That up­lift­ing sink­ing feel­ing

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

THERE IS some­thing dis­tinctly creepy about the eu­pho­ria sur­round­ing the centenary “cel­e­bra­tions” of the launch and sub­mer­sion of RMS Ti­tanic. Much of Belfast has been re­zoned as a White Star theme park. On ITV, Ju­lian Fel­lows has brought the Down­ton Abbey sen­si­bil­ity – touched fore­locks to­wards the class sys­tem – to the story. Didn’t 1,500 peo­ple die in the dis­as­ter?

Any­way, the an­niver­sary has al­lowed a re-re­lease of the best film made about the ship’s sad maiden voy­age. No, not that thing with chip­munk-face and the world’s grand­est girl next door. It’s Roy Ward Baker’s charm­ing and mov­ing adap­ta­tion of Wal­ter Lord’s de­fin­i­tive book on the sub­ject.

Re­leased in 1958, A Night to Re­mem­ber is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of brown-gravy Bri­tish film-mak­ing at its stur­di­est and most un­shak­able. This is not meant as crit­i­cism. Though not at home to showy dis­plays of ex­trav­a­gance, the film is packed with ac­tors you know but can’t quite put a name to, de­liv­er­ing pro­fes­sion­ally ro­bust per­for­mances. The great Lau­rence Nai­smith is ro­bust as Cap­tain Ed­ward J Smith. The ver­sa­tile Michael Goodliffe plays the ship’s builder. The peren­ni­ally ec­cen­tric Ken­neth Grif­fith plays a ra­dio op­er­a­tor.

Quite sen­si­bly, the film-mak­ers chose to fo­cus on a gal­lant se­nior of­fi­cer who – with­out cast­ing any in­fants from the lifeboat – man­aged to sur­vive the sink­ing. Ken­neth More plays Charles Lightholler with all the tweedy in­tegrity we ex­pect from that lik­able ac­tor. De­spite the ris­ing water all around, Ken makes us feel strangely op­ti­mistic through­out.

It is, as we’ve shown, easy to be snide about such stiff-up­per-lip en­ter­tain­ments. Ward Baker steers clear of the chilly un­ease he brought to so many Ham­mer hor­ror films. But A Night to Re­mem­ber, de­spite be­ing shot in a Ruis­lip swim­ming pool, re­mains the most ac­cu­rate and rig­or­ous ex­am­i­na­tion of the well-worn story.

James Cameron him­self has al­ways spo­ken very highly of it. That must count as some sort of rec­om­men­da­tion.

irish­times.com/cul­ture

A Night to Re­mem­ber: James Cameron likes it, you know Di­rected by Roy Ward Baker. Star­ring Ken­neth More, Ron­ald Allen, Robert Ayres, Honor Black­man, Lau­rence Nai­smith, Ken­neth Grif­fith, Michael Goodliffe, David Mc­cal­lum, An­drew Keir

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