It's "The Titanic Adventure", but unlike "Poseidon", this really happened. I guess that's why they couldn't get Ernest Borgnine for this film; too many painful memories from when he was rescued from the actual Titanic, back when he was in his 50s. It truly was a night to remember, even if you are slipping into senility, something Mr. Borgnine is certainly not slipping into, because if that disaster couldn't kill him, then there's no way alzheimer's is gonna take him out. Wow, I am going the distance with this bogus joke about Ernest Bornine being old enough to have actually been on the Titanic, and, as I said, he's not even in this film. I guess I have to reach for some kind of reference to a star, because, with the exception of Sean Conney, who made some random cameo somewhere in the film, the people in this are such unknowns that, for a seconds there, I thought that they had died in an actual recreation of the Titanic sinking. Of course, then I heard the dialogue, and it quickly hit me that this is anything but authentic pandemonium, because I doubt that they would be knocking out terrible snap-liners during pure, horrifying disaster. Hey, that doesn't make the film any less exciting, partially because the film couldn't get any less exciting. No, the film does really hit some high points in tension, but if you want some consistency in those thrills aboard the Titanic, then wait about 39 years, because as enjoyable as this film is, it's not without its slip-ups.
The film slips a bit from the get-go, rushing atmospheric exposition and pumping out steam, which already found itself diluted by under informative, yet still overlong and repetitive openings for our leads. The film goes immediately underdeveloped and immediately disengaging, but something that is most certainly not immediate is the film's picking up. The film is slow and loose, limply procrastinating, which isn't to say that I wanted them to waste no time in throwing us in the middle of emotional terror before we had even established resonance with the situation, because at that point, it would have been spectacle over substance, but it is to say that the film makes ends meet with dry padding. For the padded-out length, to even the poor dialogue, so much of the substance feels so artificial, and sure, I understand that's how they rolled in the '50s, even in the final years of the era, but that's still no real excuse, partially because it throws some mild inconsistency in the intellegence of the film. The film boasts historical accuracy and ambition, but its substance goes diluted, due to its usage of forced charm and over meditation on characters as cheap substitutes for exposition. It's a false, overlong, lifeless bore of a disaster that could rival the actual Titanic sinking... but enough about "Eyes Wide Shut". Seriously though, this film certainly stands to be better, but it could have fallen so spectacularly flat, as well, yet it goes saved by its ultimately prevailing moments of genuine effectiveness, largely spawned from effective production values.
Now, don't go expecting these production designs to be the 1950s practical equivalent of Jim Cameron's later-to-arrive digital recreation of the sinking, but do expect some pretty impressive usage of the, as Wikipedia put it, "modest" production values. The reconstruction of the Titanic's rooms and exterior are pretty dead-on, and when things start sinking, shaking and falling apart at the seams, you feel it; maybe not all the time, but when things go down, they really hit, and part of that effectiveness lays in the quality of the build-up. Sure, maybe the film takes a little bit too long with the pre-pandemonium, but when push comes to shove, while the film doesn't quite deliver terribly sharply on the emotional aspects of the disaster, it certainly gives you a sense of tension, really playing up the accuracies to hit you, though not bear down and manipulate you. As cheesy as the writing is, the early stages of the colorful characters and story charm you, and as things begin to bash down, you see a lot of characters shift and do things that really catch you offguard. Again, if exposition was sharper, and writing with it, then things would have really hit with more subtlety, but as it stands, the film keeps you going through the slow and wakes you up when things get heavy. Its charm resides within its workmanlike moments, but its style and tension reside in the moments where the limited resources find themselves used to great effect, and while the film won't stick with you terribly thoroughly, it is still rather "a film to remember". Yup, all of that repetition, just to get to a joke about the title; but hey it's still a pretty decent movie anyways.
At the end of this night, limited exposition and padding dull down a film tainted by shoddy writing and bit of a shortage on emotion, but the film boasts enough charm throughout the more relaxed moments to keep you going, and when disaster comes into play, the sharp production and authenticity power the intrigue and tension that help in making "A Night to Remember" a generally impacing and interesting classic study on the final hours of the "Unsinkable" Ship.
2.5/5 - Fair