The One about Roy Ward Baker’s “A Night to Remember”

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Back when the Criterion Collection released “A Night to Remember”, I remember really wanting to watch this film for so many years and I know that for most people, they tend to compare the 1958 film “A Night to Remember” and the 1997 film “Titanic” and debate which film was better. Personally, I enjoyed James Cameron’s “Titanic” when it was first released in theaters and watched it multiple times. And having watched “A Night to Remember”, I equally enjoyed it.

These are two films about the sinking of the RMS Titanic but in essence, they are two different films.

With James Cameron having modern technology at the time, and a film with the duration of 3 hours, not to mention an incredible amount of money budgeted to make the film, the film is more romantic as Cameron’s film focused on two people who meet, fall in love while riding the Titanic. But most impressively, the use of technology of the time to showcase the actual accident and splitting of the Titanic.

With that being said, “A Night to Remember” was an incredible film when it was released. A film that would incorporate actual footage of the Titanic from 1912 to detailed information from the survivors, nothing like it had been done ever before. In fact, Before Walter Lord wrote his book, there was nothing written about the Titanic in over 40-years since 1912.

There was a melodrama film titled “Titanic” in 1953 but Lord captured in his book a minute-by-minute detail courtesy of the survivors he spoke to and the documents he was able to obtain. “A Night to Remember” used the actual blueprints of the Titanic as well. The film was not much about the characters but the ship and the people who were on the Titanic, the Carpathia and the Californian.

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The film that would pay respects to those who perished but also to acknowledge the positive that came out of this accident, in terms of rules and regulations and acknowledging that there was quite amount of human error that led to the Titanic’s sinking. Warnings of icebergs that were not followed up on, a ship nearby who saw the emergency rockets but didn’t take action until hours after the ship had sunk and a ship four hours away that came, although the damage was done and there were an incredible number of people who lost their lives.

It’s obvious that James Cameron’s big budget film may have been inspired by “A Night to Remember” as certain scenes tend to have some resemblance. But for the most part, the two films are quite different from one another.

“Titanic” focused more on the dramatic aspect and then using modern special effects of the sinking/breaking of the Titanic while “A Night to Remember” focused on the Titanic and its crew and people who were trying to survive, escape or just accepted their fate as well as the crew of the Carpathia and Californian. While the special effects were solid for a film at that time and acting was very well done, what I enjoyed about “A Night to Remember” is that it doesn’t try to focus on a few characters, everyone on the ship is part of the film.


 

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Dennis A. Amith