One of the costliest films produced in Britain – reportedly over $30 million, in 1980 – has a certain charm today, mainly because of the fanciful notion that the Titanic lies waiting, her hull intact, at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. Five years later, Robert Ballard's expedition would reveal the great ship to be divided in half, literally disintegrating from massive deep-sea corrosion, so “Raise the Titanic” offers a more poignant dream: where a complete recovery is completely possible.
Produced by Sir Lew Grade (nicknamed by his detractors as Sir “Low” Grade), this cinematic adaptation of Clive Cussler's best-selling novel died a very quick death in theatres. Banal dialogue and dull plotting pretty much left little else to enjoy, except John Barry's lush, genuinely moving score, and the still-effective raising sequence, capped by the Titanic's long-delayed arrival in New York's harbor, as originally plotted in 1912.
Carlton's Region 2 DVD includes the film's trailer, in its original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio. The film itself has been chopped to 1.66: 1, leaving the main and end credits in the wider ratio. Possibly made for European TV distribution, the transfer is otherwise quite clean, though the print lacks natural skin tones and the kind of clarity DVD viewers have enjoyed with older film releases. “Raise the Titanic” was previously available in full screen NTSC laserdisc versions (and an old RCA CED edition, via Fox), so this British disc is a step up for Titanic fans. The sound mix, while billed as mono, has some surround elements involving ambient effects in a few spots.
For some reason, the people at ITC show no desire to remaster their films from the best available elements. Barry's score was re-recorded for CD because of the complete disappearance of original audio stems, and one wonders what on earth the former theatrical wing of ITC has done with original prints used for the “Raise the Titanic” theatrical engagements. Films like “Saturn 3” may have been class-A blunders, but the existing video transfers are poor versions for the studio's pricey ventures.
Given the huge Titanic cult out there (a fan site at www.raisethetitanic.com offers some vintage promo materials and production factoids), ITC should really take advantage of their back catalogue, and consider a special edition.
Truer aspects of the saga and fictional variations of the Titanic have appeared many times in film and TV movies, including the German In Nacht und Eis (1912), the Danish Atlantis (1913), the multi-lingual sound release Atlantic (1929), the Nazi Titanic [M] (1943), the American soap opera / disaster Titanic [M] (1953), the British A Night to Remember (1958), the ABC TV movie S.O.S. Titanic (1979), Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic (1980), the CBS TV mini-series Titanic (1996), James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), the TV movie Saving the Titanic [M] (2011), the TV mini-series Titanic (2012), and (so far) the 12-part series (!) Titanic: Blood and Steel (2012).
Among the numerous documentaries about the wreck of the Titanic, the most notable include National Geographic’s Secrets of the Titanic (1986), the original 107 minute IMAX film Titanica (1995), and James Cameron’s 3D IMAX epic Ghosts of the Abyss (2003).
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan