects in the film that are missed. The Third Class are never shown being locked below decks as the ship sinks (indeed, when the ship's engines stop, they march up to First Class to demand an explanation from the Captain), and the crew and officers to a man are shown being skilled, efficient, and brave. How could the Nazi's miss so many easy targets, and ones that have been included in almost every Titanic film to this day? And while it is true that Bruce Ismay is turned into a first class villain, driving his ship without regard for safety straight into the iceberg -- it's also been that way in every other Titanic film in which he's been portrayed (for example, the recent TV mini-series TITANIC -- which shows Ismay down in the boiler room screaming at the stokers to make the ship go faster -- like that really happened!). It's all just a question of degree. And if the film portrays the rich millionaires like John Jacob Astor as people who will use money, class, and power to achieve anything -- well, it's no worse than some of the stories -- printed amid all the bravery and self-sacrifice slop -- that appeared in 1912 newspapers. Remember, after the disaster Ismay and the White Star Line were acquitted, people were led to believe all the First Class men died bravely, Captain Smith was blamed for everything, and the poor souls who lost everything when the ship went down never got a penny in restitution. Thus, in the end, considering all the un-truths and legends that have sprung up around the Titanic story, I believe this film plays a lot less like a Nazi film and more like an anti-capitalist one. Little wonder it played in East Germany after the war with no problem. There's certainly enough "Hate the Rich" sentiment here to have warmed Stalin's heart.
So, to me anyway, it's almost refreshing to see a Titanic film that treats the whole affair as the monument to stupidity that it was. Since it has nothing to do with history, one must examine it as the first example of film makers trying to come to grips with the "Titanic Legend". (One could also award that place to the 1929 British film ATLANTIC -- but for some unknown reason that film tried to pretend it was fiction.) Looked at from that prospective, it's a fascinating piece of film making (and history) that deserves to be seen without the vicious "Nazi film" tag hanging over it. Certainly James Cameron must have seen a lot to admire in it; why else would he have copied shots and plot ideas un-masse. (He also coped shots and dialogue from every other Titanic film ever made.) Thankfully, he didn't copy the film's greatest (abet fictional) moment: wireless operator Phillips releasing his pet canary into the night as "Nearer My God to Thee" plays in the background. Did director Herbert Selpin crib this bit from von Stroheim's GREED? We'll never know, as it's said he was murdered by the Nazi's before the film was completed. So much for the benefits of creating a "Nazi film".
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