Night to Remember, A (1958)

Night to Remember, A (1958)

“But she can’t sink — she’s unsinkable!”

Synopsis:
On the fateful night of the sinking of the Titanic, Second Officer Charles Lightoller (Kenneth More) helps oversee the rescue of as many passengers as possible — including an upper-class couple (Honor Blackman and John Merivale) with children; newlyweds (Jill Dixon and Ronald Allen) determined not to separate; and “unsinkable” millionaire Molly Brown (Tucker McGuire).

Genres:

Review:
Roy Ward Baker’s adaptation of Walter Lord’s 1955 non-fiction book about the sinking of the RMS Titanic (scripted by Eric Ambler) is notable for its fidelity to historical detail, and for portraying this well-known tragedy in an effectively gripping fashion. Indeed, unlike in Jean Negulesco’s differently rewarding Titanic (1953) — which privileges detailed back-stories about the various passengers and crew on board, and features big-name stars — A Night to Remembers has a largely unknown cast, and cuts to the iceberg crash relatively quickly, spending the remainder of the film providing searing detail about the disaster that unfolded. A number of real-life passengers and crew are shown living out their final moments on board the ship, with More’s Officer Lightoller emerging as a central “protagonist” once he recognizes what’s happening and takes decisive action to assist in rescue. Ward’s direction is consistently solid, and he’s ably assisted by DP Geoffrey Unsworth. This one is well worth a look.

Note: Comparisons with James Cameron’s Oscar-winning 1997 blockbuster are inevitable. DVD Savant writes:

“After being infuriated by the 1997 Titanic, with its ridiculous thriller storyline and numbskull anachronisms, my first thought was that I wanted to make a nice B&W copy of some of James Cameron’s stunning digital special effects and cut them into the Roy Ward Baker movie. Voila! The Best of both worlds!”

Meanwhile, TCM snarks that “the budget was… remarkably small for such an epic narrative — a mere $1,680,000, which probably wouldn’t have covered the bagel tab on Cameron’s film”, and viewers “don’t even have to put up with Celine Dion warbling over the end credits.”

Ah, the wrath of classic film lovers. 🙂

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography
  • Excellent historical detail
  • Many exciting moments
  • Eric Ambler’s screenplay

Must See?
Yes, as a finely crafted historical adventure film.

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One thought on “Night to Remember, A (1958)

  1. In agreement with the accurate assessment, so I’ve nothing to add. This is a once-must for its value as an historical document. It’s a well-made, well-acted film but it certainly makes for a sad viewing.

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