I stumbled across [i]The Last Voyage[/i] (1960) on one of those all-movie cable networks. This old movie is about the luxury liner [i]SS Claridon[/i] and the disaster the befalls it. Yes, this is about a dozen years before [i]The Poseidon Adventure[/i] and that was the thing that first drew me to it.
The movie really held my interest...probably for the following reasons:
1) it's only 91 minutes long and the movie appears to run in "real time"...i.e. everything occurs in about an hour and a half. Essentially the movie starts with things quickly going sour on the ship.
2) there's no music. The tension is basically what you see.
3) the short time limits the melodrama to basically Robert Stack trying to save his wife played by Dorothy Malone, who's trapped under a bulkhead and is likely to drown (will he save her?...).
4) Unlike movies such as [i]Titanic[/i], the previously noted [i]Poseidon Adventure[/i], and the recent [i]Poseidon[/i], this movie used a real luxury liner: [i]S.S. Ile de France[/i]. Apparently, this ship was sold for scrap and the new owners leased it to the movie guys. Most of the movie was filmed on this thing and it really added to the realism. They even flooded the front compartments in shallow water to mimic the sinking ship. Throw in a few 1960's era special effects and the result was quite effective. Apparently, they won a special effects Oscar.
5) neat photography...many interesting angles and camera tracking that captured the luxury of the ship, its size, and the ongoing disaster. There was one scene where the front of the ship is going under water and the last people on board are running towards the back, with the water at their feet. The camera is tracking backwards ahead of them at deck level...water splashing on the camera as it goes. I found it really, really neat.
I wouldn't call it a "classic" but it's worth catching. I'm giving it a "7" for being a bit different, realistic (by using a real ship), and for pioneering the modern marine disaster flick.