Blu-ray review: “A Night to Remember” (1958)

“A Night to Remember” (1958)

Drama

Running Time: 123 minutes

Written by: Eric Ambler based on the book A Night to Remember by Walter Lord

Directed by: Roy Ward Baker

Featuring: Kenneth More, Laurence Naismith, Kenneth Griffith, David McCallum, Tucker McGuire, Frank Lawton, Richard Leech and John Cairney

Steerage steward: [going through the steerage corridors, rousing the passengers] “Everybody up, get dressed, get your lifebelts on, at once. Everybody up, get dressed, get your lifebelts on, at once.”

Critical Commentary

Released recently by the Imprint label on Blu-ray, “A Night to Remember” (1958), is a film about the sinking of the luxury cruise ship Titanic, until the James Cameron version was released in 1997, it was arguably the best know movie about the disaster. Not only that but this is also the most accurate in terms of what happened on board the ship itself even though there are some dramatic leaps. One major difference between this movie and the later movies and miniseries that would follow would be that in this narrative the ship sinks whole, but it is now known that the ship broke in half.

“A Night to Remember” was based on a book written by Walter Lord in 1955, when he wrote it there was not much public interest in what happened to the Titanic, in fact he was the first writer in four decades to attempt a grand-scale history of the disaster, by marrying written sources and survivors’ firsthand accounts. Interestingly he book had previously been adapted as a live American TV production, screened by NBC on 28 March 1956. George Roy Hill directed and Claude Rains narrated, a practice borrowed from radio dramas, which provided a template for many television dramas of the time. It took a similar approach to the book, lacking dominant characters and switching between a multiplicity of scenes.

However when the production of the film began there were a number of alterations to the narrative to increase the drama and appeal. Some examples of this are the limited involvement of American passengers, and several characters based on Americans are depicted as being British. Also, the film diverges from both the book and the TV adaptation in focusing on a central character, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, who does and says some things that other crewmembers are reported to have done and said during the actual disaster. Its conclusion reflects Lord’s world-historical theme of a “world changed for ever” with a fictional conversation between Lightoller and Colonel Archibald Gracie, sitting on a lifeboat.

The general plot and narrative are as you would expect of “A Night to Remember”, in 1912, the Titanic is the largest vessel afloat and is widely believed to be unsinkable. Among the passengers boarding for her maiden voyage to New York are First Class passengers Sir Richard and Lady Richard, Second Class passengers Mr. and Mrs. Clarke, a young newlywed couple, and steerage passengers Pat Murphy, Martin Gallagher and James Farrel. On 10 April, Titanic sails from Southampton. On 14 April, in the Atlantic, the ship receives a number of ice warnings from other steamers. Later that night, the SS Californian spots float ice in the distance, and tries to send a message to Titanic. Meanwhile, steerage passengers on Titanic enjoy a party in Third Class where Murphy becomes attracted to a young Polish girl and dances with her. In the wireless room, operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride are changing shifts. Phillips receives an ice warning, but when more messages arrive for him to send out, the warning is lost under them. On the Californian, field ice is spotted. Later, the vessel collides with an iceberg. Captain Smith sends for Thomas Andrews, the ship’s builder, to inspect the damage. Andrews determines that Titanic will sink within two hours, and quickly realizes it lacks sufficient lifeboat capacity. Distress signals are sent out, but the Californian’s radio operator is off duty. 58 miles away, the RMS Carpathia radio operator receives the distress call and alerts Captain Arthur Rostron, who orders the ship to turn around.

“A Night to Remember” is regarded as the most historically accurate Titanic disaster film, with the exception of not featuring the ship breaking in half. (There was still doubt about the fact she split in two when the book and film were produced. The accepted view at the time and the result of the inquiries was that she sank intact; it was only confirmed that she split after the wreck was found in 1985. While some events are based on true history, some of the characters and their storylines are fictional or dramatised. Interestingly, the movie seems to have spawned a sub-genre, that is the disaster movie, that still exists today, some that directly followed were “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972) and “The Towering Inferno” (1974).

Technical Commentary

Video

“A Night to Remember” is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer. The release introduces ITV Studios’ 2K restoration of “A Night to Remember” which first appeared on Blu-ray in 2012. A decade later, this 2K restoration still looks excellent.

Audio

There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 2.0. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided for the main feature. The restored Mono track is very good. Obviously, this should not be surprising since it is the same audio that was restored at ITV Studios. Clarity and sharpness are particularly impressive.

Special Features

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-Ray by ITV Studios
  • Audio commentary by film historian / author Bruce Hallenbeck
  • The Making of ‘A Night to Remember’ – documentary
  • A Shoot to Remember – interview with camera assistant Mike Fox
  • Film historian Jo Botting on A Night to Remember
  • Film critic Matthew Sweet on A Night to Remember
  • Film critic Kim Newman on A Night to Remember
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Original Costume Notes
  • Press and Publicity Gallery
  • Behind the Scenes Gallery
  • Production Gallery
  • Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
  • Audio English LPCM 2.0 Mono

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s