(director: Roy Ward Baker; screenwriters: Eric Ambler/book by Walter Lord; cinematographer: Geoffrey Unsworth; editor: Sidney Hayers; music:William Alwyn; cast: Kenneth More (Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller), Jane Downs (Mrs. Lightoller), David McCallum (Harold Bride), Honor Blackman (Mrs. Liz Lucas), Anthony Bushell (Capt. Rostron), Alec McCowan (Wireless Operator Harold Thomas Cottam), Ronald Allen (Mr. Clarke), Jill Dixon (Mrs. Clarke), Robert Ayres (Maj. Arthur Peuchen), Harriette Johns (Lady Richard), James Dyrenforth (Col. Gracie), Kenneth Griffith (Phillips), Frank Lawton (Chairman J. Bruce Ismay), Laurence Naismith (Capt. Edward John Smith), Patrick Waddington (Sir Richard), Richard Leech (William Murdoch), Michael Goodliffe (Thomas Andrews); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; William MacQuitty: The Rank Organization/Criterion; 1958-UK-B/W-in English, Russian, Polish, German, Italian)

If you want to rate disaster movies, this is one of the better ones even with no stars and not a big Hollywood budget.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The film is shot in B/W, in England, in a documentary style. It’s based on Walter Lord’s popular 1955 non-fiction book, A Night to Remember. It recounts in a straight-forward way the sailing of the Titanic, billed as the “unsinkable ship” and its inevitable maiden voyage, where it sailed from Southampton, England to NYC. In the North Atlantic waters, at the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, after 4 days on the sea, on April 14, 1912, just before midnight, it hit an iceberg and in three hours sunk to the bottom of the sea, as 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers, who came from a wide range of countries, perished. An event that sent shock waves around the world.

It was filmed in great length and in great detail, with marvelous sets and with captivating photography by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth. It was made before the discovery of the wreck in 1985 by the outstanding Brit director Roy Ward Baker (“Asylum”/”Don’t Bother To Knock”), known for his Hammer Horror films, who directs it with a sense of great tension and with a great sensitivity, while Eric Ambler writes the intelligent screenplay by fully playing out both the horrors of the tragedy and the political implications of the catastrophe. Ambler also includes the human drama and comedy aboard the ill-fated voyage and the arduous rescue attempt (including the ship’s inability to contact another ship hidden in the nearby mist).

The passengers include in the First Class the rich and famous (who fully experience the ship’s lavish surroundings), while in the lower decks there are many emigrants from Ireland and Eastern Europe cramped together in the Third Class.

For its first Atlantic crossing, Captain 
Edward Smith (Laurence Naismith) and his Second Officer Charles Lightoller (Kenneth More)–who survived and was a Naval hero during the First & Second World Wars– are the officers in charge. At the time, ships usually rested at night, but the ship’s owners, the White Star Liner and its Chairman, Bruce Ismay (Frank Lawton), urges the Captain to break the speed record by racing at night through the icy waters. While the ship’s architect Thomas Andrews (Michael Goodliffe), gets a big head from all the praise he receives, and works on improvements for the next voyage.

There were other Titanic versions, all were terrible. They include James Cameron’s Titanic (1997). It was at the time the highest grossing picture in movie history, but was a much inferior one. This version was well-researched, well-crafted and more entertaining, it only lacked the splendid and expensive CGI special effects of the Cameron blockbuster. And even more inferior Titanic version was the slick Hollywood  one with a star-filled cast, in 1953, that starred Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb. If you want to rate disaster movies, this is one of the better ones even with no stars and not a big Hollywood budget.