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August 11, 2021

A Night to Remember (1958)

Roy Baker’s gorgeous and realistic docudrama about the sinking of the Titanic is based on the 1995 book by Walter Lord. The disaster is portrayed mostly from the perspective of the ocean liner’s second officer, Charles Lightoller (played by Kenneth More). Moments of tragedy are interspersed with moments of kindness and nobility. Instead of melodrama, it is presented in a factual style that works very well when viewed by a modern audience. One of the most touching moments is when we follow an officer who has chosen to get extremely drunk (who can blame him?) and wanders about being helpful by, for example, tossing wooden chairs off the deck into the freezing water as makeshift flotation devices.

Of course, my favorite aspect is the extraordinary miniatures and practical effects. The lighting choices on the beautiful, 35-foot model of the titanic are mesmerizing. The 1997 behind-the-scenes documentary “The Making of A Night To Remember features some wonderful footage. Because the water stage on which they shot the sequences with the model was only a few feet deep, they disassembled the parts of the model as they disappeared into the water to create the illusion of the Titanic sinking. The film is a technical marvel; and well worth anyone’s time who may be interested in the Titanic (or for anyone who loves the history of practical effects).

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