Friday, 26 August 2011

Review - A Night To Remember (1958 - Dir. Roy Ward Baker)

Right, let's get all this out of the way first. It's in black and white. There are no big stars involved. Kenneth More is a likeable fellow but he's never been a major star. The other 'big name', Honor Blackman, is hardly in the film. All the effects were done with models in a pre-CGI era. If all that puts you off then you're missing out on a treat.

A Night To Remember is a historical film about the sinking of the Titanic, based on the book by Walter Lord. The filmmakers knew that the ship was the star and the actual sinking is given plenty of screen time. The characters who you meet are representative of the people who sailed on the Titanic. The first class passengers are beyond belief, moaning about being cold and the life belts being uncomfortable whilst other people, mainly the steerage passengers, are drowning. It gives you a taste of how the classes were segregated at that time.

There are lots of British stiff upper lips, but this only adds to the emotional impact of the film: the husband who puts his wife and children in the lifeboats, knowing that it will be the last time he sees them, the young couple who decide to stay together and brave the cold sea, the ship's designer and captain going down with the ship, all of these add up to a surprisingly touching experience.

The special effects showing the ship going down are surprisingly effective. It is notoriously difficult to make water look realistic when using models and they partially got around this by using a very large model and shooting at high speeds so that the ship would appear slower and have more weight. You do forget that you are watching effects after a while and become engrossed in the story.

To finish with, I really need to compare this to the other Titanic film, namely TitanicJames Cameron (the director of Titanic) didn't realise that he already had a fantastic story and a captivating starThe story of the sinking of the Titanic is so strong you don't need a fictional love story that takes up most of the running time. If you want to make a something romantic, make it as a separate film. Plus, if you watch A Night To Remember you don't have to put up with Celine Dion's warblings. That's got to be a bonus.

If you like this you could also try:
The Hindenburg, Ice Cold In Alex, The Admirable Crichton.

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