Customer Reviews: A Night to Remember (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Showing 1-10 of 42 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on September 21, 2004
Long before James Cameron's "Titanic" became a box office hit, "A Night to Remember" told the story of the great liner Titanic and her ill-fated maiden voyage. It was called unsinkable, but only five days after leaving port on her maiden voyage to New York, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, taking over 1500 souls to their death in the North Atlantic.

"A Night to Remember" is told through the eyes of second officer Lightoller, played by veteran British actor Kenneth More. When the unthinkable occurs, Lightoller contends with disbelief, desperation, and finally the horror of the inevitable. As the band played on, the poor and the wealthy stand aside as the lifeboats carrying women and children are put to sea.

I found this to be a very interesting and exciting adaptation of the Titanic disaster. The cast does a fine job and the special effects, although old, and historical authenticity make this movie exciting to watch. Great care was taken to ensure that the story of the Titanic was told completely and correctly. From the "Californian"'s unbelievable lack of action to the heroic efforts of the captain and crew of the "Carpathia", each detail of the disaster is told. The separation and class distinction between passengers is also described. First-class passengers generally looked down on the others on board, and in one scene a first class lady refers to the third class passengers as "only steerage". Other aspects, such as Mr. Andrews' refusing to leave his ship, and Bruce Ismay's infamous decision to save himself (a decision that haunted him until his death) are also told in the film.

I highly recommend this movie. Although the special effects are nowhere near what they are in "Titanic", this film still does a good job of explaining the Titanic disaster. You'll never forget this true story of hope and dispair, courage and cowardice, and dignity and dishonor in the face of human tragedy.
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on April 15, 1999
Whatever this lacks in up-to-date special effects and big-budget hype is more than made up by its literate script and elegant period feel-- which make the final scenes on the dying ship all the more wrenching. And let's talk leading men: Sure, Leo's cute, but if *I* were caught in a major disaster, I'd want someone like Kenneth More in my corner. He manages to save himself AND several dozen other people.
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HALL OF FAMEon September 25, 2006
Sixty-four survivors from the actual Titanic were interviewed extensively by author Walter Lord for his meticulously researched 1955 book, "A Night to Remember", the basis of this still-remarkable 1958 dramatic reenactment of the momentous sinking. Obviously this lends great authenticity to this production, which feels very much like a docudrama offering a diverse gallery of characters to track instead of a main protagonist. While there are inarguably impressive elements in James Cameron's über-successful 1997 epic version of the same tragedy, most specifically the technical details and mind-bending CGI images and effects, this much lower-budget British film manages to feel more dramatically resonant simply because the superficial Hollywoodization of the event is not evident here, i.e., the forced melodrama, heightened romance and stereotypical characters.

Director Roy Baker and screenwriter Eric Ambler draw upon a much broader canvas by having the camera roam through the ship and capture the essence of the various people on board from the boiler room workers to the first class passengers. This compelling approach doesn't change as the ship sinks as we continue to recognize a full emotional range between heroism and cowardice through these characters. The other aspects that this version handles well are the specific construction-related reasons for the ultimate sinking and the roles played by two other ships during the tragedy. Not only was there the Carpathia, too far away to get to the Titanic on time yet there to pick up survivors, but also the Californian, a steamship only ten miles away and within sight. As vividly portrayed in the movie, the officers of the Californian misinterpreted the distress signals and did nothing to come to the Titanic's aid. You will likely recognize several scenes here that were repeated almost verbatim in Cameron's film, in particular, the lifeboat-boarding scenes and the aftermath of the sinking. What doesn't sync up is the ship dramatically breaking in two, a fact not depicted in the film since it was not verified until years afterward.

The primitive nature of the special effects may frustrate younger viewers, even though the then-standard use of small models is still pretty impressive on its own. The film also spends a bit too much time with incidental characters such as the drunken baker and the dedicated string musicians. There are a few familiar faces in the large cast, chief among them Kenneth More as the heroic second officer whose forward-moving calm saved many lives, Honor Blackman (later Bond girl Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger") as the young newlywed determined to stay with her husband, and David McCallum (Ilya Kuryakan on TV's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") as an assistant wire operator. Geoffrey Unsworth is responsible for the striking black-and-white cinematography. The 1998 Criterion Collection DVD has an excellent hour-long making-of feature, as well as an interesting commentary track by Titanic experts Don Lynch and Ken Marshall. Two trailers round out the extras.
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on June 4, 2012
Criterion has a well-earned reputation for its catalogue of high quality discs -- classic movies that are at home in most any collection. We added A Night To Remember to our collection on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking. I recall seeing the movie when it was a new release and mentioned it to my wife, who had been reading a number of excellent books on the topic. We watched it together and it lived up to my billing, provoking a number of conversations, both in areas where it accurately portrayed the event and where it didn't (EG: the launch of the Titanic didn't involve breaking a bottle of champagne). If there was any disappointment with the disc, it was the lack of subtitles, useful in our home because English is my wife's second language and she finds it hard to follow rapid dialogue or non-Canadian accents.

Still, knowing the story so well, she thoroughly enjoyed seeing it for the first time, as did I for about the fourth or fifth. The bonus disc was fascinating with the Swedish documentary being an especially neat surprise.
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on December 14, 2014
This is an excellent film which conveys information on the Titanic sinking in a way that is restrained but full of drama and pathos. The black and white images are striking and there is no Hollywood-style overdoing it.
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on May 1, 2016
It isn't hard to imagine why the story of the Titanic has seen so many film interpretations. Catastrophe makes for exciting film and as far as pure spectacle and great tragedy goes, you can't do much better. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the actual sinking of the Titanic took roughly 2 increasingly horrific hours, lending itself eerily well to the medium.

Beyond that potential for spectacle though, what really keeps the story of the Titanic afloat (... hold your applause) is its power as an allegory. It's the perfect man vs. nature metaphor - of man's supreme technological accomplishments, and the naivety of those who believe they are above the mercy of the Earth's raw power. Even further, it works brilliantly as an allegory of class stratification and discrimination, and the equalizing power of imminent death which transcends all social constructs. And finally, the stories of its individual passengers gives us looks into the depths of human nature: the power of denial, the strength of loyalty and compassion, courage and cowardice, rationality and panic.

Impressively, A Night to Remember successfully mines essentially all of these elements and brings them to the screen. Given it was made in 1958, it is pretty incredible how well this film captures the scale and spectacle of the disaster. Of course it doesn't quite reach the jaw-dropping scale of the renown James Cameron epic (which is highly indebted to this film), but the effects in this film are still very effective in their own right and hold up extremely well. And beyond the spectacle, the depth and breadth of the aforementioned themes inherent to this tale are all explored: man vs. nature, privilege vs. poverty, man vs. women, man vs. man, and man vs. himself.

It's pretty difficult to fault this film in any way, but I will say that for those who have seen Cameron's Titanic, its impact may be a bit lessened. I wouldn't necessarily say that Cameron's film is the better of the two - in fact, as I mentioned, it owes many, many of its successes to this film. But, for better or for worse Cameron's film is able to drum up a fair bit more melodrama and emotional weight. A Night to Remember is more in the style of a documentary, presenting the event as it occurred without much in the way of extra dramatization (which clearly isn't necessary given an event of this magnitude and tragedy). But, from a pure entertainment value perspective, the docudrama style of this film definitely feels a bit drier and more procedural than what Cameron accomplished in 1997.

It's a bit sad because even though I did enjoy this film a lot and have a lot of respect for what it accomplishes, I do think its impact was lessened just by virtue of having seen Cameron's film. It worked for me completely in its craft and thematic execution, but it didn't quite resonate with me on an emotional level beyond that. Still, this is an excellent film and it most definitely stands on its own as a fantastic and classic Titanic adaptation. I would especially recommend it if the cheesy melodrama of the 1997 version disagrees with you.
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on July 12, 2014
Actually, a fairly accurate telling of the sinking of the great Titanic - and it's all done without CGI! Look for a young David McCallum (NCIS) as wireless operator McBride. Also included are scenes set on the Californian (which ignored Titanic's pleas for help) and the Carpathia. There are nice extras included in this set, but it is NOT closed captioned, and that is why I give it four stars.
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on December 31, 2015
A classic fact based British film that was a re-enactment of the actual events. No sappy romance stuff. It's how it all went down, do to speak. One is left with understanding the bravery of those who carried out their duties to all passengers, rich and poor.
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on April 11, 2014
This is a review of the Amazon Instant Video version of "A Night to Remember".

This is a great copy of the historic film. Sound and picture appear to be top notch. There is only one problem that causes me to give four stars instead of five. When you watch with the closed caption switched on you find that the captions come ten seconds or more before the actors speak the lines. This can be quite annoying when watching the film. I have seen this film several times so I know the dialog well enough to ignore this shortcoming but someone else who may depend upon the captioning could find it to be a problem.

Amazon should investigate reworking the captioning. It may be as simple as correcting the time stamp for the lines of dialog to have each display ten seconds later than they currently do.
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on July 7, 2000
Before James Cameron's "Titanic", this film was regarded as the best film re-creation of the Titanic disaster. It still holds up well in many respects. It does not rely on any fictional character or storyline to hold the viewer's interest. Like the book of the same name on which it is based, its focus is simply on the matter-of-factly recounting of the sinking of the ship. The film covers many of the tragic circumstances that led to the ship's demise, most of them are all but ignored in Cameron's film, such as the dreadful fact that due to telegram miscommunications, a boat within sight of the Titanic failed to rescue one single life.
Leutenant Lightoller, briefly seen in Cameron's film, is billed as the main character in this film, but no extensive portrayal is given to any character. The real star is the ship itself. One gets a more complete picture of the tragedy itself in this film than in Cameron's film, which is dominated in the first 2 hours with its romantic plot.
Certain things in the film are outdated. Expectedly, the special effects scarcely look convincing after one has seen Cameron's film. Some closeups of the ship are clearly shot with a miniature model. The shots of the iceberg also look scarcely menacing or convincing. Also, it was discovered in the 90s that the ship might have broken in two pieces while it was sinking (Cameron's film shows this). In this film, the ship sinks in one piece.
The supplements of the DVD version include a fairly interesting audio commentary track done by two Titanic researchers, a 1-hour "making-of" documentary containing interviews of the film's producer William MacQuitty and the book's author Walter Lord, and a theatrical trailer. No mention to Cameron's film is made in the audio commentary or the documentary since they were both made before 1997. The DVD's picture quality is pristine-looking. The Dolby Digital mono audio is clear and sharp.
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