titanic_1996.jpg (25045 bytes)Titanic (1996)

This TV-movie depicting the infamous maiden voyage of the Titanic preceded a Broadway musical and James Cameron's big-screen rendition of the legendary sinking by several months. Although it adds nothing noteworthy to the historical catastrophe's retelling, one wonders if the public's fascination with the submerged luxury liner will ever cease. A motley crew sets sail from Southampton, England on the Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage of 1912. Above deck are blue bloods like Mrs. Isabella Paradine (Catherine Zeta Jones). Among the steerage passengers are religious-minded immigrant Osa (Sonsee Ahray), petty thief Jamie Perse (Mike Doyle) who stole his ticket by rolling a drunk before departure, and assorted poor pilgrims headed for a better life in America. During the course of the journey, Jamie--in league with the opportunistic ship's purser, Simon Doonan (Tim Curry)--plans to rob the upper-crust travelers before the Titanic docks in New York. Meanwhile, Mrs. Paradine wires her spouse and child that she's leaving them to run off to Peru with her lover, Park (Peter Gallagher); Osa converts Jamie from a life of crime; and Doonan rapes Osa below deck. The Titanic's overconfident owner-manager, Bruce Ismay (Roger Rees), orders Capt. Edward Smith (George C. Scott) to try to beat a world speed record despite the Captain's misgivings. When the Titanic crashes on April 14, disastrous decisions are made about how to maintain damage control from the iceberg's impact. While a nearby ship fails to gauge the seriousness of the doomed vessel's distress calls, an insufficient number of lifeboats signifies that women and kids get first dibs on abandoning ship--spurring Doonan to disguise himself as a woman. But when he pulls a gun on desperate passengers attempting to board his lifeboat, a ship's officer smacks him with an oar, and Doonan plunges overboard to his death. By the time a rescue ship arrives, most of the male travelers have died of hypothermia or drowned. But Jamie, having fallen accidentally into a lifeboat, is reunited with Osa. At the landing dock, Mrs. Paradine rejoins her family, who never received her goodbye telegram. Of 1,523 passengers, only 705 survived the shipwreck. This latest example of "disaster chic" is a monument to the set decorator's impeccable taste. Every set detail seems hand-picked from a Titanic memorial museum. Unfortunately, most of the acting is also in the category of waxworks, and the script itself is a tedious exhibition of melodramatic cliches. By the time the catastrophic climax finally arrives, the film's lethargic pacing has entirely drained the audience of any emotional investment in the tragedy's outcome. Perhaps this project's only achievement lies in its detailing of the incompetence and recklessness that--to a far greater degree than Mother Nature--served to transform the ravaged ocean liner into a floating graveyard. As all-star soap opera, TITANIC is waterlogged at best and offers particularly appalling scenery chewing by a mugging Marilu Henner, a mustache-twirling Curry, and a sanctimonious George C. Scott. The other cast members are equally at sea, but manage not to drown in their own hamminess. Due to subject matter and histrionic zeal, TITANIC qualifies as a disaster movie on two fronts. (Violence, adult situations, substance abuse, sexual situations.)

Country of origin:
Disaster; Docudrama
Color or b/w:
Production Co(s).:
American Zoetrope; Hallmark; CBS
Released by:
Evergreen Home Video
MPAA rating:
Parental rating:
Cautionary; some scenes objectionable
Running time:


Marc's Comments:

Pretty Good movie for TV.  It puts a little different twist on the story of Titanic by having a third class passenger and one of the stewards plotting to rip off the passengers.  This was the first movie made that shows the ship breaking in two as it sinks, although not nearly as impressively as Cameron did.  I give the movie 3 stars.

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