Titanic [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (26th February 2018).
The Film

Everyone, of course, is all too familiar with this true story and its various Hollywood re-telling’s, including the 1953 version, the British production of "A Night to Remember" (1958), and the James Cameron version from 1997. Now, finally available, is the German government financed film, "Titanic" (1943) which was overseen by Joseph Goebbels himself during WWII. This film is a slightly biased version of the true events, but with a leftist leaning towards the Nazi propaganda machine that backed it. The tragic events are thoroughly blamed on the capitalist greed that is represented by both the British and American sides. However it is the backstory behind this production that reveals a darker side as director Herbert Selpin was arrested by the Germans and jailed for speaking negatively about the Nazi party; he was subsequently found dead in his cell, a victim of an arranged “suicide” and replaced by an uncredited Werner Klingler. This version was the first to feature fictitious characters, something that would be repeated again in other versions.

The plot is the old familiar tune, but with particular emphasis on British greed; Goebbels thought that this film would make an interesting propaganda machine in the Nazi’s program. It backfired, of course, and was banned from screenings throughout Germany. The focus is on the machinations of wealthy investors that scheme to use the ship’s speedy journey across the ocean as a method to drive up stock prices on the White Star Line ship. Initially labeled as being “unsinkable”, we all know what the ship’s tragic end is ultimately. President Bruce Ismay (Ernst Fritz Fürbringer) is the wealthy investor behind the scheme to drive up the failing stock prices by making the ship run at full speed, an unwise decision. Unbelievably, it is fictitious 1st Officer Petersen (Hans Nielsen), a German officer, who is the only person that objects to racing through the icy waters because there are sure to be icebergs. Captain Smith (Otto Wernicke) is governed by his own sense of greed because he has been secretly promised a hefty financial bonus if they break the existing record. Assorted passengers are introduced as they descend a staircase to attend dinner and they turn out to be the crème de la crème of society, all destined to be doomed on the ship’s ill-fated voyage.

Other plot elements have been lifted from this version for James Cameron’s Hollywood blockbuster, including a seaboard romance between two of the lesser characters, but overall this film will only be of interest to Titanic purists and fans of German cinema. The film expertly makes use of its claustrophobic setting to give viewers an uneasy sense of doom and the scenes of passengers panicking as the seats on the lifeboats are running out are particularly chilling. Shots of the sinking boat were later used, uncredited, in the 1958 British version of the film.

Video

The AVC MPEG-4 encoded image (1.33:1 aspect ratio) in HD 1080p 24/fps seems like a rather slick package at times, there are subtle differences in the film sources at times. The decoration of the interior sets is intriguing and there are moments of softness in the images, but that is excusable for a film of this date.

Audio

The only track here is the original German LPCM 2.0 mono, there's some hiss and pop noticeable, the soundtrack is unexceptionable and you may need to keep a hand on the volume control when the chaotic scenes toward the end begin to roll, the shrieks of the masses are shrill as they attempt to climb to safety. Optional subtitles are included in English.

Extras

Kino Classics has included a small selection of extras that include an audio commentary, some original newsreel footage, a promotional film, and the film's original theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Audio commentary by Gaylyn Studlar, co-editor of "Titanic: Anatomy of a Blockbuster"; she provides the viewer with all the grim facts of this production on a separate audio track.

Original 1912 newsreel footage is included and runs for 9 minutes 52 seconds.

"White Star Line" promotional film, offering a tour of the Olympic, Titanic’s sister ship runs for 16 minutes 14 seconds.

Finally the disc includes the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds.

Overall

"Titanic" is good for its historic significance and for some special effects that were downright laughable.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: B Extras: A Overall: B

 


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