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Raise the Titanic (1980)

Review: written Sep 2009

Big budget sinks without trace…

Raise the Titanic (1980)

Famously, Lew Grade spoke at the time this movie came out of the huge budget, saying it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic. Now, it's very difficult to see what the fuss was about, one way or another. On one hand, it's not nearly as bad as its reputation would suggest. There's a decent cold war thriller in there somewhere. The cast are fine, too.. even the odd cameo from Alec Guinness as a remaining survivor of the Titanic.

The plot is somewhat troublesome (one is tempted to describe it as being all-at-sea), especially given that since this movie was made the actual Titanic was found - in two pieces. However, the explanations of how it might be raised are reasonably convincing in a pre-discovery context. Even the special effects could be worse.. . so in fact, it's the direction that's to blame. For one thing, too much time in near darkness with submersibles buzzing around in slow motion. Critically, the real action elements of the book have been gutted, to spend time on ogling the model of the Titanic and interior set of its Drawing room. In the book, there were scenes set during the sinking of the Titanic which added both interest and suspense, and then after the raising there is a whole subplot with Russian agents coming aboard, which has been excised.. now what we are left with is the building up of cold war tension, resolved in a moment when the Russian shrugs his shoulders and leaves.. hardly `thrilling'. In short, the movie is likely to abide with you for all the wrong reasons.

It is a curiosity, which may be of interest to some in spite of its flaws... but to add insult to injury it is ill served in its currently available budget release. The extras are mostly photographs, when surely there would be much to tell in a making off documentary, or even more about the Titanic herself. Some of the photographs allude to cut scenes including from the Titanic going down, which surely would have been of interest. A missed opportunity then, to turn a much maligned movie into at least an interesting collector's piece. And one final comment - surely of all films, this one was crying out for... liner notes..?

Raise the Titanic (1980)

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