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Titanic: Disaster in the Atlantic/The Titanic Chronicles

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Review by Chris Hughes | posted January 24, 2000 | E-mail the Author
Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1, Audio: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Includes Two Documentaries on the Titanic Disaster: Titanic: Disaster in the Atlantic (1929, 90 min.): the first feature sound film of the ocean liner tragedy, hosted by David McCallum. The Titanic Chronicles (1999,55 min.): a reenactment of the 1912 U.S. Senate hearings investigating the disaster, Bonus 45 minutes of additional testimony on second audio track.

The Movie:
The marketing uproar began with Robert Ballard's discovery of the wreck of Titanic back in 1986 and reached a fever pitch in 1997 with the release of James Cameron's multi-million dollar blockbuster. Ever since we've been inundated with products whose sole purpose is to tweeze more money out of the pockets of impressionable fourteen-year-olds. Titanic: Disaster in the Atlantic/The Titanic Chronicles is another in a seemingly endless string of titles meant to capitalize on the Titanic name and as you can imagine, the quality of this title is less than stunning. Side one presents an audio reconstruction of the US hearings on the Titanic disaster taken from transcripts. It features an introduction by David McCallum and the voices of Tim Curry, Marilu Henner, Gloria Stuart and others. Side two is the 1929 film version of Titanic (the first of its kind).

The Picture:
Side one's presentation is made up of a collection of still images in a slideshow that goes along under the audio content. This is really nothing more than a book on tape so there isn't much to say about the picture beyond the fact that there's something to look at while listening. Side two is the 1929 version of Titanic and it's simply disgraceful. The film is battered and damaged almost beyond belief. The frames are shot through with holes, marred by dirt, scratched and faded to the point that many of the scenes are almost unwatchable. To make matters worse, the sprocket holes in the original film elements are trashed so badly that the image jitters around like water droplets on a hot griddle.

The Sound:
Side one's sound is very good. The dialogue is crisp and has a rich quality about it that makes listening very pleasant. Side two exhibits all the problems you'd expect from looking at the video. Most of the dialogue and music is low in the mix but that's a minor problem compared to the loud hiss and frequent pops and distortions.

The Extras:
The 'extra' content on this disc is limited to a second audio track on side one that includes additional reenactments of the Titanic hearing transcripts. This is basically a continuation of the main side one content.

Conclusion:
If you have any interest in the real historic facts surrounding the wreck of the Titanic you'd be better off simply visiting your library and reading the hearing transcripts in book form. Better yet, check out Walter Lord's definitive Titanic title A Night to Remember. This disc is a waste of money in all respects.
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