A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
Review by Michael Jacobson
Kenneth More, Honor Blackman, Michael Goodliffe, Tucker McGuire
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Widescreen 1.66:1
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: May 14, 1998
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.
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.
The mono soundtrack is quite serviceable, and manages to
convey an extra dimension to the disaster despite technical limitations.
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.