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A Night to Remember – The Criterion Collection #7 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

As we approach the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of “A Night to Remember” is absolutely magnificent!  Not only does the film look incredible on Blu-ray, there are a number of special features that also make this release quite educational,  informative and worth owning.  “A Night to Remember” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of ©1958 Carlton Film Distributors Limited. 2012 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Night to Remember – The Criterion Collection #7

MOVIE RELEASE: 1958

DURATION: 123 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: B&W, 1:66:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASE DATE: March 27, 2012

Based on the book by Walter Lord

Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Screenplay by Eric Ambler

Executive Producer: Earl St. John

Produced by William MacQuitty

Music by William Alwyn

Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth

Edited by Sidney Hayers

Casting by Weston Drury Jr.

Art Direction by Alex Vetchinsky

Costume Design by Yvonne Caffin

Starring:

Kenneth More as Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller

Ronald Allen as Mr. Clarke

Robert Ayres as Maj. Arthur Peuchen

Honor Blackman as Mrs. Liz Lucas

Anthony Bushell as Capt. Arthur Rostron (Carpathia)

John Cairney as Mr. Murphy

Jill Dixon as Mrs. Clarke

Jan Downs as Mrs. Sylvia Lightoller

James Dyrenforth as Col. Archibald Gracie

Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews

Kenneth Griffith as Wireless Operator John Phillips

Harriette Johns as Lady Richard

Frank Lawton as Chairman J. Bruce Ismay

Richard Leech as First Officer William Murdoch

David McCallum as Assistant Wireless Operator Harold Bride

Alec McCowen as Wireless Operator Harold Thomas Cottam (Carpathia)

Tucker McGuire as Mrs. Margaret Brown

John Merivale as Robbie Lucas

Ralph Michael as Mr. Yates

Laurence Naismith as Capt. Edward John Smith

Russell Napier as Capt. Stanley Lord (Californian)

Redmond Phillips as Mr. Hoyle

George Rose as Chief Baker Charles Joughin

Joseph Tomelty as Dr. William O’Loughlin

Patrick Waddington as Sir Richard

On April 14, 1912, just before midnight, the “unsinkable” Titanic struck an iceberg. In less than three hours, it had plunged to the bottom of the sea, taking with it more than 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers. In his unforgettable render­ing of Walter Lord’s book of the same name, the acclaimed British director Roy Ward Baker depicts with sensitivity, awe, and a fine sense of tragedy the ship’s last hours. Featuring remarkably restrained performances, A Night to Remember is cinema’s subtlest and best dramatization of this monumental twentieth-century catastrophe.

As the world prepares to celebrate the 100th Year Anniversary of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 12th, weeks leading up to the anniversary include National Geographic’s photos of the Titanic as seen in the ocean today, James Cameron prepares to unveil his 3D version of his “Titanic” film and the Criterion Collection will be re-releasing a newly restored version of the classic 1958 film, “A Night to Remember” on Blu-ray and DVD.

“A Night to Remember” is regarded as a film that was made when there were survivors of the Titanic still living and it all was inspired by a film adaptation of Walter Lord’s non-fiction book.

For advertising employee/writer Walter Lord, he has always been fascinated with the RMS Titanic since he was a young child.  In 1955, Lord wrote decided to write a book on the RMS Titanic, the largest ship at its time which hit an iceberg in 1912 and sank.  Of the 2,200+ survivors, over 700 were saved and Lord was able to interview dozens of survivors for his book and the details that took place of what happened during the night of April 14, 1912.

From the time Lord wrote his book, nothing has been written about the Titanic since 1913.  In 1953, there was a melodrama from Twentieth Century Fox titled “Titanic” but Lord, who has always been fascinated by the stories of what happened during the night of April 1912, wanted to prioritize his story of the Titanic on historical documents and first-hand accounts of survivors.  A minute-by-minute record of what happened and not make a drama.

Not long after the book was published, the book received its adaptation and filming began in the United Kingdom with Roy Ward Baker (“Asylum”, “The Monster Club”) taking on the directorial role and a screenplay written by Eric Ambler (“The Cruel Sea”, “The Purple Plain”) and produced by William MacQuitty (“Street Corner”, “The Happy Family”, “The Informers”).

The film crew was very concerned with authenticity that they used the actual blueprints of the Titanic to recreate the sets and survivors such as the Titanic’s fourth officer Joseph Boxhal and ex-cunard Commodore Harry Grattidge worked as technical advisors.  The film premiered in the UK and the US in 1958 and won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Foreign Film” and received mostly all positive reviews from critics.

“A Night to Remember” is a film that doesn’t focus on any primary characters but focuses on what took place on the fateful night the Titanic sunk and over 1,500 died.  The film highlights how people felt they were not in any harm because the Titanic was thought of as unsinkable.

The film features the Titanic’s crew who were happy to be part of major liner and we see how the Titanic had levels for different classes of people on the voyage.  The rich were on top and had a bar, listened to music and gambled.  We see the middle/lower-class people in the middle-deck just enjoying the ride and making their own music.  And then we see the various crew members such as the engineers, the cooks and others who worked at the Titanic doing their job.  But around 30-40 minutes into the movie, then we see what takes place after the RM Titanic hits an iceberg and how the Captain and the creator of the RMS Titanic learned not long after the crash of their fate and how they had an hour and half to evacuate people off the ship.  The problem is that they only had emergency lifeboats that could hold around 1,200 people but there were over 2,200 people onboard the Titanic.

So, we see the evacuation process especially how the crew handled women and children only and we see also see three different settings with the crew and the people of the Titanic but also the crew of the RMS Carpathia (who received the distress call from the crew of the Titanic and came in to rescue any survivors) who received the distress call but were 4 hours away and a ship, the SS Californian (note: During a U.S. senate investigation, an investigation showed that the crew of the Californian were only 19 miles away from the Titanic but the Captain who was asleep at the time when receiving reports did not take action because he did not believe it was the Titanic sending the distress.  The Californian did search for survivors after they learned the Titanic did sink and saw the Carpathia racing into help the survivors.) which were nearby but failed to respond until it was too late.

A few people that were shown throughout the film before the accident are then featured for a short while as we see how they survived (or didn’t survive) the accident and the chaos that ensued during that night.  But like Walter Lord’s book, a film that focuses on the night of April 14, 1912 and the events that took place on the Titanic before and after it hit an iceberg.

VIDEO:

“A Night to Remember” is presented in Black and White (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  Having owned the earlier release of “A Night to Remember”, watching it on Blu-ray was fantastic!  The clarity of the film is absolutely amazing and dare I say, it looks pristine!  You can see details from the clothing to even the captain’s beard, that is how detailed this film looks.  Black levels are nice and deep and the white and grays are exceptionally well-contrasted.   There is no sign of blurring nor does it look aged, like its older Criterion Collection DVD version.

I was blown away as how good this film looks in HD (considering the film is over 50-years old) and obviously, this is the definitive version of the film to own at this time

According to the Criterion Collection, this new high-definition digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRI Laser Scanner from the original 35 mm camera negative, which was restored by the Perivale Archive for ITV Studios Global Entertainment.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and PixelFarm’s PFClean, while Image Systems’ DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The audio for “A Night to Remember” is presented in LPCM monaural. Dialogue and music is absolutely clear and I detected no hiss or any audio problems whatsoever.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A Night to Remember – The Criterion Collection #7″ on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary recorded in 1995 featuring Don Lynch (author) and Ken Marschall (illustrator) of “Titanic-An Ilustrated History”.  The duo talks about differences that were learned from recent discoveries of the Titanic, class distinction on the ship, the Californian controversy, how big a gash was on the site of the Titanic, the decision making of the crew, was their a mass panic?, the survivors that Lynch spoke to and more. A very enjoyable and informative audio commentary for those interested in the Titanic.
  • The Making of “A Night to Remember” - (57:49) The making of “A Night to Remember” with interviews with original author Walter Lord, producer Walter McQuitty about his experiences when he saw the Titanic being built to making the film, the challenges they faced during filming and the success the film received in the UK and the US.
  • Eva Hart: Survivor -  (23:15) A 1990 interview conducted by Ray Johnson with one of the last living survivors who rode the Titanic with her parents, Eva Hart (Hart would pass away in 1996) reminisces of riding on the Titanic and the events leading up to her and her mother being put into a boat.  Hart talks about life after the “Titanic” for her and her mother and her feelings of the Titanic.
  • En Natt Att Minnas – (32:25) A 1962 Swedish special celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic with interviews with a few survivors.
  • The Iceberg That Sank the “Titanic” – (48:41) A BBC Natural World special about the Titanic and how an iceberg would sail so far into the Atlantic and also examining the collision between the Titanic and the iceberg.
  • Trailer – (3:48) The theatrical trailer for “A Night to Remember”.

EXTRAS:

“A Night to Remember – The Criterion Collection #7″ comes with a 24-page booklet with the essay “Nearer, My Titanic, To Thee” by Michael Sragow plus archival photographs.

Back when Criterion Collection released “A Night to Remember”, I remember really wanting to watch this film for so many years and I know that for most people, they tend to compare the 1958 film “A Night to Remember” and the 1997 film “Titanic” and debate which film was better.  Personally, I enjoyed James Cameron’s t“Titanic” when it was first released in theaters and watched it multiple times.   And having watched “A Night to Remember”, I equally enjoyed it.

These are two films about the sinking of the RMS Titanic but in essence, they are two different films.

With James Cameron having modern technology at the time, and a film with the duration of 3 hours, not to mention an incredible amount of money budgeted to make the film, the film is more romantic as Cameron’s film focused on two people who meet, fall in love while riding the Titanic.  But most impressively, the use of technology of the time to showcase the actual accident and splitting of the Titanic.

With that being said, “A Night to Remember” was an incredible film when it was released.  A film that would incorporate actual footage of the Titanic from 1912 to detailed information from the survivors, nothing like it had been done ever before.  In fact, Before Walter Lord wrote his book, there was nothing written about the Titanic in over 40-years since 1912.

There was a melodrama film titled “Titanic” in 1953 but Lord captured in his book a minute-by-minute detail courtesy of the survivors he spoke to and the documents he was able to obtain.  “A Night to Remember” used the actual blueprints of the Titanic as well.  The film was not much about the characters but the ship and the people who were on the Titanic, the Carpathia and the Californian.

The film that would pay respects to those who perished but also to acknowledge the positive that came out of this accident, in terms of rules and regulations and acknowledging that there was quite amount of human error that led to the Titanic’s sinking.  Warnings of icebergs that were not followed up on, a ship nearby who saw the emergency rockets but didn’t take action until hours after the ship had sunk and a ship four hours away that came, although the damage was done and there were an incredible number of people who lost their lives.

It’s obvious that James Cameron’s big budget film may have been inspired by “A Night to Remember” as certain scenes tend to have some resemblance.  But for the most part, the two films are quite different from one another.

“Titanic” focused more on the dramatic aspect and then using modern special effects of the sinking/breaking of the Titanic while “A Night to Remember” focused on the Titanic and its crew and people who were trying to survive, escape or just accepted their fate as well as the crew of the Carpathia and Californian. While the special effects were solid for a film at that time and acting was very well done, what I enjoyed about “A Night to Remember” is that it doesn’t try to focus on a few characters, everyone on the ship is part of the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned in my review of the video portion, I was in awe of how pristine this film looks.  Compare this to the older Criterion Collection DVD and while that DVD was good, it does look of a film made in 1958.   Watch this new restoration and it looks incredible!  You can see the detail of clothes, the ship, the hair on the captain’s beard to even the glimmer of ice from the iceberg that had fallen on the ship.    The Blu-ray of the film features so much detail and the film looks so good (considering it is over 50-years-old) that I was very impressed.

Also, unlike the original DVD which included commentary and the making of, “A Night to Remember” on Blu-ray includes a 1990 interview with survivor Eva Hart, a Swedish 50th Anniversary Titanic special ala “En Natt Att Minnas” and also a BBC Natural Worlds special on the Titanic and the iceberg. The included booklet with archived photos is also a wonderful addition and quite simply, this is the definitive version of “A Night to Remember” that people should own!

Overall, as we approach the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of “A Night to Remember” is absolutely magnificent!  Not only does the film look incredible on Blu-ray, there are a number of special features that also make this release quite educational,  informative and worth owning.

“A Night to Remember” is highly recommended!

A Night to Remember – The Criterion Collection #7 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 13, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Before James Cameron’s “Titanic” was the 1958 film “A Night to Remember”.  Without the dramatic aspects, the film is an adaptation of Walter Lord’s book which was a minute-by-minute description of what took place on the night of April 12, 1912.  Riveting and impressive for a film created over 50-years-ago, “A Night to Remember” is definitely a Criterion Collection release worth watching!

Image courtesy of © The Rank Organisation Film Production Ltd, 1998 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Night to Remember – The Criterion Collection #7

DURATION: 123 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and white, monaraul, English

COMPANY: Janus Films, The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: 1998

Based on the book by Walter Lord

Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Screenplay by Eric Ambler

Executive Producer: Earl St. John

Produced by William MacQuitty

Music by William Alwyn

Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth

Edited by Sidney Hayers

Casting by Weston Drury Jr.

Art Direction by Alex Vetchinsky

Costume Design by Yvonne Caffin

Starring:

Kenneth More as Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller

Ronald Allen as Mr. Clarke

Robert Ayres as Maj. Arthur Peuchen

Honor Blackman as Mrs. Liz Lucas

Anthony Bushell as Capt. Arthur Rostron (Carpathia)

John Cairney as Mr. Murphy

Jill Dixon as Mrs. Clarke

Jan Downs as Mrs. Sylvia Lightoller

James Dyrenforth as Col. Archibald Gracie

Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews

Kenneth Griffith as Wireless Operator John Phillips

Harriette Johns as Lady Richard

Frank Lawton as Chairman J. Bruce Ismay

Richard Leech as First Officer William Murdoch

David McCallum as Assistant Wireless Operator Harold Bride

Alec McCowen as Wireless Operator Harold Thomas Cottam (Carpathia)

Tucker McGuire as Mrs. Margaret Brown

John Merivale as Robbie Lucas

Ralph Michael as Mr. Yates

Laurence Naismith as Capt. Edward John Smith

Russell Napier as Capt. Stanley Lord (Californian)

Redmond Phillips as Mr. Hoyle

George Rose as Chief Baker Charles Joughin

Joseph Tomelty as Dr. William O’Loughlin

Patrick Waddington as Sir Richard

On April 14, 1912, just before midnight, the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg. In less than three hours, it had plunged to the bottom of the sea, taking with it 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers. A Night to Remember depicts the ship’s final hours in an unforgettable rendering of Walter Lord’s book of the same name. Now, aficionados of this terrific film can compare it to the facts with Criterion’s special edition, which features screen-specific commentary by Titanic experts Don Lynch and Ken Marschall.

For advertising employee/writer Walter Lord, he has always been fascinated with the RMS Titanic since he was a young child.  In 1955, Lord wrote a non-fiction book on the RMS Titanic, the largest ship at its time which hit an iceberg in 1912 and sank.  Of the 2,200+ survivors, over 700 were saved and Lord was able to interview dozens of survivors for his book and the details that took place of what happened during the night of April 14, 1912.

From the time Lord wrote his book, nothing has been written about the Titanic since 1913.  In 1953, there was a melodrama from Twentieth Century Fox titled “Titanic” but Lord, who has always been fascinated by the stories of what happened during the night of April 1912, wanted to prioritize his story of the Titanic on historical documents and first-hand accounts of survivors.  A minute-by-minute record of what happened and not make a drama.

Not long after the book was published, the book received its adaptation and filming began in the United Kingdom with Roy Ward Baker (“Asylum”, “The Monster Club”) taking on the directorial role and a screenplay written by Eric Ambler (“The Cruel Sea”, “The Purple Plain”) and produced by William MacQuitty (“Street Corner”, “The Happy Family”, “The Informers”).

The film crew was very concerned with authenticity that they used the actual blueprints of the Titanic to recreate the sets and survivors such as the Titanic’s fourth officer Joseph Boxhal and ex-cunard Commodore Harry Grattidge worked as technical advisors.  The film premiered in the UK and the US in 1958 and won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Foreign Film” and received mostly all positive reviews from critics.

“A Night to Remember” is a film that doesn’t focus on any primary characters but focuses on what took place on the fateful night the Titanic sunk and over 1,500 died.  The film highlights how people felt they were not in any harm because the Titanic was thought of as unsinkable.

The film features the Titanic’s crew who were happy to be part of major liner and we see how the Titanic had levels for different classes of people on the voyage.  The rich were on top and had a bar, listened to music and gambled.  We see the middle/lower-class people in the middle-deck just enjoying the ride and making their own music.  And then we see the various crew members such as the engineers, the cooks and others who worked at the Titanic doing their job.  But around 30-40 minutes into the movie, then we see what takes place after the RM Titanic hits an iceberg and how the Captain and the creator of the RMS Titanic learned not long after the crash of their fate and how they had an hour and half to evacuate people off the ship.  The problem is that they only had emergency lifeboats that could hold around 1,200 people but there were over 2,200 people onboard the Titanic.

So, we see the evacuation process especially how the crew handled women and children only and we see also see three different settings with the crew and the people of the Titanic but also the crew of the RMS Carpathia (who received the distress call from the crew of the Titanic and came in to rescue any survivors) who received the distress call but were 4 hours away and a ship, the SS Californian (note: During a U.S. senate investigation, an investigation showed that the crew of the Californian were only 19 miles away from the Titanic but the Captain who was asleep at the time when receiving reports did not take action because he did not believe it was the Titanic sending the distress.  The Californian did search for survivors after they learned the Titanic did sink and saw the Carpathia racing into help the survivors.) which were nearby but failed to respond until it was too late.

A few people that were shown throughout the film before the accident are then featured for a short while as we see how they survived (or didn’t survive) the accident and the chaos that ensued during that night.  But like Walter Lord’s book, a film that focuses on the night of April 14, 1912 and the events that took place on the Titanic before and after it hit an iceberg.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“A Night to Remember” is featured in Black and White.  For the most part, the 1958 film actually looks very good for the majority of the scenes.  Some close-up scenes show its age and show the most dust and scratches.   According to The Criterion Collection, “A Night to Remember” is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1:66:1.  The digital transfer was created from a 35mm composite fine grain master.  Granted restoration was done back in 1998, so as we have seen with what the Criterion was able to accomplish with their 1998 “Seven Samurai” release and their 2006 re-release, if Criterion chooses to re-release it, I have no doubt that we would see much more detail and a more pristine film.

But for the most part, the film does look good for being a film over 50-years-old.  After being spoiled with James Cameron’s 1997 “Titanic” film, I was a bit skeptical to see how the special effects of the recreation of the Titanic would look but to my surprise, the chaotic view of the boats moving away from the Titanic was actually well-created.  Of course, the destruction and breaking at the center did not happen in this film (if I recall, more was learned of the Titanic and how it sunk was learned once the wreckage was discovered in the mid-80′s) but there is a fair amount of destruction featured in “A Night to Remember”.

The audio is featured in Dolby Digital, Monaraul. The film is center channel driven but for those with modern home theater receivers that can send sound to all channels, will probably prefer that audio setting (which I did).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

A Night to Remember” contains the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary recorded in 1995 featuring Don Lynch (author) and Ken Marschall (illustrator) of “Titanic-An Ilustrated History”.  The duo talks about differences that were learned from recent discoveries of the Titanic, class distinction on the ship, the Californian controversy, how big a gash was on the site of the Titanic, the decision making of the crew, was their a mass panic?, the survivors that Lynch spoke to and more. A very enjoyable and informative audio commentary for those interested in the Titanic.
  • The Making of “A Night to Remember” - (57:49) The making of “A Night to Remember” with interviews with original author Walter Lord, producer Walter McQuitty about his experiences when he saw the Titanic being built to making the film, the challenges they faced during filming and the success the film received in the UK and the US.
  • Theatrical Trailer -  (3:18) The original theatrical trailer.
  • 4-page Insert – (1:42) The insert features a three-page writeup by Michael Sragow (reviewer for SF Weekly and formerly of the New Yorker) about “A Night to Remember” and the crew behind the film.

I have been wanting to watch this film for so many years and I know that for most people, they tend to compare the 1958 film “A Night to Remember” and the 1997 film “Titanic” and which film was better.  Personally, I loved the “Titanic” when it was first released in theaters and watched it multiple times.

But of course, the two films are different.  With James Cameron having modern technology at the time, 3 hours, an incredible amount of money to make the film and most of all, focusing on the characters and a dramatic film that would become one the highest earning films of all time.   But with that being said, “A Night to Remember” was an incredible film when it was released.  A film that would incorporate actual footage of the Titanic from 1912 to detailed information from the survivors, nothing like it had been done ever before.  In fact, Before Walter Lord wrote his book, there was nothing written about the Titanic in over 40-years since 1912.

There was a melodrama film titled “Titanic” in 1953 but Lord captured in his book a minute-by-minute detail courtesy of the survivors he spoke to and the documents he was able to obtain.  “A Night to Remember” used the actual blueprints of the Titanic as well.  The film was not much about the characters but the ship and the people who were on the Titanic, the Carpathia and the Californian.  A film that would pay respects to those who perished but also to acknowledge the positive that came out, in terms of rules and regulations and acknowledging that there was quite amount of human error that led to the Titanic’s sinking.  Warnings of icebergs that were not followed up on, a ship nearby who saw the emergency rockets but didn’t take action until hours after the ship had sunk and a ship four hours away that came, although the damage was done and there were an incredible number of people who lost their lives.

It’s obvious that James Cameron was inspired by “A Night to Remember” as certain scenes did make it to his film.  But for the most part, the two films are quite different from one another.  Again, “Titanic” focused more on the dramatic aspect and then using modern special effects of the sinking/breaking of the Titanic while “A Night to Remember” focused on the Titanic and its crew and people who were trying to survive, escape or just accepted their fate as well as the crew of the Carpathia and Californian. Special effects were solid for a film at that time and acting was very well done.  “A Night to Remember” was a very good film and I was very impressed!

As mentioned in the video and audio portion, this is an older DVD release from 1998 and The Criterion Collection restoration and remastering has evolved greatly since then.  With a few of their single digit titles earning a re-release (such as “The Lady Vanishing”, “Amarcord” and “The Seven Samurai”), its unfortunate that “A Night to Remember” has not be re-released yet, especially with a good number of documentaries on the Titanic that have since aired after this film’s release on DVD.  But the DVD release does have a pretty awesome commentary track and an informative featurette included in this early Criterion Collection release.  If you can find this DVD for a great deal, I definitely recommend checking it out!

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