DirectorRoy Ward Baker
Release Date(s)1958 (June 29, 2022)
Studio(s)The Rank Organisation (Imprint Films/Via Vision Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor's Note: This is a REGION-FREE Australian Import.]
Despite James Cameron sweeping the Oscars and topping the box office with his version of what happened during the sinking of Titanic, many to this day still consider A Night to Remember to be a more definitive account of the events that took place during that evening. We know far more now about the details of how the ship sank than we did in 1958 when the film was released (nearly thirty years before the ship was actually found), but what A Night to Remember manages to get across successfully is the arrogance and classism of those on board, the creeping dread of what is about to happen to them, and the human drama and self-sacrifice of those who perished.
Director Roy Ward Baker, who would become known mostly for his work in British horror, helmed A Night to Remember, which itself was based upon a book of studies conducted by author Walter Lord. Said book is now considered an invaluable piece of Titanic research because of its attention to detail, which included (at the time) interviewing many of the sunken ships’ still-living survivors. It became the basis for the film, with The Rank Organisation gambling on an expensive venture, which required lavish sets and costumes, as well as unprecedented special effects to tell its story. All of it was constructed under the watchful eye of producer William MacQuitty, who as a six-year-old boy was present when Titanic actually launched. The film was also filled with fresh faces instead of popular actors, which added to the realism, but made it a more difficult selling point when it was sold overseas to other markets, including the US.
For many years, A Night to Remember was considered the final word on the subject, at least on film. That is until 1985 when Naval officer and researcher Robert Ballard finally discovered the watery remains of Titanic. It was found sitting on the ocean floor in two pieces, confirming many survivors’ disregarded testimonies that the ship had split in two before sinking. A Night to Remember obviously did not utilize this, nor was it aware of any of the other information that historians and scientists have uncovered since then, but the performances and the execution of the material remain a high point in the cinematic history of those heartbreakingly tragic events.
A Night to Remember was shot by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth on 35 mm black-and-white Eastman Plus-X 4231 and Tri-X 5233 film using spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Imprint’s Blu-ray release of the film includes the same 2012 ITV restoration that was present on Criterion’s now 10-year-old Blu-ray release (and likely the source for other Blu-ray releases the world over). They’re virtually identical, although the encode is perhaps a minuscule tighter on the Criterion disc, but it really comes down to a minor amount of pixels. The newsreel footage at the beginning is a little rough, but the majority of the presentation is excellent with good contrast and deep blacks. Grain is handled well and detail is potent, especially for a film that takes place primarily at night. Looking at screen captures, it’s clear that both presentations feature the same amount of leftover damage, which includes speckling and scratches, as well as occasional lines running through the frame. Modern restoration tools would likely fix most of these things, but none of it is overly intrusive. It was an impressive restoration in 2012, and though it’s a tad soft with more obvious defects than most modern restorations, it’s still quite good.
Audio is presented in English 2.0 mono LPCM (The Criterion release featured a single channel mono track) with optional subtitles in English SDH. There are a few inconsistencies in the audio, including a couple of minor dropouts (meaning that it was likely patched in places using different sources), but for the most part, the various elements have decent heft. Dialogue exchanges are clear and the score has some nice push. Sound effects are a bit dated, but work well enough.
A Night to Remember on Blu-ray sits in a clear amaray case with an insert featuring new artwork on the front and a still from the film on the inner sleeve. Everything is housed in a slipcase featuring artwork from the original UK poster for the film (which was also used on the Italian daybill and British quad poster). The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by Bruce Hallenbeck
- The Making of A Night to Remember (SD – 57:53)
- A Shoot to Remember: Mike Fox on the Making of A Night to Remember (HD – 25:37)
- Jo Botting on A Night to Remember (HD – 16:15)
- Matthew Sweet on A Night to Remember (HD – 21:02)
- Kim Newman on A Night to Remember (HD – 16:47)
- Trailer #1 (HD – 3:22)
- Trailer #2 (Upscaled SD – 3:48)
- Original Costume Notes (Upscaled SD – 4 in all – :56)
- Press and Publicity Gallery (Upscaled SD – 18 in all – 6:15)
- Behind the Scenes Gallery (Upscaled SD – 19 in all – 3:47)
- Production Gallery (Upscaled SD – 20 in all – 3:33)
Film historian and author Bruce Hallenbeck’s audio commentary offers a very fine collection of information about the film and the cast and crew that made it. He also discusses moments in the film versus what happened in reality. He goes quiet a few times, but it’s an insightful commentary that’s packed with anecdotal knowledge. The Making of A Night to Remember is a 1993 tape-based documentary about how the film came into being. Some will find it a tad slow compared to most modern day documentaries, but those who stick with it will be rewarded with excellent information from several participants, fascinating behind-the-scenes footage, and photos from the making of the film and its premiere. A Shoot to Remember features an interview with one of the film’s clapper loaders, Mike Fox, who shares his memories of the making of the film with clips from the film interspersed in between his comments. Film historian Jo Botting further details the making of the film (though it’s a filmed interview, she sounds very much like she’s reading for a video essay instead.) Film critic Matthew Sweet follows by examining what he feels is the best version of the story, but also makes comparisons to other versions of the story, and delves into sociopolitical aspects of the film and the time period it portrays. Film critic Kim Newman talks about the almost immediate need to film the story, from the silent era to the modern era, while also examining the contents of the film and the public’s obsession with its content. Last are four still galleries containing a total of 61 photos. Not included from the Criterion Blu-ray is the audio commentary with Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, the 1990 interview with Titanic survivor Eva Hart, the En hatt att minnas German TV documentary, and The Iceberg That Sank the Titanic episode of BBC Natural World.
Though a modern restoration of A Night to Remember is likely somewhere in the offing, fans will definitely want to own both the Criterion and Imprint releases for all of the great extras that are included on both discs. Neither release is definitive, but together they work in tandem.
- Tim Salmons