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.
The story of the 1912 sinking of the largest luxury liner ever built, the tragedy that befell over two thousand of the rich and famous as well as of the poor and unknown passengers aboard the doomed ship.
George C. Scott,
After a boiler explosion aboard an aging ocean liner, a man struggles to free his injured wife from the wreckage of their cabin and ensure the safety of their four-year-old daughter as the ship begins to sink.
Andrew L. Stone
A successful attempt at an even-handed portrayal of the White Star Line's (later part of Cunard) luxury liner R.M.S. Titanic's sinking from the standpoint of 2nd Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, himself the most senior of the ill-fated ship's Deck Officers to survive the disaster. (Lightoller later went on to distinguish himself as a line British Naval Officer during the First World War and served as a Senior Naval Staff Officer (convoys) during WWII. Between wars he owned and operated a successful family business producing pleasure craft.) His own survival of the sinking, along with several others, is shown atop one of the liner's two "collapsible" lifeboats which was capsized in floating off the liner as it sank. The picture depicts then known facts (c1958) as reported after the sinking; such as the woeful lack of adequate lifeboats, the ship's band playing true to the very end, White Star's co-owner Bruce Ismay's somewhat less than chivalrous departure from the sinking vessel -...Written by
Vividly Effective Docudrama-Style Handling of the Legendary Sinking
Sixty-four survivors from the actual Titanic were interviewed extensively by author Walter Lord for his meticulously researched 1955 book, "A Night to Remember", the basis of this still-remarkable 1958 dramatic reenactment of the momentous sinking. Obviously this lends great authenticity to this production, which feels very much like a docudrama offering a diverse gallery of characters to track instead of a main protagonist. While there are inarguably impressive elements in James Cameron's über-successful 1997 epic version of the same tragedy, most specifically the technical details and mind-bending CGI images and effects, this much lower-budget British film manages to feel more dramatically resonant simply because the superficial Hollywoodization of the event is not evident here, i.e., the forced melodrama, heightened romance and stereotypical characters.
Director Roy Baker and screenwriter Eric Ambler draw upon a much broader canvas by having the camera roam through the ship and capture the essence of the various people on board from the boiler room workers to the first class passengers. This compelling approach doesn't change as the ship sinks as we continue to recognize a full emotional range between heroism and cowardice through these characters. The other aspects that this version handles well are the specific construction-related reasons for the ultimate sinking and the roles played by two other ships during the tragedy. Not only was there the Carpathia, too far away to get to the Titanic on time yet there to pick up survivors, but also the Californian, a steamship only ten miles away and within sight. As vividly portrayed in the movie, the officers of the Californian misinterpreted the distress signals and did nothing to come to the Titanic's aid. You will likely recognize several scenes here that were repeated almost verbatim in Cameron's film, in particular, the lifeboat-boarding scenes and the aftermath of the sinking. What doesn't sync up is the ship dramatically breaking in two, a fact not depicted in the film since it was not verified until years afterward.
The primitive nature of the special effects may frustrate younger viewers, even though the then-standard use of small models is still pretty impressive on its own. The film also spends a bit too much time with incidental characters such as the drunken baker and the dedicated string musicians. There are a few familiar faces in the large cast, chief among them Kenneth More as the heroic second officer whose forward-moving calm saved many lives, Honor Blackman (later Bond girl Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger") as the young newlywed determined to stay with her husband, and David McCallum (Ilya Kuryakan on TV's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") as an assistant wire operator. Geoffrey Unsworth is responsible for the striking black-and-white cinematography. The 1998 Criterion Collection DVD has an excellent hour-long making-of feature, as well as an interesting commentary track by Titanic experts Don Lynch and Ken Marshall. Two trailers round out the extras.
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