Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Real Deal

In my opinion, the best non-documentary movie ever made about the Titanic disaster is Roy Ward Baker's 1958 film A Night To Remember. Based on the Walter Lord's meticulously researched book by the same name, the movie tells the story straight, portraying characters that really existed and storylines that really took place. In fact, one can see a lot of this film's influence in James Cameron's 1997 epic film, though of course it merely provided the backdrop for a fake, completely unrealistic, and totally unnecessary one dimensional love story.

Baker's film does include a few misconceptions that were simply unconfirmed and heavily debated in the 1950's, such as the Titanic's breaking into two pieces during its sinking. However, this film does include the story of the steamer Californian, which was only about 10 miles away from the Titanic as she sank and even saw her flares! Baker also juxtaposes key scenes quite well to show you the real separation of classes (Again, watch for elements that Cameron borrowed).

A Night To Remember uses a lot more breadth in dealing with the array of characters, so we miss out on some of the depth of certain characters. And though you can certainly tell they use a model in many closeup scenes, other special effects in this film are actually quite striking for 1958. What makes this film awesome, though, is the sheer reality of its tale. Why would we want two make-believe, sexed-up Hollywood characters when the real drama of human history is so much more interesting? This is a film that you can watch and discuss with your family. This is the real deal.

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