Starring: Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Wagner
Director: Jean Negulesco
Running Time: 98 mins
Titanic is an American film about an upper class man who boards the luxury ocean liner RMS Titanic at the last minute, in an attempt to win back his wife who, frustrated with the British way of life, wants to return to America and raise her children there. However, all of those on board are unaware of the dangers on the ‘unsinkable’ ship.
It may sound dumb, but I suppose the difference between this film and James Cameron’s Titanic proves how much of an impact modern special effects can have on a film. I don’t want to make too many comparisons between the two pretty dissimilar movies, but this film more often than not feels dull and stale, when it should be bringing great excitement and drama to the screen in an epic tale.
Before I get into the biggest issues with this film, let’s start on the positive side. Given the true story’s fame, the Titanic’s sinking doesn’t really constitute a spoiler, so I want to talk about how well the film’s final act, centring on the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ vessel, worked.
Again, it’s not quite the same spectacle as the 1997 film, but it does do a good job with very limited special effects. The final act of this film is without a doubt the only time when I felt any great emotional impact from the story, and it does well to hammer that home in a couple of genuinely devastating scenes, directed brilliantly by Jean Negulesco for extra emotional impact.
Beyond the excitement and drama of the final act, there’s not too much that really makes this film a great watch. What’s worst of all is its horrific pacing (oddly similar to Cameron’s Titanic), spending 1 hour and 7 minutes looking solely at the family relationship that kicks the story off, and then only giving half an hour to the real drama and excitement that is the main attraction of the movie.
Put simply, I was bored throughout the majority of this movie. For the first two acts, the acting isn’t particularly convincing, the story doesn’t generate enough emotional drama for me to really care (and that does lessen the overall impact come the sinking), and what’s more is that the film feels like a totally average period drama that has nothing to do with the Titanic.
The story may have been dull, but I’m sure it could have been rescued if the film paid a little more attention to the actual setting – out on the high seas on a luxury cruise liner – but instead, the first hour of this film feels like it could have been set anywhere, and makes a very unsatisfying watch for a film called ‘Titanic’.
Overall, I was disappointed by Titanic. James Cameron’s movie proved that the story can make a compelling watch, but the excessive amount of time spent on a very uninteresting familial story made the film a great drag, even if its final act did salvage a degree of excitement and drama, and that’s why it gets a 5.7 from me.