Facts and Figures
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Titanic (1953) Review
For those of you interested in a historical retelling of the Titanic disaster won't find it here; like Cameron, director Jean Negulesco puts a family drama on the boat. It may as well take place in a flat in London: Woman (Barbara Stanwyck) is taking the kids to America in order to escape deadbeat dad (Clifton Webb). Only dad shows up unexpectedly on the boat and causes all sorts of havoc with his overbearing ways, gambling, and general obnoxiousness.
It's a 90 minute film, and the iceberg rears up only a half-hour before the finale. For it's era, the special effects (all miniatures) are quite good, though there's not much sense of tragedy generated: The ship sinks very quickly, a voice-over tells us how many people survived. The end. Again, it's not so much about the ship, it's about whether Webb's dad will make amends before she goes down. It's a film from the 1950s, so you can use your imagination as to how it turns out.
The 1953 Titanic stands nonetheless as a fair enough entry into the mini-genre of Titanic-based films. It's reached a level of fame (notably due to the effects and an inexplicable Oscar for Best Writing), so much so that the new DVD release offers two commentary tracks, one of which (by film critic Richard Schickel) is some of the most banal droning I've ever heard. Watch the film or don't -- just skip the commentary.