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Paramount Studios presents
Titanic (1998)

"1,500 people went into the sea when Titanic sank from under us. Six were saved from the water, myself included. Six out of 1,500. Afterward the seven hundred people in the boats had nothing to do but wait . . . wait to die, wait to live, wait for an absolution which would never come."
- Rose Dawson Calvert (Kate Winslet)

Review By: Chris Knox   
Published: April 12, 2000

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
Other Stars: Billy Zane
Director: James Cameron

Manufacturer: Lightstorm Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for for violence, sexual situations, mild nudity, depiction of catastrophe.
Run Time: 03h:14m:00s
Release Date: August 31, 1999
UPC: 097361552279
Genre: epic

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I had a copy of the script for this movie about three months before it hit theaters domestically. I remember stumbling on to it while looking for the script for Spiderman and in my joy, immediately ran a tub of scalding hot water and prepared an Opus X cigar while the printer spit out the pages in heart beat rhythm.

A few hours later there were pages scattered all over the floor and my Opus X had come and gone and a pipe had taken its place. The water had been drained and run twice more and it was now again fast approaching room temperature. My skin had come to resemble that of a corpse long left floating in the harbor, but all I could think of was that I had perhaps put some serious wear and tear on an eighty-five dollar laser cartridge, and all for what was to be a mediocre movie, at best.

When I saw the film December 17th (among that of the whole town's population of thirteen year-old girls) I was blown away! The film was a near masterpiece! It wasn't the epic that Gone With The Wind was, but it was more than a suitable epic for Gen-X-ers. It had flaws, several, and the story wasn't the most original I had seen—not even that week—but it was a great movie nonetheless.

Aside from a few deleted scenes, however, the movie stayed true to the original script. This led me to the simple conclusion that Jim Cameron is a far better director than he is a writer. He finally got his recognition later that next year when the film bagged eleven Oscars® and earned him Best Director.

As with all movies that rake in an Oscar® or eleven, you get reminded of this as you examine the cover of the video cassette or laserdisc or DVD just prior to putting it in your player. After a long stint of waiting for Paramount and Fox to iron out there differences, we the public finally got our hands on a DVD version of this film and the results, I am happy to confirm are kinda, sorta, satisfying . . .

No, it is not 16:9 enhanced, but the picture is stunning and 16:9. No, there aren't any real extras, but we did get a trailer. No, no deleted scenes thrown back into the mix or director's commentary track, but we do have the movie on DVD, and "bare bones" is a term we always refer to when we want a movie on DVD and can't understand why Lucas, er, people in control won't just give us a simple copy to tide us over. Well, we got it.

The story takes place throughout the ill-fated ship and its voyage with a present day subplot book-ending it effectively enough. It is pretty much what Cameron pitched to the Fox execs years earlier, "Romeo and Juliet on a boat". The story seems to run a little smoother than what the script suggests and I never found the film to be "long" in the countless times that I have watched it.

Understandably the film had several minutes cut from it. A few scenes hand selected by Cameron as "not essential to the progression of the plot" were removed so that the film could be leaner and at a more theatrical fighting weight. One scene in particular (the one that immediately follows after Cal lets Lovejoy in on the joke about putting the diamond in the coat and then putting the coat on her) shows Cal handing the empty gun back to Lovejoy giving him that raised eyebrow saying, "I give it to you, if you can get it." What follows is an extension of Rose and Jack running for their lives from Lovejoy and dodging more bullets. Jack eventually breaks off from Rose and is able to rush Lovejoy from the side and a short fight ensues (A snatch of this can be seen in the trailer) where eventually Jack gains the upper hand and with a final gut punch (seen in the trailer) Jack says, "Compliments of the Chippewa Falls Dawsons!", in response to the remark Lovejoy gave Jack below deck while he was handcuffed.

I hope this particular scene never makes its way back into the film as it has two problems with it, even if you don't think it is adding to the bulkiness that already exists in the film:

Jack is merely a kid, and wouldn't have much of a chance at beating a hardened grown man, especially not one that Lovejoy's past seems to imply. This is simply a scene that I feel would be destructive to the nature of the film.

For although Cal is an "unimaginable bastard" we can easily see that he does indeed love Rose in his own way, or the only way he will ever know how to love someone. For him to send Lovejoy after her and jack to retrieve a diamond almost certainly means her murder, and this doesn't fall well with the rest of his struggling to help her earlier, when it is obvious she wanted nothing to do with him any longer.

There are scenes that I would have liked to witness in the film, however. The moment shortly after the ship strikes the berg we see Molly Brown in the main bar obviously a little drunk and calling out to the bartender, "Where can a girl get some ice around here?" At that moment we see behind her as the berg slides by filling the window.

Another scene at the end of the film where Brock spots Old Rose making her way to the edge of the Keldysh and races to stop her from what appears like a suicide, finds that she has had the Diamond in her possession the whole time and attempts to talk her out of throwing it away, she shows him in a few well thought words that the reason she came out here was to put the diamond in its rightful place he finally gets it. Bodine mumbles to Brock to rush her, and Brock refuses because, "It's hers." This scene will probably be argued as a viable addition to the ending, but I found it so hard to believe that Brock could just resign to never finding the Diamond and just giving up solely because of a story told by an old woman. I think this is that extra bit of coaxing that is needed for his character to accept the fact that the diamond is not his and is far more valuable than what it's worth on the market.

There are other scenes that were removed, but it seems to me that these were the ones that had the biggest impact on me right or wrong. I hope we at least see them later down the road as a supplement or fused back into the movie. Perhaps the seamless branching technique could be implemented, so that we have a choice.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreenno - no
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The DVD is THX mastered and the transfer is 2.35:1 in aspect. As I said before it is not enhanced for 16X9 television, but the picture is remarkable.

As with most all of Cameron's films there is an obvious blue tint associated with night scenes and for the longest time I associated it with the Tiffen filters used. I am now more inclined to believe it comes more form the actual Kodak stock that was used in Terminator 2 and the Abyss that he seems to be so fond of. Regardless it looks fine but is trademark Cameron and I bet that I could have guessed it was one of his films had I not known, just as I believe I can spot a Ridley Scott film from a mile off by the trademark cinematography, and just as I could spot a Lucas film from a mile off by the fact that it isn't on DVD yet . . . Sorry, I could not resist.

At any rate the picture is a little soft and it works well this way. I think it does the gilded age justice and really helps to submerse you into the fantastic photography that also won an Oscar®. The details are meticulous and super accurate, which is to be expected of a man so hell bent on accuracy that he scrapped half a days work and a hundred thousand clams because a door in the far background of the dining room was swinging in instead of out! Flesh tones seem precise and the color also brings out that award winning costume design as well. Everything in the technical respect of this movie is handled flawlessly. I did notice that shadows tended to be a hair washed out but again I can understand due to the nature of soft focusing filters. It works extremely well. Of course I noticed no artifacting or pixelation.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 and fills the room to capacity all the way through. The front sound stage is tight in the beginning due to the underwater scenes but opens up full throttle once we get above deck, giving us greater depth and a wide front that remains consistent. As the sound stage moves back from behind the screen it cools off a bit but the walls are thick and hold it all in a lovely long oval shape that is also more wide than expected. Beautiful!

Later as the ship begins to sink Cameron and company give us the spooky death throws of the ship in a symphony of shudders groans and ear splintering snaps and crunches that put us directly where we don't like to be . . . on that boat! It works without being over done and reminded me of the Abyss and how well that movie utilized the surround channels to keep us cringing, waiting for the moment the structure would collapse around us. The area where sound and image come to a head in Nearer My God to Thee and beyond really haunt you leaving you a little breathless and hurting for the souls on board the ship.

The subwoofer gets a little hairy in the final part of the film and we begin to feel the whole thing come apart off in the distance. Very effective!

With my Tactile Transducers groaning beneath the couch and floor joists I feel the ships pain and I become convinced that my living room is feeling the pressure of all that water. I absolutely refuse to watch this movie without those babies hooked up!

Vocals are smooth and clear never being overpowered by the rest of the action and I particularly enjoyed listening to Lovejoy speak (when he did). The scene where he tells Jack to tie his shoes comes out of my center and I could swear he was right in my living room.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: As I have mentioned before, the extras on this disc are very slim, which to me suggests that the studio decided to release a "bare bones" copy to appease us hopefully presenting us with a disc loaded with extras somewhere down the road.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

All in all a great film that will be even better once we get the rest of those extras loaded in and a nice enhanced image. I for one am thrilled that I own this wonderfully directed yet so-so written movie in my library and I urge you to make it a part of yours.


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