The 1912 disaster of the ocean liner Titanic has been the subject of several big-screen and television movies. Hardly disastrous, most are actually quite good, from the fascinating 1943 Nazi propaganda vehicle to the glitzy 1997 blockbuster.
On a far smaller scale, the 1953, black-and-white, Hollywood "Titanic" proves quite entertaining. Known for lush soapers like "Three Coins in the Fountain," director Jean Negulesco crafted a well-paced and beautifully appointed film, and was fortunate to have had a superb cast at his disposal.
The main storyline concerns the troubled marriage of passenger played by Barbara Stanwyck, who acquits herself ably. Throughout her lengthy career, she never delivered a lackluster performance, although this is hardly one of her stellar roles.
Clifton Webb tries unsuccessfully to butch it up as the supercilious husband who exhibits uncharacteristic valor in the finale. Audrey Dalton is a veritable iceberg as their frigid daughter, who is warmed by the love of beautiful Robert Wagner, no stranger to fatal ocean voyages.
Brian Aherne is the noble ship captain, Edmund Purdom his loyal chief officer, and brassy Thelma Ritter adds some spice as a plucky Molly Brown-like character. For the period, the special effects are quite striking and realistic. Although obviously sentimental, the close of the film successfully avoids being maudlin.
Having been available on both VHS tape and DVD, "Titanic" is making its maiden voyage on Blu-ray. 20th Century Fox ’s new release features respectable, if not exceptional picture quality. The high-definition engineering provides a slight improvement over the DVD.
The special features are minimal, and include some miscellaneous trailers, a newsreel of the premiere, and a brief audio essay by historian Sylvia Stoddard. The most worthwhile extra is the audio commentary, in which Stoddard is joined by cinematographer Michael D. Lonzo, as well as cast members Dalton and Wagner.