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Criterion offers up a sensationally accomplished DVD edition of a Titanic movie that is so-so at best....
Criterion / 123 Minutes / 1958 / Unrated / Street Date: March 27, 2012
I don't mean to totally give away the ending here, but things don't end well for the Titanic. Released just in time for the 100th anniversary of the ship's demise (she stopped floating on April 14, 1912), A Night to Remember is a supposedly accurate and dynamic interpretation of the vessels final hours and the folks whose fates rode along with her. Melancholy, brutal, and often downright sad, A Night to Remember isn't exactly a gritty or particularly realistic piece of filmmaking, but it definitely lends a sense of historical import to this occasion in a uniquely dramatic way.
Following interweaving storylines focusing on passengers and officers on the ship, A Night to Remember offers a heady sense of impending doom, even with its lighter moments. Based on Walter Lord's book, this version of the Titanic tale doesn't rest on the romance of James Cameron's more recent film (have you heard of that one?), instead attempting to keep a clear-minded perspective on the melodrama on-screen.
What ends up being the case, though, is that this strident take on the events during the Titanic's last dance becomes positively leaden. Neither histrionic in a campy, old-fashioned way nor excitingly naturalistic, A Night to Remember is a deftly designed, lovingly decorated bore. The gravitas of the loss of life that comes with the film's finale remains tough to swallow - 2,200 passengers boarded Titanic, 700 were rescued - but there's nothing fascinatingly savvy or significant about the way the story is told here.
Criterion has made significant efforts with the film on multiple occasions - it released both a LaserDisc and DVD edition of the movie before this one - so the fact that A Night to Remember has finally arrived on CC Blu-ray isn't particularly surprising, but it's also not exactly thrilling. This standard-def edition of the picture (a Blu-ray incarnation is also available) offers the movie with audio/video quality it has likely never known since its runs in cinemas, and there are new bonuses included to round out its presence as a legit addition to the Criterion pantheon, but as craftsmanlike and well-constructed as this movie might be, it doesn't offer the pure sheen of a bona fide classic.