A Night to Remember (1958) Poster

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This movie is staggering
cskocik30 June 2004
I am nothing short of amazed by what the filmmakers pulled off. Before I saw this movie, I tried to write a script that would encompass the whole story of the Titanic. I had stacks of Titanic books scattered around me, a huge map of the Titanic spread out in front of me, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer mountain of anecdotes and facts and technical details and contradictions in survivors' accounts. Reconstructing the event seemed impossible, and finally I abandoned the project by the time I got to about 1:30. Then I saw A Night to Remember, and wouldn't you know, it was exactly what I was trying to do! Kenneth More's portrayal of Lightoller is perfect. Laurence Naismith is heartbreaking as Captain Smith. The factual, historical, and technical detail is so thorough that this may be the most meticulous historical movie ever made -- certainly that I have ever seen. Somehow the stark black-and-white cinematrography is more realistically convincing than James Cameron's full-color treatment, in which things are inexplicably blue. The thing that disappointed me the most about Cameron's film was the lack of reverence for the historical characters. Lightoller, my personal hero, came off as an cowardly twit, Captain Smith as an incompetent fool, Ismay as the force of all evil in the universe, and Benjamin Guggenheim's change into evening ware as an excuse to get drunk! A Night to Remember had that reverence that was so sorely lacking in Cameron's film. Lightoller is portrayed as the hero that he was. Captain Smith is a fine captain who is understandably ovewhelmed by the magnitude of the tragedy facing him. Ismay is irritating, but tries to help out and be a responsible president -- and when he jumps into the lifeboat, well, would any of us do different? And Guggenheim's final stand brings tears to the eyes. The drama of the Carpathia is as exciting as any fictional Hollywood action film. This is the only Titanic movie that addresses the problem of the Californian, and though Lordites will object to the rather anti-Lord portrayal of the events, the facts speak for themselves. If you want to be picky, you can complain that the movie doesn't go into the politics behind building the Olympic and Titanic, or the near-collision with the New York, or lots of the little personal stories, but let's be fair: the movie has two hours to tell the story of, as Walter Lord put it, "the death of a small town." It's simply not possible for a movie, or even a really thick book, to cover everything. I don't think it's possible for a better movie to be made about the Titanic than A Night to Remember.
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If you watch historical documentaries try to see them in the right sequence, but if you have ANY interest in the Titanic be sure to see this film.
bbhlthph6 May 2006
Three years ago I wrote comments on the 1997 James Cameron film "Titanic" for this database. Either because of the number of Oscars collected by this film, or its fantastic production cost of some two hundred million dollars, I felt ashamed when reporting that I found it to be a most uncomfortable combination of a historical documentary and an entirely fictional romance. I found it hard to understand why such a major film should have been split between two such disparate styles of presentation. Although I had recognised that several scenes in Cameron's "Titanic" appeared to have been directly copied from the excellent 1979 TV film "S.O.S. Titanic", I did not feel this was adequate to explain the strongly documentary flavour of so many other sequences. All was explained very recently when, thanks to TCM, I had an opportunity to see "A Night to Remember" for the first time. This is an almost completely documentary 1958 film based on a very thoroughly researched and near definitive book of the same name that was prepared from the testimony given at the official enquiries in the U.K. and the U.S.A., and written by Dr. Walter Lord.. Much of Cameron's film was also documentary and appears to have been directly based on this much earlier film, the remainder was a romantic drama that was essentially incompatible. Cameron probably decided on this approach because ANTR, with no well known stars in the cast, failed to achieve the same success in the U.S.A. as in the U.K. I can now understand that featuring the romance in the way which Cameron did was probably intended to enable his film to create a greater degree of viewer involvement with the unfortunate passengers on the liner and so help to avoid this problem. Unfortunately in my view the documentary and the fictional parts of his film never melded.

These comments on the more recent film are necessary before I can meaningfully report my impressions when watching ANTR Although filmed in monochrome and created with a much more modest budget, ANTR is a film that I will find it very hard to forget. Characterisation of both the passengers and crew seemed to me to be spot on, there were none of the occasional caricatures which jarred so severely in the later film. The drama of the events was left to speak for itself and this created a much more powerful film. The three aspects of the Titanic disaster which have gripped public interest so strongly for almost a century are the sudden impact on a community of 2,000 ordinary people from all stations in life as they gradually realize that they probably only have another hour to live, the impact of the rigid class structures of the period on the way in which this situation was handled both by the passengers concerned and by those in authority, and the enormous number of "what if?" questions that the disaster raised (such as what effect pressure to win the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing may have had on the seamanship shown by the officers). All three of these aspects are fully featured in the film, but often in quite subtle ways, and none is given excessive weight. The camera-work and attention to details of presentation, such as the creaking and groaning from the tortured ship, are truly outstanding. Special effects in the 1997 film are admittedly much superior (after all $200 million must buy something!), but those in ANTR are quite advanced for its time and are more than adequate to prevent any serious jarring notes from arising as the film is viewed. Ultimately a film has to be judged primarily by the credibility of the acting and direction, not from the special effects, and I certainly support the view of the majority of IMDb users that these raise ANTR to the status of an exceptionally fine, if not almost unique, movie. A documentary presentation of a major marine disaster which is realistic enough to closely involve most of its viewers will never be everybody's choice of film to watch; but for those who wish to see it, this film will provide an exceptionally rich viewing experience.
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Emotionally impacting, factually informative and surprisingly involving and fast paced
bob the moo17 January 2005
The Titanic was to be the greatest ship ever made, a veritable city on the sea moving between England and New York. Made in Belfast, the ship travels to England before its maiden voyage, which it makes loaded with over 2,100 people ranging from the richest gentlemen in first class down to those in stowage seeking a new life in America. However, a series of errors and oversights result in the Titanic striking an iceberg and ripping a gash along the side below the water level. As the "unsinkable" ship starts to fill with water the shortcomings of having only 1200 lifeboat spaces sinks in.

It has become very fashionable now to hate James Cameron's Titanic and it is the norm now, not only to prefer this film but to actively hate the 97 film in any review of other versions! I'm not a fan of the rather bloating modern film but I will refrain from making this review about that film and will focus on the one I've just seen. The first thing you notice here is how quickly the film moves and, after only a very brief introduction to the characters we are underway and hitting the ice. Shorn of romantic subplots and heart-tugging sweeping scores this is a very good approach and it simply lets the facts of the event and the real horror speak for themselves. In the remake we were supposed to get our emotional attachment to one or two characters based on their love for one another; here the film respects our humanity enough to know that we will be touched by the sheer number who died and the manner of their death. This works much better and it is genuinely eerie to see that large ship slip below the surface to a barrage of screams from unseen thousands – that the effects are not as good doesn't matter because they are good enough and the emotional impact more than covers for them.

This is not to say that the film lacks characters because you do tend to care for everyone and the film did very well in delivering little things without getting in the way of the rather documentary style form. The horror of the death is as well told as the horror of those watching it occur from the lifeboats; I liked the guilt of the designer and the guilt of the men who climbed into the lifeboats etc, these little touches work much better than inserting large fictional sections. With this sort of performance the actors do well – all realistic with none really upstaging the film with ham. Moore is a good lead and only at the end is his delivery a bit flat – but that is more the fault of a wordy conclusion. The rest of the cast do very well with realistic performances of fear even if they are being directed into generic class groups – simple but, with the delivery of the material, it works.

Overall, to me this is the best telling of the Titanic disaster that I have seen. The factual approach is consistently interesting and, without our attentions being directed to one or two people, the emotional impact is greater than I expected and I was quite chilled by the whole thing. For those irritated and put off by the sweeping sentimentality of the modern version, this film is the one for you.
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The unsinkable ship
jotix10018 March 2006
"A Night to Remember" is an extraordinary film that gives a magnificent account of the Titanic tragedy. The film is based on Walter Lord's book that describes what happened to the ship, that by all accounts, could not sink. The wonderful script illuminates on the facts of that fateful night in which the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic; it was written by Eric Ambler, in a fabulous adaptation for the screen.

We had seen this film years ago. On second viewing, the movie has kept its impact on us like no other. The amazing cinematography of Geoffrey Unsworth looks as crisp as when it was first released. Contributing to the enjoyment of the film, Sidney Hayers' editing is excellent, as is the music by William Alwyn. This film shot in London's Pinewood Studios seems real, given the technology of the movies in those days.

The human tragedy aboard the Titanic comes across vividly and with high intensity, as the director, Ray Ward Baker, kept everyone moving in perfect formation. One of the many achievements he was able to get from his cast and crew was this precise staging of the story. There is not a false moment in the movie. In keeping the film narrative as a documentary, Mr. Baker gets amazing results from everyone.

Among the large English cast, Kenneth More, has the most important part of the ensemble players. Some of the best English actors, working in films at that time, are seen in the movie. The more prominent faces one sees are Honor Blackman, David McCallum, Alec McCowen, Michael Bryant, among others serve the film well in roles that intermingle without making anyone shine over the rest.

"A Night to Remember" was one of the best English films of the period and it is gratifying to have seen it again after many years looking so well. This is a film to treasure.
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A Worthwhile Straightforward Treatment
Snow Leopard20 October 2004
The Titanic disaster has provided material for quite an assortment of films, and a number of them have at least something to offer. This is one of the more effective, with its straightforward and, based on the knowledge then available, factually accurate approach. One particularly worthwhile aspect is that it spends more time detailing the reasons for the disaster than do most movies on the subject.

Often movies that try to stay close to the facts suffer from a lack of focus, especially when there is/are no central character(s) to hold things together. In this adaptation of "A Night to Remember", they solved the problem by focusing much of the action around Second Officer Lightoller, who was involved in some way in so many different aspects of what happened. As a device it works well, and there is enough action involving the other characters to keep it balanced.

Another inherent challenge in the story is that there are so many characters, and most of them hold some interest. In this adaptation, they chose simply to depict as many brief situations as possible, often without giving much with which to identify the characters. If you are familiar with Walter Lord's book, it is often possible to identify many of them, but otherwise, it might be a little confusing to sort through so many characters.

For such a detail-heavy story, this is an effective and commendable movie. With very few frills, it tells the story believably and sometimes memorably.

It does a pretty good job of meeting the main challenges, not telling the complete story, of course, but providing a worthwhile overview of events.
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A FILM to remember too.
uds320 November 2001
Including the very first movie that dealt with the Titanic disaster, SAVED FROM THE TITANIC (1912) starring Dorothy Gibson, an actual survivor who wore the same outfit in the movie that she had on that fateful night just a few months earlier, there have been TEN movies made covering the sinking, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, based on Walter Lords' ultimate reference work of the same name, was the 6th. The film has no equal! For those who are interested, the other nine ARE chronologically:


The REASON that A NIGHT TO REMEMBER excels, is that it is a straight up docudrama of the event. Historical accuracy (lets forget the "split,"... although actually "suggested" by a few eye-witnesses at the time, it was believed the ship had foundered intact) was observed, the main characters were vastly better portrayed than in later films and the "scale" of the disaster far more keenly felt, for all James Cameron's $180 million! Kenneth More made an unimprovable-upon Captain Lightoller and Laurence Naismith simply WAS Captain Smith. (The less said about Bernard Hill's loopy characterization in Cameron's epic, the better!) Those who wish to compare multi million dollar digitization to that which was available in 1958 need to get REAL and for all that money, and exciting as Cameron's was - it just didn't either LOOK or feel anything more than, well...a massive film-set! The 1958 version went to the heart of the tragedy...and took the viewer with them. A NIGHT TO REMEMBER will remain a tribute...THE tribute to that night of madness. Little things, David McCallum fighting for his life-vest, Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews - dignity personified waiting for his last moments, the drunken cook - they were all worth more than $100 million dollars worth of fx! You can't BUY credibility. This could never have been an American tale - it didn't work with the 1953 Barbara Stanwyck version and it didn't ring true for Cameron (good though it was as a movie rather than as the tragedy!) Did anyone notice dear old "Q" (Desmond Llewelyn) below decks and old Brit-turned-Aussie favorite Stuart Wagstaff, as a steward in Steerage?
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The Definitive Account of the Titanic, Told Through One of the Best Historical Dramas Ever Made
gus8113 January 2005
Based on the Walter Lord novel of the same name, A Night to Remember is far and away the most definitive and honest telling of this famous and world-shaking disaster. Flaws it may have, but these largely revolve around a lack of special effects technology available at the time, and a lack of historical evidence due the fact the wreck had not yet been discovered. Despite these minor quibbles, the film is probably the only one to loyally adhere to telling the truth about what happened that night; and it does so in a most compelling way.

Unlike the smartingly awful James Cameron schlock boiler, ANTR doesn't pack a spectacular special effects punch - but nor does it pack a spectacularly corny and improbable love story concocted with teenagers in mind. The producers of ANTR understood that you didn't need a fictitious love story to heighten the tragedy of that night - the bitter irony of the real events sufficed.

And it is this irony and tragedy that the filmmakers brought out absorbingly well. The comprehensive book by Walter Lord was consulted down to the letter; so the story is told as authentically as possible. With a great script involving mainly real historical characters, perfect casting, and performances that show the actors were engrossed in their roles, the film really does shine. The snappy, economical directing is both proof of the lack of pretensiousness of the producers, as well as being extremely effective in bringing out the meaning in each scene. This makes for intelligent and gripping viewing.

Watch out for the poignant scenes in which the crew attempt to contact the nearby Californian to no avail, and Captain Smith walks to the railing and implores God to help them; the scene where the Captain calls "every man for himself", then walks into the wheelhouse just before it dips underwater; and the gripping scene in which Thomas Andrews (the Titanic's designer), a broken man, waits in the smoking room for the end, determined to go down with his creation. All these scenes are powerful, authentic and sincere; scenes in which all the various emotions aroused by such a disaster are brought out very clearly and movingly.

The special effects, although not so brilliant for today, were fantastic for the times; half the ship was actually constructed for life-size shooting, and a large model was also built, complete with miniature little row boats featuring motorised oars, for the long shots. So the maximum effort was made to make as realistic a depiction of the disaster as possible. And, in fact, the interior scenes of the ship are perfectly authentic, and the audience feels that they are actually aboard the Titanic. Only in the long shots, where a model was used, does the film look noticeably dated.

So by sticking as close as possible to the survivor's accounts featured in the Walter Lord novel, and by avoiding modern cinematic clichés, A Night to Remember remains the only Titanic film to provide a genuine account of the sinking of the great ship that is not marred by superficial Hollywood garbage. It tells the story, as it happened, of an event that changed mankind's attitudes toward his own creations; and as such, it brings to the screen the full impact of what this disaster really meant to the world in, as mentioned, a very compelling, poignant and honest way. It is a true testament to British film making.

As a footnote, many actual survivors of the Titanic were on set as the film was being made; and the musical pig in the lifeboat scenes was the actual one from the real disaster. In addition, the Titanic's fourth officer Boxhall was a technical adviser to the production. And the film's producer was there, as a small child, when the actual Titanic was launched in Belfast. This kind of authenticity makes this movie almost a living documentary.

Intelligent, honest and compelling, A Night to Remember is at least one of the best historical films ever made, and is well worth anybody's time. Everyone is bound to get something out of this movie; and indeed it is a powerhouse for anyone with an interest in the Titanic or just history in general. A totally underrated gem.
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A Riveting And Emotional Study
CalRhys10 January 2015
The original adaptation of the "Ship of Dreams", 'A Night to Remember' is a riveting and emotional study of the fateful maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. A British production made on location at Pinewood Studios, Roy Baker's meticulous re-creation of the sinking of the Titanic is an utter masterpiece of cinema. The scale of the sets, the ingenuity of the visual effects and the stellar performances all make this a 1950's Brit-blockbuster at its very best. Whilst the '97 adaptation from James Cameron is a powerful piece of cinema, this stunning and melodramatic 1958 flick spends its 2-hour duration focussing on the lives of everybody aboard the ship instead of wandering off to study a love story between two characters. A film that relies on real-life survivor testimony, 'A Night to Remember' is in my opinion the best adaptation of the tale of the "unsinkable" ship and one of the best British films to have ever graced the screen.
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still the best!
arel_125 July 2004
I've seen several film versions of the Titanic tragedy (I'm something of a buff--I'm distantly related to Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Kimball, who were 1st class passengers!) "A Night to Remember" is still the best, no contest. The effects are 1958 state-of-the-art, the script was meticulously researched, and the people are actually written and played as 1912 people (James Cameron's cast were a bit too much 1990's to be convincing). Even those characters who are slightly fictionalized (the "lady" who represents--without mentioning--Lady Cosmo Duff-Gordon, and "my dear son" and his family, for examples) behave as their real life counterparts would have in 1912, giving the film a documentary feel without failing to give the viewer people to identify with and care about. This is classic film-making at its finest!
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The power and the terror
Igenlode Wordsmith1 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Along with "Brief Encounter", this picture epitomises perhaps the most classic genre of British film: the tearjerker that invokes the most powerful of emotions by means of understatement and restraint. It's an old favourite of the BBC, who trot it out at regular intervals... but somehow it gets me to watch it every time. And every time -- knowing the film, knowing the history, knowing the legend of hubris and disaster entwined around the very name "Titanic", until the word has lost all connotations of size and evokes only the iceberg and the deadly sea -- every time, I find myself willing hopelessly that things can change. Waiting, with heart in mouth, for the warning to be taken or help to arrive, as if any of my wishing could make it so. The iron grip of events is overwhelming.

One of the most impressive things about this film is the almost flawless way in which large amounts of information are conveyed -- and vast numbers of characters introduced -- without any sense of strain or visible exposition. The Titanic's colossal size and provisioning requirements, her status as a national icon of pride, the proportions and variety of her passenger list, all are mentioned naturally and concisely within the first few minutes; the characters on the whole are not established by name, but only by role -- the card sharp, the Polish emigrant girl, the band leader, the man who goes down to his cabin to get drunk -- which in practice is probably a wise choice. We wouldn't remember the names if they were given (various ship's officers get addressed by name, and frankly I didn't remember most of those).

Another very powerful choice is the decision not to manufacture villains. It would have been easy to demonise characters individually or collectively in order to create an easy hate target for the audience: but it would have been a cheap gesture. People were stupid or hidebound that night; people panicked, or failed to understand. But there was no deliberate malice, and that is the tragedy of it. There were individual moments of nobility and unbearable courage, just as there were acts of blindness and seeming petty motivation, and none of them were the perquisite of any particular group.

As a piece of documentary representation, this is in fact remarkably accurate. The central linking role of Second Officer Lightoller has been deliberately amalgamated out of incidents involving several different officers, and other details -- including the launching ceremony -- invented for the purposes of the film, while the depiction of the ship's final plunge is now known to have been erroneous: but a large proportion of events incorporated into the screenplay are based on meticulous research.

But the great art of this film lies in its use of tiny, effective details to conjure atmosphere or to make a point. A toy pig grabbed: a jewellery-box abandoned. A wry line of dialogue: "Anyone who feels like it can pray -- or you can all come and have a cup of tea". A lapping rim of black-scummed water at the foot of the companionway. A hand silently slipping from its death-grip on an upturned keel...

Within its emotional compass, the picture seldom or never puts a foot wrong. Every point is made quietly, by implication, not hammered into the audience, and is all the more telling for that. The mood shifts very gradually from the humour and optimistic warmth of the voyage opening to the clawing terror of the ship's last moments and the icy drained dark of the night; the pacing is almost perfect. The film need not be a moment longer, and could scarcely last a moment less. It draws upon the greatest traditions of British cinema -- the documentary, the intelligent script, the ensemble cast, the emotional intensity -- and in many ways encapsulates them all.
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Vividly Effective Docudrama-Style Handling of the Legendary Sinking
EUyeshima26 September 2006
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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Best "Titanic" film, wonderfully produced
WWalrus20 May 2001
"A Night T Remember" is the BEST of the Titanic films easily superior to the more famous J. Cameron soap opera version. There is no fabricated story to get in the way of the telling of what happened that night in 1912. The ship, itself, seems to be the "star" of the film. Filmed in black and white, it has the feel of being a "docudrama". The DVD version is really the one to have. Not only is the picture excellent, but there are bonus features that are worth the price of the disk - a "making of" documentary featuring the producer of the film, William MacQuitty, and Walter Lord who wrote the book that was the basis for the film (he also wrote a second book correcting some errors in the first one, "The Night Lives On") AND an audio commentary track by two Titanic experts, Don Lynch and Ken Marschall who point out various changes in actual happenings and going into more depth about the role of the "Californian", the ship in visual distance that did not come to aid of the sinking Titanic.

Considering that this film was made in 1958, it is a technical marvel. Yes, there are models used for parts of the film, but they are excellently done. If someone is expecting the computer generated special effects of today, they might be disappointed, but that is nit-picking as you become drawn into the happenings and forget such minor things.

With a predominately British cast or unfamiliar faces, the characters become more real than seeing some familiar Hollywood player in a roll. The performances are excellent and many of the actors have a striking resemblance to photos of the actual people.

There are some things that have now been proven to be incorrect - the ship is shown sinking in one piece and not breaking half - but this was the opinion of the time that is did not break apart. Since the finding of the Titanic on the ocean floor, we now know it did break up. But these things can not take away from a truly excellent film.

Anyone who is fascinated by the Titanic and wants to view a film with a "you are there" feeling should have this excellent production, especially on DVD.
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Voyage to the bottom of the sea
Spondonman31 August 2008
Although Cameron's version was OK as soaps go, this unpretentious black and white British effort will remain the definitive movie of the catastrophe that night. In 2 compact hours you get to know a dizzying array of people from all walks of life and of all dispositions, some to survive and some to die, and all told with an amazing regard for the truth coupled with bald entertainment values.

Everyone knows the story of the Titanic sinking on its maiden voyage killing 1500 people – and yet this is watchable over and over again. I suppose trying to make sense of it all even at this distance is one reason along with the human fascination with disasters of all kinds, but ultimately what can be so fascinating about drowning in this world of water where even we are 98% water too? God hasn't got a sick sense of humour but none at all to let this happen - the singing by the passengers at the end of Nearer, My God, To Thee is so poignant. In these 2 hours you identify with the characters and run through so many human emotions: worry, anguish, hope, fear, resignation, humour, honour, aplomb as befitted good breeding, altruism and self-sacrifice in spades, selfishness, cowardice and calmness – it's all here. If in a similar situation which one would you and I be? Cameron made a blockbuster on the same subject (and therefore comparable) with a keen eye for cgi cartoon detail, but generally unengaging characters with soap opera tendencies and the famous Kate Winslet nude scene to sell it all – ie not in the same league as this one. There were so many good performances, but if I had to single just one out it would be 2nd Officer Kenneth More – a sterling actor playing a sterling character.

It's a grippingly sad yet rewarding classic film, of that you can be very sure.
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This is the way it should be done
MOscarbradley7 May 2006
Roy Baker made this extraordinarily fine film about the sinking of the Titanic in the style of a documentary. Although it has a large cast it has no real stars, except perhaps Kenneth More who was a star in Britain at the time. He is an officer on the ship and is the central, linking character. Constrained by budgetary considerations the film used models but the cutting and the matte-work are so fine you are seldom aware of this. The tragedy engulfs you and the tragedy is of epic proportions. The stories of individual passengers come to the fore and the naturalistic acting of the cast make these stories very moving. The film is an honest tear-jerker in a way American movies never can be. It shows the florid, flabby and bloated James Cameron movie up for what it is.
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The story of the Titanic
pianissimo_5508 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"A Night To Remember" must be the most authentic version of the Titanic story . It was made in 1958 from the book by Walter Lord and the screenplay by Eric Ambler. The story is told in a documentary style utilising all the facts that would have had to have been researched prior to filming - eyewitness accounts from actual survivors. It is told with respect and restraint.Laurence Naismith gives a very sensitive and articulate performance as the Captain.Kenneth More really conveys the truth of the moment as Lightoller. The film's low key and factual approach steadily guides the audience to the catastrophic tragedy -- the 'what ifs' are possibly the most resonant pieces of screen time -- the telegraph operator missing the ice warning-- the captain of the boat nearby going back to sleep.......
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easy solutions
twoot3 December 2004
Roy Ward Baker's masterly docudrama still holds up well even after nearly a half century. It is a far more historically accurate, and broader-scoped version than the James Cameron 1998 epic. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the latter, the former still wins the prize for historical veracity as well as for dramatic impact.

Les from Brighton asks a couple of questions and poses a few comments meriting response:

Q: With a huge iceberg nearby would it not have been obvious to run the Titanic aground upon it?

A: Obvious, perhaps, but hardly practical. Icebergs are harder than steel and any attempt to beach an ocean liner on a berg (particularly with nearly perpendicular slopes) would only invite more damage to the vessel. There is some speculation that Titanic might have survived if the lookouts had detected the berg only one minute later than they did. The deck officer would have had no time to attempt evasion and Titanic would have rammed the berg-head on instead of sustaining a glancing blow, which peppered the hull with breaches to sea along her port bow three hundred feet aft. Conceivably, for a head on blow the damage might have been restricted to the first two or so of the first four watertight compartments, which might have allowed Titanic to remain afloat.

Q: In a similar vein on spotting the light on the horizon (the Californian) I would have thought that setting out for it in one of the lifeboats manned by as many beefy rowers as they could cram into it might have been a good way to get its attention.

A: SS Californian was anywhere from ten to fifteen miles from RMS Titanic on the night of the sinking. An oar powered life boat (not built for speed but for capacity) with a full crew can make, perhaps, three to four knots on a flat sea. This would mean, roughly, two and a half to four hours for even a beefy lifeboat crew to reach Californian, even if Californian had been close to Titanic, and even if the boat crew had the strength and endurance to pull at maximum speed for the entire time. Titanic struck the iceberg at 11h30 on 14 April and sank at 02h20 on the 15th, slightly under two and a half hours between impact and foundering. There was not enough time to attempt a rescue effort along those lines, and the boat needed for it was better used to get passengers off Titanic.

Q: On the other hand had I been aboard I may have been running around like the rest

A: There was very little running around. The crew of Titanic were unpracticed in evacuation procedures, but they were highly disciplined. They loaded the boats and launched them as quickly and efficiently as they could, but the boats were nowhere near capacity when crew launched them. Walter Lord suggests that one of the factors contributing to the high death rate among passengers (there was room in the lifeboats for 1200 passengers and crew, but only 714 survived) was not necessarily that the large number of steerage passengers were deliberately kept from getting to the boat decks, but that few crew members took the initiative to try encouraging steerage passengers to go the boat decks. Even if a few crew members made the attempt to drive passengers to the weather decks, however, most passengers making it to the deck found it too cold and uncomfortable and simply turned around to go back to the warmth of below decks until it was too late.
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a deeply moving monument to human suffering
myriamlenys16 July 2017
I first saw the movie as an adolescent. It made a deep impression on me. I've seen it four or five times since, and it continues to move and dazzle me.

This is a very efficient movie : it sets out to tell the story of the sinking of the Titanic and it does so, with all the purposeful surety of an arrow shot by a master archer. The linear clarity of the script, combined with the tautness of the plot, allows many other other smaller stories to blossom and grow. These stories are brought to vivid life by a multitude of deeply felt and deeply moving performances.

The movie does not shy away from showing panic, suffering and death. None of this feels cheap or exploitative - on the contrary. The viewer meets a large number of people (both passengers and crew) : all of them, from the first to the last, are treated as full-blown individuals, worthy of interest, respect and pity. Indeed, even the thieves who snatch handfuls of pearls are worthy of our pity : for surely it must be a living hell, to be so devoid of self-respect and compassion that a disaster is seen as nothing more than a welcome opportunity for larceny ?

The makers of "A night" hold up a mirror to the viewer and ask him two hugely relevant questions : "How would you act if you knew that you were in grave danger ?" and "How would you act if you knew that you were about to die ?" Most importantly, the movie refuses facile answers along the lines of "I would sacrifice myself for my little daughter and then die a smiling hero, no question about it !" Instead, the viewer is invited, nay forced, to look into his innermost heart, in order to explore the many secrets and uncertainties which lie there.

Any movie capable of such prowess is a masterpiece for the ages.
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Accurate depiction of this tragic event
MartianOctocretr51 June 2006
Of all the movies depicting the sinking of the Titanic, this version is the most accurate to detailed accounts from witnesses as to how it actually happened. The movie is based on the Sir Walter Lord book of the same name, which was the result of years of research he did on the subject.

It is magnificently done, both artistically and dramatically. Certainly the technology used in the production is dated, but the filming technique actually adds, rather then detracts, to the somber mood of the impending disaster. The black and white filming gives an overall claustrophobic tone, and puts the viewer aboard the ship along with the passengers to empathize with the horror these people must have endured.

Someone who has seen the more fictionalized version "Titanic!" will recognize some lines of (word-for-word) dialog and some actions by the passengers and crew. These things actually took place and Cameron's movie borrowed much of the information it used from Lord's work, and this movie. None of the fiction, (such as people shooting each other during the sinking) is in this version. But you will see the heroism of some passengers voluntarily sacrificing themselves so someone else could get on a lifeboat. You will also see cowards who impersonated women to sneak aboard lifeboats. This movie gives you everything that happened, positive or negative.

Certainly the story addresses how the calamity occurred--what mistakes were made, and by whom, and how the crew and passengers addressed their situation. It's done remarkably well, and the scene of the band singing "Nearer My God to Thee," is touching and heartbreaking. Objects from the wreck, shown floating in the water, are haunting.

Highly recommended, a fine movie which depicts the history well, and shows proper respect for those who perished.
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They can't make them like they used to
screenman26 March 2006
The excellence of this movie just cannot be overstated. Nothing is missing. Nothing is out of place.

Titanic was a microcosm of social class stricture. This point is made very clear at the outset, when we see wealthy, landed gentry (upper), the educated but comfortable (middle) and the Irish rustic (lower) classes, each making their separate rendezvous with the doomed vessel. Lightoller (perfectly played by Kenneth Moore) and his wife, represent our middle-class, arriving by train. There is an interesting comedy of manners concerning personal hygiene, played out in the railway carriage.

This film is based upon John Lord's original heavily-researched book, a factual account which has not been compromised with additional drama. As if any were needed. Seen today, it has the appearance of a documentary, an impression reinforced by filming in black & white. Furthermore, because the film is about as long as the Titanic actually lasted after the collision, events unfold in what might be called 'real-time'.

The gradual shift from humour and indifference to one of concern and fear, as the realisation slowly begins to gel that this ship is in serious trouble, is astonishingly well done. The camera cuts and cuts again, presenting brief but graphic vignettes of individuals on board, and how their circumstances and attitude alter with time. The captain stares in disbelief at the lights of the nearby Californian. A lost child is picked up by an ageing steward. The baker elects for drunkenness. We hear garbled conversation, often in a foreign language. Millionaires disintegrate, other remain steadfast until the end. The band never falters.

In its time, this was the most expensive movie ever filmed in Britain. And it shows in the lavish and authentic set-pieces. Today it is possible to tell that the long-shots of the ship at sea are actually those of a model; though I'm blowed if I know quite how. That model was some 22 feet long and painstakingly copied. Many of the scenes were also filmed during a very cold late-Autumn, so the steaming breath and shivering depicted later were unintentionally authentic.

The 'epilogue' on the Carpathia now seems rather needless and trite, but it would have been entirely appropriate in 1912. I think the almost endless cycle of disaster/horror movies of the last half-century have hardened our hearts somewhat. It's all so easy to forget, in a world of celluloid fiction; that this actually happened, and pretty-well just as you see it.

Today, perhaps the saddest element of this movie is that it can never be made again. The characters and mannerisms, the sense of honour and stoicism arising from an unflinching belief in ideals, have quietly passed away with their very last representatives that the 1950's encapsulated. There'll be no more fine fellows, no more old beans, no more stiff upper-lips. And hopefully - in an emancipated society - no more 'women and children first'.

Get a hold of this movie, and cherish it. Both it and the ship are gone forever.
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A film that displays tragedy so well.....
matthew-scrutton18 December 2005
Well what can I say? What can you say? I know what my 16 year old cohorts would say; "it's rubbish, there's no sex and drugs etc". Well to them I say grow up, there's more to film than that. A red-headed friend at school is talking with Channel 4 about doing a documentary on ginger people, and while everyone else says "oh god not another awful waste of disk space", I say good luck. Back to the film, It is brilliant. It puts a lot more emphasis on the crews actions to save that wonderful ship than Camerons and the actor who played Molly "unsinkable" Brown was credible, believable and so what if the designer, Thomas Andrews, had somehow lost his Irish accent. It was awful for me having to watch as he lent so casually by the fireplace, and adjusted the clock to time, only for it to be frozen in that position for all time. And when E J Smith calls for everyman for himself, and the sense of the ship plunging into the abyss beneath everyone, the atmosphere is tense, and you really start siding with characters, I personally sided with Lightoller, who was portrayed as the brave, professional seaman that he was. Cameron's Lightoller; "GET BACK OR I'LL SHOOT YOU ALL LIKE DOGS", was awful and I personally resented that cowardice portray-el of the real hero of the Titanic story. The model is pretty good for its day, and although the smoke stacks are a bit too tall the ship is still identifiable as Titanic, so no need for computer graphics there. The sinking was very well executed and although films don't upset me much, when the old boy with the little kid on the ships fantail are huddled together, with the old man reassuring that he will see his mother in a couple of minutes, that sent a chill through a my body, and I feel really upset as I write this.

In short, its a very good film, and does not resort to stupid love stories, and really is quintessentially British!!!!!!
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Disaster understated
Philby-34 January 1999
I'm glad this fine piece of film-making from forty years ago is still readily available on video for all those who want an alternative view to James Cameron's gross, overhyped special effects extravaganza from 1997. Cameron spent more on making "Titanic" than the White Star Line spent (adjusted for inflation) on building the original liner and her two sisters, the "Olympic" and Britannic". The British producers of "A Night to Remember" spent in total on their film about as much as Cameron did on hairstyles for "Titanic", yet tell the story much better.

The style is semi-documentary from a book by Walter Lord, an American journalist who had actually travelled as a child on the "Olympic." Hence time and place are evoked seamlessly even if the representation of the ship using small models and back projection does not match Cameron's 9/10ths scale replica. Filming is in black and white, wholly appropriate as most of the action is at night, and there's not a bad performance from any of the large cast, several of whom went on to greater things.

All the story is there - the elegant huge new liner with passengers and crew neatly divided by class, the reckless overconfidence (21 knots into an icefield when several other ships had radioed they had stopped nearby,) the ignored ice warnings, the strange behaviour of the Captain of the nearby "Californian," the general heroism of the "Titanic's" officers and crew, and the lovers, young and old, who would not be parted.

Anyone who came out of Cameron's film feeling vaguely cheated (as I did) should see this movie for a much better presentation of the story, and a vastly better script. Not that that would have been hard - Cameron was a mug to write "Titanic" himself - his talents lie elsewhere, in appealing to the chimpanzee (primal fear) in all of us. The current interest in a shipping disaster which occurred 86 years ago does suggest it has a broader cultural significance than our desire to experience vicarious danger at the movies. "A Night to Remember" at least give some basis for thoughtful reflection.
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Artful, Unfettered, Cinematic Depiction of Disaster
imyjr4 September 2000
I had seen this movie in the theatre as a child. The image of a serving trolley moving slightly in the first class dining room by the first tilt of the ship, lingered in my mind all these years. Today it evokes for me the baby carriage on the Odessa steps. I just saw the Criterion DVD edition: priceless, with informative extras and participation of real survivors (filmed in the 50's). The movie holds up splendidly. Ever increasing tension is created by editing, use of the camera, sober use of props. Indeed the sliding trolley is a haunting example of the cinematic mode in which tension is ratcheted: we go back to the same image, each time with more pronounced tilt and movement, purely cinematic depiction of increasing powerlessness and doom. Restrained cross-sectional plot hints are enough to depict the variety and complexity of the human load aboard. These are economical but multiple and diverse enough incidental passenger "portraits" for us to develop care and empathy with individuals as well as to develop a sense of the grand but very human tragedy unfolding on-screen. There is no dominant story line other than the vessel itself; no love story here. Comparisons to "Titanic" are unfair to both films, but unavoidable. One can "enjoy" both, but it seems to me "A Night to Remember," even with an overlit model ship, is the more moving, elegant, arguably realistic, ultimately most satisfying of the Titanic movies. It also has a mercifully less intrusive musical soundtrack. (There is also a "Titanic" with Clifton Webb and Robert Wagner.....not really in the same league as either of the two films discussed above).
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kklinger17 July 2000
Review in a sentence: Far superior to Cameron's blockbuster.

No one can deny that 1997's Titanic was entertaining and technically dazzling. However, A Night to Remember is better than Titanic because it is more engrossing, and it is almost completely based on fact. Whereas Cameron strayed liberally from historical events, A Night to Remember (based on the Walter Lord novel of the same name) is practically a documentary. And most of the inaccuracies in ANTR can be attributed to lack of knowledge at the time it was filmed (for example, it was not known that the ship broke in half prior to sinking until the ship was discovered in the 1980s). In the 1997 film, I became misty eyed when fictional characters experienced hardship and loss. In this movie, I cried for real life people who lost their lives or the lives of their loved ones during this spectacular disaster. 10 out of 10
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The power of a true story
efpv191210 May 2000
It is such a pity that the only film most people have heard of about the "Titanic" is James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster. "A Night to Remember" lets people view the "Titanic" story from a different perspective -- one that is not clouded by a half-baked, fictional love story. As a "Titanic" buff (and member of the Titanic Historical Society), I was impressed at how accurate the film was, given the facts prevailing at the time it was made. This classic masterpiece is a true cinematic triumph and clearly underscores once and for all that a true story can touch people's hearts and minds far more deeply if it stands on its own ... without the corrupting influence of contrived additions.
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m0rphy14 June 2002
Walter Lord sadly died in May 2002 aged 85 and is justly famous for his meticulous research of the circumstances surrounding the sinking on Monday 15/4/1912 of the White Star liner,RMS Titanic and stirring the public's interest in this disaster.There are a few factual errors in this marvellous Rank Organisation 1958 film.The ship is seen to sink in one piece but this was the received wisdom in 1955 when the book was first published.The picture above the fireplace in the first class smoking room is seen to be "The Approach to the New World (by Norman Wilkinson).In fact this hung in the equivalent location on her earlier sister ship, RMS "Olympic".The correct painting should have been "Plymouth Harbour" by the same artist.Also White Star and the ship's constructors, Harland & Wolff just launched their liners at their Belfast shipyard without flowery speeches such as "....I Name this ship Titanic.May god bless her etc etc".The launching scene is actually of the "Olympic" which you can tell because of her light grey painted hull made more photogenic for the cine cameras of the day - Titanic's hull was black. with white superstructure and a gold band separating these two colours.Lord admitted these understandable errors in his sequel "The Night Lives On" (1986) after Dr Robert Ballard ( of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute ,Massachussets) at last found the final resting place of the ship, 2 1/2 miles down on the Atlantic floor in 1985.

That said, this is a riveting and unforgetable docu-drama of this historical event, arguably the most infamous maritime disaster (although loss of life has been greater in other shipwrecks).The fascination lies in the "if onlys".i.e. if only she had been going a few knots slower, if only she had had enough lifeboats for all instead of the maximum laid down by the British Board of Trade in their already out of date 1894 regulations, when the maximum tonnage was deemed to be up to 10000 tons.Titanic came in at 46000 tons.If the weather had been rougher, waves would have broken over the base of the iceberg thus making it more visible.If the crow's nest crew had been given binoculars (they were removed at Southampton).If the Titanic had not been delayed in her construction (and therefore her 31/5/11 launch) by her shipworkers being transferred to the repair in September 1911 of the RMS Olympic following a collision in the Solent with HMS Hawke.If 1st officer Murdoch had steered straight at the berg instead of trying to avoid it the ship may have stayed afloat (although deaths would have occurred by the crumpling of the bow).If the "California's" captain, Stanley Lord had raised wireless operator, Cyril Furmston Evans who had just retired for the night, instead of trying to contact the mystery ship with a Morse lamp.If Alexander Carlisle, marine architect who originally planned 32 lifeboats had not been over-ruled by White Star because it made the boat deck look "cluttered".In fact RMS Titanic ended up with 16 lifeboats, the regulation number required by law, but then White Star actually exceeded the quota by the provision of an extra two Englebert collapsible sided lifeboats with a further two lashed on top of the officers' quarters.If a vital ice message from the "Caronia" sent on behalf of Capt. Barr and received by senior Titanic Marconi operator John Phillips, had gone to the bridge in good time, warning of icebergs directly in the path of the ill fated vessel.And so the "if onlys" go on.

The fascination is of a small Anglo Saxon floating town set in 1912 with all the social classes represented from the aristocratic and rich (first) class, to the professional middle (second) class down to the emigrant and poor (third/steerage) classes - and "never the twain shall meet".The "gilded age", as termed by Mark Twain, had begun in about 1890 and society was marvelling at the wit of man and the many technological innovations and inventions.Perhaps Mankind could outdo Nature but a Greek tragedy was waiting in the wings to punish man for his rash hubris and arrogance.

There is a companion video available called "The making of A Night To Remember" which goes behind the scenes at Pinewood studios and shows the locations used.Actual Titanic survivors were invited as advisors to the Irish producer, William MacQuity, among them were Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, Lawrence Beesley, the science master from Dulwich College (who wrote the book "Titanic Its Story and Its Lessons, published by Houghton Mifflin 1912)- a second class passenger who escaped in boat 13.Captain Edward John Smith's daughter Helen stated that the actor Lawrence Naismith who played him, was uncannily like her father as evidenced in contemporay photographs of the two men at approx. the same age.Captain Smith died aged 62, (probably on his last voyage before retirement although this can never be proved).Actor Kenneth More is seen chatting to Sylvia Lightoller the widow of Charles Herbert Lightoller who was second officer,- read his biography "Titanic Voyager".The convincing creaking sound you hear as Andrews tries to sit down in the first class smoking room just before the end, was the actual sound of the hydraulic lifting gear in the studio as it progressively raised the floor.MacQuitty was very careful to ensure the accuracy of the film set angles (of the ever slanting deck as she sank by the bow and rose by the stern), were always matching the dramas recorded by witnesses, so there is a marvellous sense of continuity in the filmed sinking.The B&W photography merges seemlessly with the authentic period film and all the actors convincingly say their lines many based on actual speeches said by the principal characters as remembered by witnesses.This is a superb film.Watch Cameron's "Titanic" 1997 only for the special effects.
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