As I trawled through the channels on my Sky+ box the other day, deep in the recesses of afternoon television SOS Titanic was on, ITV3 - stuck between some cookery programme and Jeremy Kyle. Out of sheer interest I stuck it on the box to watch later.
The film is a bit of an anomaly. Many people will no doubt be familiar with the big James Caemron version of the Titanic story, which for some would mean watching this film would seem redundant. But SOS Titanic still has some redeeming features that Caemron's film didn't possess.
I've always found it strange that people collect Titanic memorabelia or actual items, from what is in fact a massive disaster - will people collect Twin Towers memorabelia in the future?
The Pro's. The acting is actually very good. Its an all-star cast looking at it now, but back in '79 actors like Ian Holm and Helen Mirren didn't have the gravitas that they do now. David Warner was probably the film's biggest star. Above all, it's Ian Holm and Harry Andrews as the White Star Line crew that shine as they realise the unthinkable starts to happen.
The interior shots of the Titanic are well done. Everything looks expensive and lush. The attention to detail is also very good, with period furniture and costume well matched.
As the ship goes down (I don't think that's a spoiler!), the band play on and the way in which the actors try to get on the remaining lifeboats is also very well staged.
Unfortunately, probably due to the budget and the fact it's a television movie, the actual sinking of the Titanic is a let down in the extreme. As this is the big pay-off, you might expect for those scenes to have a bit more of the budget left for it to look at least realistic. Unfortunately, the use of layering different images over each other and poor model shots make the sinking look terrible.
If you've ever seen the excellent 'The Last Voyage' with Robert Stack, a 1960 disaster movie about the sinking of an Ocean Liner, then you will realise how terrible the 'special' effects look on a mvie like this - 3 years after ILM's Star Wars!
Too much time is also spent building up the weaker characters, that really have little part in the bigger picture. Most notably, the poorer 3rd class 'Oirish' characters who spen the entire film dancing and drinking.
The similarities to Cameron's film are also evident. They both highlight the injustices between the classes, as well as killing one half of either a boyfreind or girlfriend or a married couple. David Warner also turns up in Cameron's movie.
To sum up.
I wasn't expecting a huge amount from SOS Titanic. The acting was good, but the big pay-off of the Titanic sinking was a huge letdown. I just wished that the producers kept a little money aside to make the sinking look a little more realistic, instead of just laughable.
SOS Titanic isn't available on DVD yet in the UK. But like me, you may find it on ITV3 one afternoon. It's perfect tea and cake entertainment.