A Night to Remember

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Roy Ward Baker

REVIEWED: 03-23-98

James Cameron's Titanic isn't the first Titanic movie. (It's not even the first movie named Titanic -- that would be Hollywood's 1953 fictionalized version of the disaster starring Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck.) Based on the Walter Lord bestseller, Roy Ward Baker's A Night To Remember (1958) tells the story in sober, almost documentary fashion. The Brattle is showing it Oscar afternoon and evening so you can compare it with this year's likely Best Film.

Don't expect Baker's movie to blow Cameron's out of the water -- for all the meticulous detail, this Night is almost as confusing as the real one must have been. There are nearly 200 speaking parts, and hardly anyone is identified. The film jumps from the Titanic to nearby ships the Carpathia and the Californian without explanation. And the noir-like black and white gives little sense of the White Star liner's luxury. Only when everyone starts to fight over the lifeboats does the drama kick in. High marks to Kenneth More as the heroic Second Officer Charles Lightoller; to Laurence Naismith, stoic as Captain Smith; and to a pre-Man from U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum as wireless operator Harold Bride. But they'll never replace Kate and Leo.

--Jeffrey Gantz

Full Length Reviews
A Night to Remember

Capsule Reviews
A Night to Remember

Film Vault Suggested Links
Seven Years in Tibet
Moll Flanders
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

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