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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, Non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - THX Trailer
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 187:22 minutes Other Extras Main Menu Animation 
Main Menu Audio
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (104:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director James Cameron

Fox Home Video
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio 
Kate Winslett 
Billy Zane 
Kathy Bates 
Frances Fisher 
Bernard Hill 
Jonathan Hyde 
Danny Nucci 
Gloria Stuart 
David Warner 
Victor Garber 
Bill Paxton
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $44.95 Music James Horner
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s) 
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles Czech 
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In Or After Credits No, thankfully

Plot Synopsis

    I feel I should give you a polite warning before I begin: an extremely hostile opinion of what may or may not be one of your favourite movies follows. And this is it: Titanic (or TitAntic as one very clever friend of mine on the Internet likes to call it) is a stinker of a film that serves as a testament to what happens when a man's ego overshadows his creative ability. In case you're suddenly itching to email me and tell me how wrong I am, I have to tell you that you must first refute a couple of facts that directly contradict director James Cameron's ego-stroking about attention to detail. The gun Billy Zane uses towards the end of the film was not put into production for at least another ten years after the Titanic sunk. Then there is the fact that young Rose would have a bit of a hard time reading the work of Sigmund Freud unless she spoke fluent German, because Freud's work was not translated into English for at least a few years after the notorious disaster. Lead actor Leonardo DiCRAPrio recites a few lines about having travelled all over Europe for a number of years and finding an abundance of women willing to be drawn sans clothing, but he hardly looks old enough to be physically capable of doing the nasty with lead actress Kate Winslett. Then there's the statement at the end of the film about there being no record of any Jack Dawson as a passenger on the Titanic. Is this meant to be surprising when obituaries from as recently as the 1960s are sometimes found to be in error? If you're going to tell your audience about your attention to detail, it is a good idea to have some attention to detail to back it up with (and those are just the obvious examples). Incidentally, Kate is the only actor in the entire film who plays a character with anything resembling a personality. Then there is the story: I don't know what it is about this one, but I find it just as offensive as that of films like What Dreams May Come, a film that sickened me so much that my violent mood swing persuaded the manager to refund my money. Sometimes, being an intellectual man with a brain that is unable to decide whether to run in hot or cold makes going to cinema blockbusters a decidedly negative experience.

     For those of you who want a plot summary, here it goes: the story begins on the day when the Titanic is about to sail on its first voyage to a still-being-built America. Young Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) manages to win himself a boarding pass on the voyage to America in a game of cards, along with an Italian friend whose name escapes me. Normally, one would be very upset about losing these tickets, but I'll bet the losers in this game were very happy after they heard what happened to the ship. In any case, a young woman named Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslett) embarks on the Titanic with her mother, who wants her to marry a man she doesn't love named Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) in order to preserve the family's fortune. After meeting in somewhat hilarious (to my friends who saw the film with me on the first run) and insulting (to me) circumstances, Jack and Rose fall in love and spend the rest of the voyage to America avoiding people. Pardon me, James, but did you steal that idea from The Wings Of The Dove or Out To Sea? Predictable ending aside (although some very wise man at the studio suggested that they have Arnold Schwarzenegger appear to blow up the iceberg), this is three hours of story made by a man who has no idea how the human mind functions or how social interaction really works. And, as the vast majority of people who I've talked to about this film will tell you, atrocious acting coupled with staggeringly lame direction does not make for fun viewing. (The most common reaction when I stated to people that I was reviewing this film was "eww that damn show", which I think says it all, really.)

    The funniest part of this film is the use of a specially-built underwater camera which Cameron used to film raw footage while poking around inside the remains of the actual Titanic. This necessitated the use of an extraneous storyline in which an elderly Rose (Gloria Stuart) tells her story to a treasure-hunting captain (Bill Paxton). If suspense were bullets, this film would not have given me enough to go and shoot myself in the head as I was hoping to be able to do halfway through my second viewing. The moral of that story? People who have high intellectual quotients and a lot of painful memories shouldn't see this film without first consuming a lot of mind-altering drugs. Oh, and that damned annoying song by Celine Dion. If there was ever a crime against humanity for which a man should be frozen in an ice cube, it's giving that talentless cow an excuse to torture us further. The real joke of this film is that without the "you must see this film and you must enjoy it" advertising campaign, Titanic would have been a lot more enjoyable, just like The Matrix.

    Transfer Quality


    Titanic is the first film that Twentieth-Century Fox have inflicted upon us DVD users in Region 4, and the rest of the world all at the same time. It was second only to Star Wars in terms of consumer demand, and was a perfect opportunity for Fox and Paramount to show the world what DVD is all about. Well, as we all know now, they had their chance and rather severely flubbed it. Looking back upon this title, I can say that this was a bad omen of things to come in the DVD marketplace: inadequate video transfers with a price that makes me want to take whomever is in charge of marketing at Fox and belt their head into a wall a few times. This transfer is reasonable, bordering on good, but it is patently unacceptable on a medium with such obvious superiority to any other medium that has been available to the home consumer before.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, which is slightly different to the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and this is a rather bad way to start from the beginning. What makes it even worse is that it is not 16x9 Enhanced, and the film suffers terribly for it. From looking at a Region 1 copy of this DVD and comparing them both to the experience of seeing the film in the theatre, it appears that the matting was opened up further on this version. The sharpness was by far the biggest letdown in this transfer, with background details being completely lost, especially in outdoor shots. Camera movements resulted in even more losses of image detail, and there appear to be losses of image detail as a result of scenes having their brightness level set too high. These losses of detail can be fairly and squarely blamed on the lack of 16x9 enhancement, just as is the case with the Region 4 version of The Thing. The detailed photography in the outdoor shots is one of the few pleasant things I remember about this film, so this sort of transfer is unacceptable.

    Shadow detail was rather good, but there are a number of sequences that suffer from low-level noise, a problem which really shouldn't be apparent on DVD at all. The unnecessary present-day footage involving the exploration of the Titanic's rotting shell is definitely the worst offender in this regard. The colours were rather variably saturated, which some scenes being quite oversaturated and hard to look at, and other scenes being quite pale and undersaturated. This has nothing to do with the cinematography or any choice during the making of the film, and there was a lot more evenness about the saturation during the theatrical exhibit. What's even worse is the presence of chroma noise during the present-day exploration scenes, an artefact that should not appear on DVD unless it is sourced from a very old television series.

    MPEG artefacts were absent from the presentation, which is the sole redeeming feature of the transfer. The transfer rate seems to wildly vary between five and eight Mb/s, with any shot shot in which the ocean is apparent in the background receiving a transfer rate of around nine Mb/s (the rate of ten Mb/s was used on occasion, too). This does little, however, to save the film from the problems introduced by the limited vertical resolution apparent in each and every image. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of variable amounts of aliasing that were a direct result of the non-enhanced transfer. The wide shots of the ship were the worst offenders in this regard, with shimmer being noted all over the place. Film artefacts were completely absent from the transfer, but this is hardly surprising when you consider the youth of the film and how much effort Fox would have expended upon its preservation. The absence of reel change markings in the film makes it slightly more watchable than the original theatrical exhibit, but only slightly.

    This particular disc takes advantage of the RSDL format, as you'd expect. The layer change occurs at 104:00, between Chapters 17 and 18. This is just after the captain remarks to the ship's owner about the apparent results of his desire for headlines. The pause is noticeable, but relatively brief and unobtrusive.


    Matching the disappointing quality of the video is a rather sub-par audio presentation that belies the youth of the film. While it is better than the video transfer in terms of clarity, the overall quality of the audio is certainly less than what I was expecting. Perhaps a remix from the original recording session tapes would have been in order, as the faults that make this audio transfer disappointing would be rather easy to rectify. A choice of two audio tracks are included with this DVD, both in English: the default Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I was disappointed to not be given a Spanish or Norwegian dub of the film, but considering that I have no real urge to hear this film's abysmal dialogue in another language anyway, I will let this omission slide. At least Fox weren't in enough of a sadistic mood to include audio commentary from James Cameron, a feature which would see me flinging the disc under the wheels of a discerningly large truck. Putting my disappointment and gratitude aside to equal degrees, I stuck with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and sampled the latter half of the film in Dolby Digital 2.0, just to satisfy my curiosity.

    The overall volume of this soundtrack is lacking, which appears to be the result of carelessness at a mastering level similar to the problems of this variety which sometimes occur with independently-produced audio CDs. Listening to this film at a slightly higher audio level than normal rectified the problem, but generally the soundtrack is plagued overall by a sense of the sound effects being mixed a little too softly. The dialogue was clear and intelligible most of the time, but there were moments when it fell in volume without rhyme or reason, usually during long-distance shots. There were other times when the audio lost its oomph and became somewhat thin, but these were sporadic and brief. There were no audio sync problems except when the ADR work slipped just a little.

    The score music in this film was composed and conducted by James Horner, who I believe has worked with James Cameron before on some of his projects that actually approach being decent films. The score had a similarly disengaging and substance-deprived quality to the film itself, which served to highlight the rather cold and empty feeling that the film generally gives me. This can be explained to some degree by the fact that the score is event-based rather than character-based, an arrangement which would have suited the feel of the film much better. Thankfully, that damned awful song by Celine Dion was not to be heard at any point until the credits rolled. A certain twelve-minute epic by My DyING BRIDE would have suited this film much better, particularly in the way it ends. But then you wouldn't be able to sell a few million CDs full of crappy music to people who don't have any understanding of Wagnerian compositional techniques (much like you would have a hard time selling this DVD to people who understand how important 16x9 enhancement is, I guess). The saving grace of the score is the final song that the string foursome play as the water level in the ship finally begins to rise into the luxury decks, a piece that sets the mood of the on-screen action quite well.

    The surround channels are used reasonably well by the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack to create an enveloping but subtle soundfield that gives the listener a sense of "being there", in spite of the aforementioned occasional variation in the level of the dialogue. By contrast, the Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack sounds a little conspicuous and off-putting. The subwoofer was used to augment the action sequences, as well as the music. Essentially, it made the groans and creaks in the soundtrack seem more real.


    There are almost no extras on this disc. In a first for Region 4, this disc has the standard THX trailer on it. The disc packaging contains an invitation to join Fox's DVD mailing list.


    The main menu features some extremely effective audio and animation when the disc is inserted into the player which acts as a superb entree to the movie. The rest of the menu is pedestrian in comparison. Scene selections in particular are quite hard to navigate through.

Theatrical Trailer

    This trailer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound. It is not 16x9 enhanced, and is of poor video quality. Low-level noise is a rather significant problem in this trailer, as is aliasing.

R4 vs R1

    Neither Region 1 nor Region 4 have been graced with a 16x9 enhanced version of this film, nor do they have any different features. The Region 1 version is in the dreaded NTSC format to boot, so the question one has to ask themselves is whether or not they want the film to look even worse on their screens. Stick with the local version if you really must have this dreadful film, or hold out for a 16x9 enhanced version.


    Titanic is a movie that makes me want to take the film-makers and rip their hearts out as a thank-you, presented on an ordinary DVD.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is average.

    The extras are limited and of poor quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
April 20, 2000 
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer