Movie Review: A Night to Remember (1958)

Not many movies involving scenes of high technology from the 1950’s hold up to today, but A Night to Remember is one of them. Regardless of what anyone says, this film is the best movie ever made about the sinking of the Titanic. Watch this movie before viewing James Cameron’s 1997 award-winning epic Titanic, and you can clearly see which scenes Cameron stole from Roy Ward Baker; some matching almost identically. No one will be able to top Cameron’s use of special effects in his version of the story, but a cheesy and predictable love story between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet ruined it all.

From beginning to end, A Night to Remember enthralls the audience with superb set recreations of the inside of the Titanic, and the special effects crew’s use of a massive 35-foot model to stand in for the ship at distance shots. You really cannot tell what is a model, and what was the enormous set built in London.

Baker, the director, actually had the set built to lift off at an angle and the creaking noises this made can actually be heard in the movie as Andrews, the ship’s architect, calmly stands holding onto a fireplace mantle as the ship gradually slides under the ocean. Because this sound effect came naturally, and wasn’t added in post-production, it gave a true sense of realism and terror that no other version of the doomed ship has been able to match.

But what stands out most of all in this film is the actions of the characters as they are about to die. The director clearly shows several of the ultra-wealthy men who face death in an all too dignified manner. As Andrews approaches the character of Benjamin Guggenheim, he asks why he isn’t wearing a life jacket and the elderly gentleman responds, “It was uncomfortable. We have dressed now in our best, and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” In this me-first society, I think every teenager in America should be forced to watch this movie at least once.

Over all, I really enjoyed this movie. I watched it tonight for the first time since I was a kid and owned the VHS tape (don’t know whatever happened to that). Anyway, I will rate this a 8 out of 10 because of the way the characters were portrayed and the surprisingly terrific set decoration and special effects. My only gripe with this film is that they show the ship going down in one piece, which we all know wasn’t the case because it split in two near the center. But I will give them a pass because the technology they had available in 1958 probably was not up to par to do this realistically.

For anyone looking to purchase this DVD, please spend the extra money and get the Criterion Collection version. As you read my reviews on here you will see that I swear by what this company does with old movies, by way of restoring them so that people today can appreciate them today. There is a problem, though. Apparently, there are many Japanese knock-offs trying to pass themselves off as Criterion editions. Please take note that the Criterion version of this film (pictured above) shows the back-end of the ship lifting off the water with a passenger jumping out. The title of the film is at the top. There are no tag-lines, cast members, or additional writing of any kind, so if you see this, you are not buying a legitimate disc.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: A Night to Remember (1958)

  1. Rob J

    The first “disaster” film and one of the best of its’ kind.

    The five decades since its’ original release has done nothing to diminish
    its’ powerful impact. The 1997 version may have a bigger budget, but it is ultimately a study in overblown crassness. There are many memorable scenes in “A Night To Remember”, especially Wallace Hartley’s dignified performance of “Nearer To Thee, My God” with his fellow musicans knowing that they all will die.

    Beg,steal or borrow.

  2. Tirano

    The vessel broke in two because it was only discovered in 1985. Before that, we did not know the break. Reports that it happened, were discarded.

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