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A Night To Remember

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 118 mins . PG-13 . PAL


You've seen Titanic, yes? If not, I'll spoil the ending for you right now. The ship sinks. No point seeing the original 1958 movie, of course. I mean, strip away the cheesy love story, colour, CGI effects and surround sound, and this is pretty much the same film as the aforementioned blockbuster-thon, surely?

Unless, of course, you'd actually like to know why the Titanic sank, which is the reason that A Night To Remember movie is still critically regarded as the superior effort. Strangely, given the 3 hours plus running time, Cameron couldn't find space to fit in vital information about the disaster.

This film stands as the only true record of the Titanic story on celluloid, being as close to the actual events as possible. It was based on the best-selling book by Walter Lord, which was itself a product of years of research, including interviews with dozens of survivors of the wreck. The love for the subject is obvious, and the attention to detail is flawless. For example, a ship named the Californian was a mere 10 miles away and observed the distress flares sent up by the ailing Titanic, yet did nothing. The warning signals sent by Morse radio weren't relayed from the Titanic radio room to the bridge, and the crew of the Titanic operated under the impression that it was women and children only, not first, into the lifeboats, with many leaving the ship half-full.

This is tragedy, Shakespeare-style, folks. If even one freak occurence hadn't happened, everybody could likely have been spared. Frustration, tension and desperation are feelings you don't usually expect to feel watching a documentary. High praise indeed.


For a film of its vintage, the video transfer scrubs up very nicely. The accompanying documentary reveals that shooting took place both inside a studio and in a large water tank, and the picture quality does vary depending on the location. Interior shots are generally sharp with good contrast and shadow detail, with detail falling off slightly on some exterior shots.

Also obvious is the use of stock and archival footage early in the film, with the launch of the Titanic decidedly jerky (the cameras of the day would only have shot at 12 or 15 frames per second instead of 24). The 1918 footage also boasts more scratches and grain, but for most of the running time, grain and artefacts are quite acceptable.

The transfer is apparently very similar to the non-16:9 enhanced Criterion R1 transfer, which in my opinion means better source material probably doesn't exist! Certainly the image is good enough to play 'spot the model', which is always fun.


Here's where the problems start.

The film is mono, obviously enough. Or so you'd think, but this disc delivers a 3-channel mix which essentially puts the same audio information in the front three channels, meaning that if you sit to one side, the soundtrack moves to the speaker closest to you. This is NOT right. If it's mono, leave it in the centre channel, guys. Honestly.

Of course, the usual caveats apply here, light bass, thin, unnatural dialogue, but it's par for the course with old stuff, and you either deal with it or let modern blockbusters turn your brain to mush. On the positive side, there's virtually no distortion to be heard, even when bulkheads start giving way.


The Criterion disc has a running commentary which sounds like it would be interesting, but the local release does sport an impressive hour-long BBC documentary about the making of the film. With interviews with pretty much everybody behind the scenes plus Walter Lord, it's an engrossing way to while away an evening.

A couple of theatrical trailers and cast bios round out the package.


A better film than Titanic, and Titanic is the highest grosser ever, so in today's capitalist society, this is logically the best film ever made.

Reflect on this, and wonder. Then buy the disc.

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