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A telling detail clipped from this, THE Titanic movie.

There is a short but interesting snippet missing from most available copies of that superb telling of the Titanic disaster, Roy Ward Baker's 1958 A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. Both of Criterion's versions, as well as the copy shown on AMC cable television are missing the footage.

On the DVD (an excellent disc, one of Savant's favorites) at approximately 1:53:54 in chapter 39, level-headed ship's officer Kenneth More swims to where crew members and freezing passengers are struggling for possession of a capsized lifeboat. Taking command, one of the first things More does is to reach out to two of the swimming civilians, the young Irishmen featured earlier in the story.

Just as More is beginning to pull them aboard, there is a clear Jump Cut to a longer shot of the capsized lifeboat, with the crew now standing in an even row on the keel, arms outstretched, trimming the balance. There is even an audio overlap indicating that the optical soundtrack was cut right along with the picture; a fraction of a second of sound overlaps the Jump Cut.

What's missing? Well, about 12 - 20 seconds of footage, that's what: The dark haired Irish man, the one who sang in the steerage dance scene, has towed with him a curly-haired child with a dark shawl over her head. Kenneth pulls her a couple of feet up out of the water, and discovers that she is dead, either drowned or frozen. He checks her breathing and heart, and with a simple shake of his head, gently lowers her back into the icy water. Then the scene fades out as he starts to pull the Irishmen aboard, fading back up at the later moment where the boat is being balanced.

To Savant it seems possible that someone preparing a copy of the film (British television, perhaps?) thought the sight of our hero Kenneth More disposing of the body as either unnecessary, too unpleasant, or both. Remember this was 1958 Great Britain, where critical reviews considered Hammer's horror films to be visual pornography beneath contempt, and unsuitable for children to see. Nowhere else in NIGHT are the frozen drowned explicitly pictured, as they were in the recent Cameron version. Export censors also may have thought it not 'cricket' for gentleman Kenneth More to behave so indelicately, which would only mean that they were blind to the film's keen awareness of British class distinctions.

The cut scene is intact on other negative elements for A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, in fact, an older Paramount vhs of the film had the snippet intact. Yet both the Criterion laser and DVD and the print shown so far on AMC cable televison have the Jump Cut. Archivists think that the scene was lost when a printing negative was damaged. Savant has no real reason to doubt this. That the damage happens to affect a scene with a dead child seems like a big coincidence, however.

With the exception of film thought to have been thrown away (the longest version of THE WICKER MAN) or purposely not completed (the missing episodes of THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES), the English have a remarkably good record for preservation. Experience with Hammer films has found that clean and complete versions of even their most heavily censored films have been safely kept intact.

By all means, don't steer away from the superior Criterion DVD because of this.... In the overwhelming emotional experience of A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, this missing bit doesn't amount to much of a flaw.

Text © Copyright 1999 Glenn Erickson

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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