Friday, January 24, 2014

DVD Review: Raise the Titanic Blu-Ray Edition



Just released for purchase this week, is a re-release of Raise the Titanic, from 1980, now on Blu-Tay!

raise the titanic blue ray cover

Synopsis:
An American special agent and group of experts embark upon an exciting and chilling underwater race against the Russians to salvage the Titanic and its vital defence cargo, which is needed to power a missile defense system,  seventy years after the tragedy of its sinking. Adapted from Clive Cussler’s 1976 international best-selling novel.

Raise the Titanic features both the original stereo mix of the film available via DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and a surround repurposing, offered via DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. T. The set comes with regular DVD and a Blue-ray disc.

Directed by Jerry Jameson, Director of Photography Matthew F. Leonetti
 Starring  Jason Robards (All the Presidents Men), Richard Jordan (Dune), Alec Guiness (Doctor Zhivago and Star Wars) , David Selby (Dark Shadows) and Anne Archer (Fatal Attraction). 

Raise the Titanic Blu-Ray Edition screenshot 1


Review:
I vaguely remember this movie from my childhood, so I was interested in seeing it again. It's important to note, if you are watching it for the first time, that the movie was made in 1978/79, in the last reaches of the cold war between American and the Soviet Union Cussler's book played on that theme more than the movie, but it is the central concept behind the search for the sunken boat. For me the movie opened great with a scene right out of any James Bond film, but then it gets bogged down in a so-so plot (keep reminding yourself this is 30 years ago-it helps).
Once the storyline shifts to the sea exploration, it picks up greatly! In many ways, it looses some of the 30 year old feel to it, once those scenes start. It is helpful to remember that CGI really did not exist much at the time this movie was made (for instance Star Wars came out only 3 years earlier than this film). In fact I was much more impressed by this film, especially the underwater sequences AFTER it ended and I viewed the Making Of Special add on film. In it, Matthew F. Leonetti, Model Unit Director Ricou Browning, Model and Mechanical Effects Supervisor John Richardson and Underwater Camera Operator Mike Ferris, all talk about how difficult it was to make the film, and what all they went through. 

Raise the Titanic Blu-Ray Edition screenshot 3
Things that amazed me about the shooting of the film:
1. Tthe model of the Titanic was 55 fee LONG (and 10 tons in weight), and it was built to 1/16 scale, which created problems, as when they showed it coming out of the water, the water was not the same scale. 
2. They actually filmed all the underwater sequences for over 8 hours a DAY- going through multiple air tanks, that were brought down TO them, while filming! 
3. The models and all the electrical controls were testing in LA in regular water. When they got to Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, which is salt water, everything started to short out, and all the models had to be reconstructed on site.
4. They used old fashioned painted on painted glass pics of the Titanic, for the last part of the film, where she is seen floating on the water. Sometimes the old ways work the best!
5. For the large scale Titanic they used a mothballed ship they found in Greece, and the designers add metal and aged it, to make her look like the Titanic.

Raise the Titanic Blu-Ray Edition screenshot 2

Why is all this so impressive?
Because it's how Hollywood wowed us back in the day- it's simple special effects, like filming with a different lens, to bring the viewer into the movie, versus having a computer auto-correct the angle. It's how movies are supposed to be made.Today? None of this would have happened- everything would have been done with a 5 foot model and the computer, with actors acting against a blue screen. Sigh.

But as I was watching the scenes where they first find the Titanic with the subs, I thought "huh, that's weird-reminds me of the Robert Ballard videos, when they ACTUALLY found the ship". In fact, in a VERY eerie coincidence, when you go back and look at the 2 videos, they are extremely close. How odd is that that special effects teams and cameramen could get the shots that accurate 30 years beforehand? Obviously they were wrong in regards to the ship itself being in one piece, but still, pretty amazing!
Other than the photography, effects and how it was filmed, kudos go to Alec Guiness for giving the best performance of the film, as John Bigalow, survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. His gift to Dirk, of a piece to be returned to the ship, gives possibly the best memorial in the film to the lives that were lost on the ship. The film may end a little hokey (the Titanic being pulled into New York harbor) and the true location of the missing defense mineral, but it is an interesting film to watch, as a period piece! I highly recommend it for those reasons!

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