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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Night to Remember adheres more closely to the actual event than the better-known Hollywood depiction of the Titanic disaster. Filmed in near real-time to the actual disaster, many characters begin to realize that the odds of surviving are slim at best, and impending death is faced in many different manners. Also, characters are often seen smoking and drinking as they spend time in the lavish dining area or prepare to face death.
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What's the story?
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER is a 1958 film about the RMS Titanic's sinking in April of 1912. Made in England and based on a well-researched book of the same name by Walter Lord, the film shows in near-real time (only 37 minutes shorter than the actual event) the crew and passengers' myriad reactions as the ship sinks. Extraordinary bravery, stoic heroism, and numerous speculations are given full treatment, and even as everyone familiar with history (or the James Cameron film) knows how this will end, A Night to Remember is, ultimately, a testament to the valor of the crew (portrayed brilliantly by, among others, Kenneth More and Richard Leech) and of anonymous passengers as an "unsinkable ship" is sunk.
Is it any good?
While a fantastic movie on its own terms, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER is a fascinating counterpart to a certain Hollywood blockbuster also telling the story of the RMS Titanic's sinking. With probably 1/100th of Titanic's budget, A Night to Remember puts its faith far less on screaming special effects, blaring orchestral music, and romantic leading men, and far more on what actually happened, and (since this is an British film) the stiff upper-lipped stoicism of an English crew doing everything in their power to rescue the passengers in the face of difficult odds.
Those familiar with the films of Robert Altman might detect a similar treatment of story here -- as the camera spends a few minutes with the crew, then the passengers eating in the lush dining room, then the workers in the boiler room, the immigrants riding in third class, lingering long enough to get a sense of what's happening and layering it until the viewer gets an economical sketch of what's happening on the entire ship. Countless instances of heroism, courage, and fearlessness are displayed here, as are panic, fear, and the impending sense of tragedy when the last remnant of the Titanic sinks into the ocean. The pacing of the film is extraordinary, and even if you know how it's going to end, the depiction of the tragedy still affects us, 100 years later.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the similarities and differences between A Night to Remember and Titanic. How do the two films handle the passage of time? How do the characters depicted compare? What about the background music, special effects? Is one film more effective?
Why do you think the real-life sinking of the Titanic still fascinates us, one hundred years later?
- In theaters: December 16, 1958
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2012
- Cast: Honor Blackman, Kenneth More, Michael Goodliffe
- Director: Roy Ward Baker
- Studio: Criterion Collection
- Genre: Classic
- Topics: History
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
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