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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, author and illustrator of "Titanic:" An Illustrated History
  • The Making of "A Night to Remember" (1993), a sixty-minute documentary featuring William MacQuitty's rare behind-the-scenes footage
  • Archival interview with Titanic survivor Eva Hart
  • En natt att minas, a forty-five-minute Swedish documentary from 1962 featuring interviews with Titanic survivors
  • Trailer

A Night to Remember

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Roy Baker
Starring: Kenneth More, Honor Blackman, Michael Goodliffe, Kenneth Griffith, David McCallum, Tucker McGuire
1958 | 123 Minutes | Licensor: ITV Global Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #7
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 27, 2012
Review Date: March 26, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

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, A Night to Remember, the acclaimed British director Roy Ward Baker depicts with sensitivity, awe, and a fine sense of tragedy the ship's final hours. Featuring remarkably restrained performances, A Night to Remember is cinema's subtlest, finest dramatization of this monumental twentieth-century catastrophe.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion gives Roy Ward Baker’s A Night to Remember a much needed upgrade on Blu-ray after releasing the film on DVD in 1998 with a non-anamorphic transfer. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc.

The DVD’s transfer was pretty good for what was originally made for laserdisc, despite some obvious limitations, and I had high expectations for this Blu-ray edition that I think were mostly met. There’s some obvious damage remaining, especially heavy in what is obvious stock footage, but is otherwise limited to fine scratches and marks on the left and right sides of the frame. Thankfully they’re not intrusive to one’s viewing and barely call attention to themselves. But as a testament to the clarity of this Blu-ray’s transfer, those scratches, which are very fine, are distinct and clear. The rest of the image is also thankfully just as clear when the source materials allow and it remains very crisp throughout.

I think some boosting has gone on with the contrast. Blacks are pretty deep, which leads to nice nighttime shots, but details are lost in either the dark clothing worn by many or some of the darker interior sequences in the film. Whites also come off a teeny bit over powering as well. Some sharpening has also appeared to have gone on, making what grain is noticeable a bit pixelated in places. Generally, though, it’s a very pleasing image, which marks a vast improvement over the previous DVD edition.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

I found the lossless linear PCM 1.0 mono track very pleasing. Dialogue is sharp and clear, sound effects have some range and power behind them, and there’s no background noise that I found noticeable or distracting. An above average mono track overall.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion carries over everything from their previous 1998 DVD edition (which was a port of their 1995 laserdisc edition of the film.) First is the excellent audio commentary from Titanic experts Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, recorded in 1994, which focuses quite heavily on the accuracy of the film, and what is known about the Titanic. They cover the attention to detail on the sets and characters and even explain the actual people the characters are based on. They nit-pick a bit, pointing out little problems here and there, like the size of life jackets or the appearance of electric heaters in the rooms. They offer plenty of trivia, facts, and share stories (like the fact the captain may have actually been seen later on after the ship sunk). Overall it is a fascinating and informative track. It only touches on the production a bit, and is more than likely a bit dated since it’s almost 20 years old, but for people who are fascinated by the Titanic this is a great track.

Also from the previous edition is the 60-minute long documentary called The Making of A Night to Remember. This rather in-depth documentary from 1993 touches a bit on the history of the ship (producer William MacQuitty shares his childhood memories about seeing the ship launch), the release of the source novel written by Walter Lord (he even participates in an interview,) the making of the film with extensive behind-the-scenes footage, and then information on its release. It’s a surprisingly extensive documentary that manages to cover a lot in its hour, and still adds a lot of value to this edition.

I previously found those two supplements rather solid additions on their own for the DVD edition, but Criterion has stepped up this edition and has packed in even more here. New to this release is a 23-minute archival interview from 1990 with survivor Eva Hart. At the time the only survivor that could recall the incident (as she explains all other survivors were too young to remember the incident or had unfortunately fallen victim to dementia) she tells her story of why she was there and recalls, with an obvious bit of pain, the ship hitting the iceberg (which she recalls as a “bump”) and then how her father, who thankfully was thinking far ahead, got his family to the life boats in time. But she recalls the horrors that happened once everyone else on the ship realized how dire the situation was, and really stresses some of the horrible sounds she heard and still remember to this day. Her account of course puts the events in context and, though maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, eighty-years later she’s still angry over the incident because, as she says, no one should have died: if they had the correct number of lifeboats, for instance, everyone could have gotten off of that ship as it was almost 3 hours before the ship finally sank. She also states things she’s sick of arguing with people about: first that the ship split in two (which had been proven later on) and that the other ship close by (which she believes was the California) was far closer than many said. On top of the tragedy and her own tragic story she talks a bit about the ship as well and the many luxuries it offered, but admits those memories are overshadowed by the tragedy that eventually befell the ship. It’s great getting some sort of firsthand account and Hart, who still has all of her wits, makes it an engaging account. A great addition.

Following this is a Swedish television special that aired in 1962, marking the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. En Natt Att Minnas is a 32-minute program that recalls the tragedy using scenes from A Night to Remember and through interviews with three Scandinavian survivors. The program isn’t particularly impressive overall, as it’s primarily made up of the host talking about the event mixed in with clips from A Night to Remember along with an awkwardly edited reading of a poem based on the tragedy, Karl Apslund’s “The Heroes.” What makes it worthwhile is getting more interviews with some of the survivors. Here one clearly recalls the night in question, while the other two were too young (one recalls fragments while the other, who was just over a year old, doesn’t recall a thing.) Again just the interviews make it a worthwhile supplement.

Finally, after this, comes possibly the oddest, though no less fascinating supplement on the set: a BBC documentary from 2006 called The Iceberg That Sank the “Titanic”. The feature is more of a 49-minute science piece on the formation of icebergs, using the one that struck the Titanic as the basis for an iceberg’s journey. Using computer effects and a rather robust Dolby Surround sound presentation it shows how the iceberg would have formed, how it would have separated and started travelling out to sea (with recent video giving an example as to how the iceberg would have “rolled” its way out,) and then how it would have made its way to cross paths with the ship, all over the course of 15,000 years. Again in reality the piece is more about icebergs and I suspect the focus on the particular one that struck the Titanic was to spur interest in the subject of the documentary when it aired, but even then I found it a rather informative and interesting piece and a nice find on the part of Criterion’s.

And then finally we get the film’s theatrical trailer and a booklet with an essay by Michael Sragow, which is accompanied by many photos and illustrations around the Titanic and its sinking. Sragow also wrote the essay that appeared in the insert for the original DVD edition. Here he has expanded it a great deal (with more about the 1953 melodrama Titanic) but more or less still has some of the same information from the previous essay.

In all Criterion has managed to greatly improve the supplements over their previous DVD edition, which I had found fairly satisfying to begin with. It offers a look at the film’s production and the accuracy of the film in relation to what is known to have occurred that tragic night. Altogether it’s a rather fascinating collection of material to go through.

9/10

CLOSING

Overall it’s a very lovely upgrade over Criterion’s DVD, presenting a cleaner image that will now fill out one’s widescreen television. It also offers some great contextual supplements that are all rather fascinating to go through. It comes with a high recommendation.


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