Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Kenneth More, Honor Blackman, Michael Goodliffe, Tucker McGuire
Director:  Roy Ward Baker
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Widescreen 1.66:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  See Review
Length:  123 Minutes
Release Date:  May 14, 1998

Film ***1/2

It is probably inevitable that this, the greatest Titanic movie ever made before James Cameron's, would draw comparisons to it's 1997 counterpart.  So let's get a few of them out of the way:

This movie really has no protagonists and no one to identify with, as Cameron's did.  It is more concerned simply with a vivid reconstruction of an historical event.  One noted difference with this attitude is that it only takes 30 minutes of film time for the ship to strike the iceberg. 

The special effects, for the most part, are good, but a comparison to Cameron's is unfair.  It is more than possible that Cameron may have taken a few visual cues from this movie:  the iceberg passing and showering ice on the deck is similar, for instance.  And both movies have winning, though small, performances from the actresses playing Molly Brown.  Tucker McGuire in this film is as charming as Kathy Bates is in Cameronís. 

This film deals extensively with the class structure.  Some of the first class snobs who argue about getting into the lifeboats are almost unbelievable!  Yet itís more than just good old fashioned movie melodrama at work.  The survivorsí accounts document all of the wide range of human behavior exhibited with the shipís sinking, from the rich who mocked the lower class on deck to the nobility of the crew and musicians who did their duty until the very end.  As far as narrative goes, itís a little surprising in retrospect that no one before Cameron came up with the idea of a love story across the classes to use in telling the tale of Titanic.  But here, the boundaries are well defined, and nobody crosses over.

All comparisons aside though, this movie is still an impressive accomplishment in its own right.  Given the limitations on special effects, the technical crew still managed to do an amazing job of bringing the illusion of the great ship to life.  One or two long shots of the ship fail to really hide the fact that weíre looking at a model, but when the ship starts to sink, the effects, editing, and performances keep the experience very real.

So A Night To Remember takes its place as the second best Titanic movie after James Cameronís version.  And that is certainly no insult.

Video ***

The transfer is mostly good.  The black and white photography renders well, and images are sharp and clean, but unfortunately, there are various vertical lines that run for long periods of time throughout the picture.  A little disappointing considering how much better Criterion cleaned up other old black and white films like The Lady Vanishes. 

Audio **1/2

The mono soundtrack is quite serviceable, and manages to convey an extra dimension to the disaster despite technical limitations.

Features ***

There are some good extras on this disc.  The documentary is quite informative, but I found it curious that as many survivors were spoken to at the time and used in Lord's research, the fact of the ship breaking in half never came up or was ignored.  There are survivors in later days who have recollected that fact.  My guess is it was just physically and financially impossible to try and include it in the film.  The commentary track, by the co-authors of Titanic:  An Illustrated History, will no doubt be of interest to any Titanic buffs, as they authenticate the integrity of what the film conveys.  The trailers were very well done, too.


Even though James Cameronís Titanic is available on DVD, and is naturally a highly popular title, I hope that no fans of his film will deem it unnecessary to take a look at this amazing, classic retelling of the great ship.  A Night To Remember has plenty to offer, especially on this quality DVD from Criterion.