Reel Reviews

A Night to Remember (1958) - Blu-ray Review

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A Night to Remember - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Man will probably never be able to conquer and control the forces of nature.  The fate of the RMS Titanic is proof enough of the high price for playing “King of the World” with nature.  Tales like this are full of consequence; they are meaty with drama and diligence and do much to humanize actual human events.  Here, it is the actual sinking of a man-made boat.  As if a person could ever forget such a tragedy; as if history would ever allow such a thing.

Many films have portrayed what can only be catalogued as a disaster story.  Of them, only one has earned notoriety for being the Second Coming of director James Cameron (and not Jesus Christ) and, yet, on this Easter weekend Cameron’s Titanic is being resurrected for its 3D conversion.  Don’t be fooled; Cameron’s special effects spark and dazzle is just misdirection for a laughably awful voyage.

The better take on April 14, 1912 arrived in 1958 with A Night to Remember.  The struggle between the rich and the poor and the fate of the Titanic are presented without your typical lead character or even a half-assed love story that dares to cross class lines.  No, what we have is a film that honestly spends its two-hour running time establishing a believable verisimilitude that – while often dipping in interest levels – manages to create an ensemble of tragedy lead by Kenneth More, Honor Blackman, and David McCallum.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker and based on the book by Walter Lord, A Night to Remember and its unsinkable ship stays afloat through the superb tension between the swanky rich and the starving poor and the actual sinking of the ill-fated Titanic.  It can’t use the effects Cameron employs, but it does have some tricks of its own.  Archival footage of the Queen Elizabeth’s departure is the stand-in for the Titanic and proves to be more compelling than computer magic.  The precise level of detail and attention given to the actual sinking and what happens afterwards is a monument to the tortured duplicitous nature of humanity.

One famously executed scene shows a group of survivors atop a capsized lifeboat greedily attempt to stop other panicked survivors from climbing aboard.  In another, last gasps are uttered from a collection of bobbing heads.  Neither one makes the ears burn with clichés and pantomime.  Much about A Night to Remember feels very real; a testament to its beauty.

While it may spin a bit in its first hour, A Night to Remember is the better version of the Titanic disaster.  Remastered by the Criterion Collection, one can only hope this film gets its fair share of Titanic’s weekend grosses.

{2jtab: Film Details}

A Night to Remember - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This film has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Roy Ward Baker
Writer: Eric Ambler
Cast:
Kenneth More; Ronald Allen; Robert Ayres; Honor Blackman; Michael Goodliffe
Genre: Drama | History | Action
Tagline:
The night the unsinkable sank
Memorable Movie Quote: "Well, I'd rather be Second on the "Titanic" than First, or even Chief on any *other* ship*"
Distributor (theatrical):
Rank Film Distributors of America
Distributor (home video): Criterion
Release Date: December 16, 1958
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 27, 2012

Synopsis: The Titanic was the largest vessel afloat, and was widely believed to be unsinkable. Her passengers included the cream of American and British society. The story of her sinking is told from the point of view of her passengers and crew, principally second officer, Charles Lightoller (Kenneth More).

Once in the open sea on her maiden voyage, the Titanic receives a number of ice warnings from nearby steamers. Captain Edward J. Smith (Laurence Naismith) is unconcerned and the ship continues on at high speed. Late on April 14, 1912, a lookout spots an iceberg directly in front of the ship. The ship turns hard to port, but the Titanic collides with the iceberg on its starboard side, opening the first five compartments to the sea, below the waterline. Thomas Andrews (Michael Goodliffe), the ship's builder, inspects the damage and finds that the ship will soon sink, a bad situation made horrific by the fact the ship does not have sufficient lifeboat capacity for everyone on board..

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

A Night to Remember - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 27, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.67:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Created in 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative, A Night to Remember, while not perfect, is a jewel in1080p.  The transfer has been cleaned of debris, dirt, scratches, and flickering issues and it shows.  This is a pretty impressive overhaul; almost like the refitting of a brand new sailing vessel.  Detail is immaculate and clarity has been amped to a new degree of visual delight.  Contrast is good and sharpening has been tempered to a tolerable agree.  Sometimes on these old classics, they get a little heavy handed with dense layers of black and strong whites.  Here, though, we have a solid and level hand approach.  The only audio track offered has been remastered as an English LPCM 1.0 track.  Dialogue is clean and crisp and full of energy.  It is suitable for the picture.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Provided by Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, author and illustrator of an illustrated history of the Titanic, the commentary is a bit dryer than most.  It was recorded in 1994 and has been ported over from Criterion’s original release of the film.  Very detailed and very informative, just a bit ... lifeless.

Special Features:

You know how Criterion rolls.  It’s all quality and, once again, they do not disappoint.  Film critic Michael Sragow's essay "Nearer, My Titanic, to Thee" is reprinted in the booklet which accompanies the blu-ray.  Thorough and detailed, the essay is full of praise and production notes about the making of the film and sets up nicely what the supplemental material delves into.  There are three important documentaries included; one from the 90s, one a BBC production that explores how the tragedy occurred, and one that features an interview with survivor Eva Hart. Also included is a documentary produced by Sweden in 1962 that features an interview with three survivors.   A trailer rounds out the collection.

  • The Making of "A Night to Remember" (58 min)
  • Eva Hart: Survivor (24 min)
  • En Hatt Att Minnas (33 min)
  • The Iceberg That Sank the "Titanic" (49 min)

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