Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Night to Remember (1958)

A truly British account of the disaster that befell the "Unsinkable" ship; the Titanic.  Rather than concentrating on two pointless characters who fall in love and whose plight we are supposed to care about, A Night to Remember shows us how different people cope with the tragedy, how professional the crew were, and perhaps most strikingly the difference in traveller class (First Class could cost upward off £800 whereas steerage was only £12!).

The cast is very much an ensemble; though if there were any main character then it would be Kenneth More as Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, who just seems to be un-flappable in any situation.  The other characters with which we become familiar are Captain Edward John Smith; the chairman of the shipping company - J. Bruce Ismay; and the ship's designer - Thomas Andrews.  The only other "star" would be Honor Blackman, but her character doesn't really get much screen time. As well as depicting everyone's way of dealing with the horrendous situation, the film also shows events on the Carpathia (the ship that rescued survivors) and the Californian; who despite being in visual range of RMS Titanic did nothing as they had unplugged their radio for the night.  In the aftermath of this disaster all ships were instructed to man their radios constantly.

Despite being over 50 years old, the special effects really hold up; undoubtedly helped by the massive model that was constructed during production.  I wonder how the digital effects from the 1997 film look now?  A very good film, without the need to focus on relationships between characters it almost documents the disaster rather than weaves a story around it, and is all the better for it.