The Titanic 1996: No! Not that one! A £1 DVD Review
When I say the word Titanic, you’ll think of the sunken ship, of 1912 or a few films that portrayed this (and subsequent) events. Okay, you may think of a naked Kate Winslet and be two steps away from being a pervert. What you will not think of is a miniseries starring Catherine Zeta Jones, Tim Curry, Peter Gallagher and Marilu Henner. This week is budget DVD week people and what will follow this review is a collection of some of the cheapest DVD’s available for sale. This film, for example, cost me the princely sum of £1. Yes, one pound. That’s 2 dollars for our American cousins. What a bargain, you may think! Well, only time will tell.
I was pleasantly surprised that I would find stars from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, While you were Sleeping, the TV series: Taxi and our very own darling bud of May. It was a good thing to be greeted by such familiar names. In fact, continuing on with the familiarity, the company that produced this film was founded by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. I am feeling more and more comfortable as we go along this path. However, before we all get ahead of ourselves, this movie was cheap. More than cheap. It was CHEAP! Coupled with the fact that no-one I have spoken to even realises that another Titanic movie was made around the same time, it is important to understand what we are watching. Unfortunately, in my naivety I was blissfully unaware of what I was watching initially. As far as I was concerned, this was a regular movie. It should not make a difference to the reviewing then, that I was ignorant of its made-for-TV roots.
The Titanic (you can tell the difference between this and the James Cameron version, because of the use of the word “the” in the title) is a tale of....oh who am I kidding? You know what this film is about. There are no surprises. The film does not have a twist in it where the boat sinks, but manages to support life underwater for several years due to air pockets. In fact, if anyone wants to make that film, be my guest. I just want the creative royalties. No! This film begins as it means to go on: with a very unconvincing scream, followed by an awful “alright guv’nor” accent. From then on, it’s awful accents galore (being British or Danish) with the only convincing voices being that of Catherine Zeta Jones (helped by the fact that she is British to start with). You’d think then, that Tim Curry would also be good at this very British accent. Unfortunately he seemed to be stuck in a Long John Silver voice “arrgh”. Now you may be asking why Tim Curry, playing a ship-hand, is using a pirate voice. I have a solution. It seems that this was not the only ocean voyage going movie he made in 1996. He also starred in Muppet’s Treasure Island (a far superior film). Perhaps someone saw him on the set of that film and thought: “That’s what our Titanic film is missing: A pirate”. In fact, despite being the villain of the piece, he comes across as amusing. Even when committing an atrocious ...er....atrocity, you couldn’t take him seriously. Whilst violating a poorly paid actress (clearly – you pay peanuts etc) you expect him to be shouting “pieces of eight” and “there be my treasure”.
Captain Birds Eye seems to have been cast as the Titanic’s captain (British Joke) and instead of being a force to be reckoned with and “master of the seas”, he comes across as a doddery old fellow who can barely climb stairs. The Leonardo Di Caprio counterpart is played (badly) by Mike Doyle with an accent that is laughable and grating at the same time. For a second, I thought I was watching Chris O’Donnell from Batman Forever. Whilst watching Doyle (assuming he was O’Donnell) I thought that this was the best acting he had ever done (because Chris O’Donnell, in my opinion is pointless). After discovering the character was played by Mr Doyle though, I gave no leniency. This was his fourth acting credit and why anyone would hire him is beyond me. The fact is, he looked like he didn’t care about the film. You have to be passionate. In fact all of the characters in the film (bar one) are completely dimensionless and in truth, the only thing you care about is how many of them will eventually die. The one exception is the pirated Tim Curry who seems to be acting for a different film altogether. Nevertheless, his role is a good one. Another accidentally amusing character in the film is that of Alice Cleaver played by Felicity Waterman who has now given up acting (Thank God). She is the lady responsible for the first pathetic “scream” at the beginning of the film and continues on to sing about giving her love to a chicken! A chicken? I mean, I know she is supposed to be seventeen cans short of a six pack, but she’s singing about a chicken! Is this an attempt by the director to ensure we are all still listening after the 25 minute mark?
After an hour of getting through the needless exposition, you are begging the filmmakers to get on with the sinking already. Unfortunately, the emotionless script carries on for another forty-five painstaking minutes before we are treated to the event de jour. In fact, this film seems to ignore the accident factor of the sinking of the Titanic. Instead, it rests the blame on one man: the first officer. It does this whilst allowing the captain to get away with it, because of his doddery-ness and the Owner, because his only crime was to be magnificent! It was all the first officer’s fault! It’s enlightening to have history rewritten in front of you. Let’s hope that a copy of this film is not buried for hundreds of years so people will mistakenly accept this as a factual film when we are all subservient to robots.
Zeta Jones and Peter Gallagher are the main love interests in the film (as shown by the front cover). They hold as much of a torch for each other as I do for my first wife! Nevertheless, they fight the lack of chemistry with some acting that would make your ears bleed and we are told repeatedly that there love is real. It is true. It is fresh......Sorry, I’m boring myself talking about it.
There are good points to this movie though and they include details often forgotten in Titanic films. For example, the fact that the forth funnel was cosmetic only and that no smoke cloud should emit from it. There are some good blurred shots that give it an aged feeling, although I Imagine that this was not deliberate and more down to the incompetence of the cameraman. The painted backgrounds were far from convincing, but realism is not a thing that this film aimed for. It aimed to be first past the finishing post with a Titanic film. Despite the over-long and unnecessarily complicated storyline, it managed that. In fact, due to the constraints of technology at the time, it didn’t do a bad job. Oh, who am I kidding, it was awful! Rubbish! But it was a pound! One pound! What do you want for one pound? Give it to your mother for Christmas and say it’s like the “Thorn Birds” on water. She’ll love you for it. This will be mainly due to the fact that she’ll never finish it. At 178 minutes long, she’ll be snoring on the sofa long before anyone touches water.
This film could have been so much better. It could have had actors in it. It could have tightened the storyline. Many other Titanic films do not include much screen time after the event and this one did. If it lost the accents, the overlong storyline, Captain Birdseye and overuse of the word “Bloomin”, I might have enjoyed it! As it was, I didn’t.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5