A Night To Remember

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Documentary - The Making Of A Night To Remember (61:11)
Theatrical Trailers (2)
Biographies - Cast
Year Released 1958
Running Time 117:44 minutes
RSDL/Flipper Dual Layer
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Roy Baker
Rank Organization
Roadshow Home Entertainment Entertainment
Starring Kenneth More
Honor Blackman
David McCallum
Alec McCowan
Laurence Naismith
Case Transparent Brackley
RPI $29.95 Music William Alwyn

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 3.0 L-C-R, 320 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Long before that piece of rubbish from James Cameron, and long after too I hope, there was a film that told the R.M.S. Titanic story the way it was. Just to make sure that this is understood, if you take away the romantic sub-plot from the James Cameron piece of rubbish, then you are left with A Night To Remember. There is no way that James Cameron could have made his film without A Night To Remember either, for the very simple reason that just about every shot from his film outside of the demeaning romantic sub-plot is taken from this film. Just how closely he did so is apparent for all to see. Forget the appalling travesty from James Cameron and see what a real film about the R.M.S. Titanic is like, in all its glory.

    There really is not much point providing a plot synopsis, as arguably the worst maritime disaster of all time is surely such a subject that no one would be unaware of the circumstances as to why the R.M.S. Titanic has become the focus of so much attention since that fateful morning of 15th April, 1912 when the ship slid beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Suffice it to say, Iceberg 1, Big Steel Ship 0.

    Where does one begin about describing this magnificent film? This really is the most definitive film yet made about the disaster and was brought to the screen almost as a labour of love by all those involved. The original book upon which the film was based - A Night To Remember by Walter Lord - was noteworthy for the efforts that went into tracking down survivors for their memories about that fateful night in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That attention to detail was carried over into the film itself through a superbly condensed screenplay from Eric Ambler that almost strips the whole film down to a documentary. Several survivors of the disaster were engaged as technical advisors for the film, adding further attention to detail to the film. The producer William MacQuitty was blessed in his creation of the team to make this film, led by director Roy Baker. Across the board there is quality here that is so characteristically British. The superb cast, which actually displays some acting ability, unlike James Cameron's mob, is headed by Kenneth More in one of his more memorable roles. However, just about every little cameo of a role here is handled well, and credit is due to Roy Baker and his team for this. One of the great stumbling blocks of the James Cameron film was to me the rather ordinary special effects that never convinced me that this was the R.M.S. Titanic steaming across the Atlantic to its doom. Despite the forty years of improvements in special effects I found the effects here at least as convincing as those from James Cameron's film. Sure they are still not entirely convincing but those forty years give this film a lot more leeway than the piece of rubbish gets.

    If you really want romantic subplots and rubbish acting from the likes of Leonardo De Crapio, then you would be strongly advised to give this film the big miss. If you want a film that genuinely makes an effort to tell the real story of the R.M.S. Titanic, then this is definitely the film that you will be watching for years to come. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched this film over the last thirty-five years, but this is how you define great, classic films, and a film of this stature has been given a generally very good transfer considering the age of the material.

    A Night To Remember is a very, very welcome issue from Roadshow Home Entertainment which I only hope is a harbinger of further issues of classic British films from the long gone and sadly lamented Rank Organization, amongst others.

Transfer Quality


    This is basically a Region 4 release of the Region 2 film from Carlton that has drawn generally rave reviews in the United Kingdom magazines. After the first few minutes of the film, it is not hard to see why those reviews have been generally very favourable. Whilst there are obviously three distinct types of footage here, that present certain styles of transfer, the overall effect is most positive indeed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. There appears to be some divergence of opinion as to the original aspect ratio of the film on theatrical release. However, the usually authoritative Widescreen Review indicates that the theatrical aspect ratio is 1.66:1 as does The Criterion Collection. Given the age of the film and the source of the film, I am tempted to suggest that 1.66:1 is the correct aspect ratio. However, having watched The Criterion Collection version of the film, I am still undecided as to which looks to be the correct framing for the film. It is also noteworthy that the DVD is encoded with Auto Pan & Scan information, so your DVD player needs to be set up correctly in order to play the widescreen version of the film.

    Whilst there are inevitable lapses in a film of this sort of age, this is generally a good transfer. However you should note that interior filming done on sets is distinctly better in quality than that done in exteriors, which is again better than those shots involving special effects work - predominantly miniatures. The overall quality varies between being acceptable and being very good and the transfer displays good sharpness and definition. Detail is good to very good, with shots of areas like the boiler room being especially well detailed. Shadow detail is at times a little marginal but this is a reflection of the age of the film more than anything else. The filming involving effects work has a consistent hint at slight grain, but otherwise there is no problem with grain and this is in general quite a clear transfer. There is nothing much in the way of low level noise problems here. I was more than a little surprised by the overall quality of the transfer.

    Naturally when approaching a forty-odd year old film, there are some reservations as to what to expect as far as the black and white colours go. The first few minutes of the film, involving the launching of the ship and Second Officer Lightoller travelling by train to Belfast, set those reservations aside with relative ease. Sure there are the odd lapses in the quality of the grey tones, but in general this demonstrates a nice tonal depth to the blacks and gradation of the grey tones that results in a very decent looking film. Whilst just a little more brightness in the whites would not have gone astray, there really is not much about the colours on offer here that I have serious complaint about.

    I have always been reasonably impressed by The Criterion Collection release of this film on DVD, but this is perhaps even better in my view. There is nothing here that hints at an MPEG artefact at all as far as I can see, and the only film-to-video artefacts present are so trivial as to result in extreme pedantism to even mention them. This is the chief difference with The Criterion Collection release of the film, which does display some problems - right from the moiré artefacting seen in the sequence in the train. Naturally enough there is a fair dosage of film artefacts here, but certainly nothing more than would be expected in a film of this age, and nothing too much that is really grossly distracting to the enjoyment of the film.

    The DVD is a Dual Layer formatted effort presumably since I did not note any layer change during the film. The Region 2 release is apparently a dual sided DVD, with the film on one side and the extras on the other, so I am presuming that the Roadshow Home Entertainment mastering has seen these two elements transferred onto individual layers of this DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is just the one soundtrack on this DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 3.0 soundtrack. The configuration of the three channels appears to be L-C-R. This is still a mono soundtrack despite the three channels, and in that regard makes for an interesting comparison to the one channel soundtrack on The Criterion Collection release.

    The dialogue comes up clear enough and easy to understand in the transfer. There is no significant problem with audio sync in the transfer.

    The music score comes from the grossly neglected British classical composer William Alwyn, and in general is a nicely supportive soundtrack, albeit lacking just a bit in originality and distinction. It would have been interesting to have this on an isolated music score, but alas that opportunity has not been taken.

    Perhaps the one minor disappointment with the film is the slightly underwhelming soundtrack. I would have thought that even a 3.0 mono soundtrack would have had a little more presence than this. Perhaps I have been spoilt by The Criterion Collection soundtrack which to my mind has a lot brighter sound to it than this effort. At times the sound does get just a little muddy, but nothing that is really too distracting in any way. Naturally you can forget the bass channel and the rear surround channels here completely. Thankfully the soundtrack is free of any serious distortion or damage and despite the slightly underwhelming sound, this is a more than serviceable soundtrack overall.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Forty-two years old and counting and you want extras? Well, you get about as much as we could reasonably hope for here.


    Whilst I would not call them brilliant, they are reasonably nicely themed and are 16x9 enhanced. The Biographies menu has some minor animation enhancement too - the picture of the actor changes upon selection. Good if not especially memorable.

Documentary - The Making Of A Night To Remember (61:11)

    Now this is something most special. Made in 1993, it comprises some extended interview segments with producer William MacQuitty and author Walter Lord. What makes this special though is some rare behind-the-scenes footage taken during the filming. This is utterly fascinating stuff indeed, and a testimony to the makers of the film. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Whilst the technical aspect of some of the material leaves a lot to be desired - film artefacts galore, some aliasing and some low level noise as well - there is no doubting the artistic quality on offer here. This really is great stuff. You should note that the timing for the program given does include the two trailers as part of the show, although they are also separately accessible too. Annoyingly, the subtitles default to on for the documentary.

Theatrical Trailers (2)

    Both are presented in Full Frame format, are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. That for the United States is 3:18 long whilst that for the United Kingdom is 3:38 long. They are both reasonably similar in content. The sound on both is not the best and comes over a little muddy and a little distorted at times. They are also a little overexposed as well, but this is not a serious concern given the age of the material - and the fact that they probably have not been properly archived either.

Biographies - Cast

    Brief for Honor Blackman but quite extensive for Kenneth More, that is the extent of the cast concerned.

R4 vs R1

    The only release in Region 1 of this film is The Criterion Collection effort that graces my collection. That would normally indicate a wealth of extras to bury the Region 4 release. Not in this case though. The only extra that is missed out on by the Region 4 release is an audio commentary from Don Lynch and Ken Marshall, author and illustrator respectively of the book Titanic - An Illustrated History. Whilst this is a reasonably interesting effort, I would be hard-pressed to suggest that it far outweighs the significant additional cost of The Criterion Collection release. The Region 4 release has a marginally better video transfer in my view, but this is counterbalanced by the better audio transfer of The Criterion Collection release. In this instance PAL formatting and a cheaper price does not completely outweigh the additional extra: call this one even, depending upon where you fall with respect to audio commentaries.


    If you have no more than just a passing interest in the R.M.S. Titanic, or want to see a film more concerned with historical accuracy rather than romantic bastardization, then this is the film for you. A Night To Remember is a classic British film as only the British can make and is presented on as good a DVD as we could hope for. An essential purchase in my view, but at least well worth a rental in any case, and it is nice to see this release coming in a Transparent Brackley case rather than one of those cheap button things being used of late by Roadshow Home Entertainment.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
26th November 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL