A Night to Remember (1958)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Disaster Film  |   Run Time - 123 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mark Deming

This brisk and skillfully executed screen adaptation of Walter Lord's bestseller about the disastrous maiden voyage of the Titanic lacks the romantic appeal of James Cameron's later blockbuster, but it's in many ways a superior examination of how and why the tragedy occurred. In a grim but not morbid approach, director Roy Ward Baker looks at both the human side of this story, offering a emotionally potent look at the handful who survived and the many who did not, and the nuts and bolts behind the shipwreck, explaining (as Cameron's film did not) just why the Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable and how these same qualities ended up working against the ship. Baker's pacing, swift but never rushed, gives the film a crisp, almost documentary feel (the realistic atmosphere is aided immeasurably by Geoffrey Unsworth's splendid camerawork), and he draws fine performances from his cast, especially Kenneth More as second-in-command Herbert Lightoller and Laurence Naismith as the doomed Captain Smith. A Night to Remember was one of the best films from the under-appreciated Baker, who also made the Marilyn Monroe vehicle Don't Bother to Knock and the mind-bending sci-fi classic Quatermass and the Pit.