Review - Titanic Collector's Edition (DVD-2005)
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Titanic: Collector’s Edition (DVD-2005)

Paramount Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski


The ill-fated maiden voyage of the ocean liner Titanic captured the public’s imagination since the time of its sinking in 1912. Public interest in the disaster increased exponentially when the ship’s wreck was discovered on the ocean floor seventy-plus years later. 


Even so, it was a considerable risk when, in 1997, James Cameron went for broke and spent an unheard of $200 million to make the ultimate film version of the event.  Skeptics called the project ‘Cameron’s Folly’.


But Cameron’s Titanic was a grand entertainment.  It became a worldwide phenomenon—the biggest blockbuster ever.  In the U.S. alone, it grossed an unprecedented $600 million at the box office.  The film’s worldwide total gross reached nearly $2 Billion.  And at least five or six soundtrack-related CDs were officially released—such was the interest in Titanic lore.


The film has previously appeared on DVD in a bare-bones film-only release.  It now receives a deluxe 3-disc special-edition treatment along with absolutely terrific extras: a choice of three audio-commentary tracks, 45 minutes of deleted scenes, an alternate ending, documentaries, visual effects breakdowns and much, much more.


Of special note is Cameron’s running commentary track—one of the best director’s commentaries ever to appear on DVD.  Like Francis Ford Coppola’s wonderful track for The Outsiders, Cameron’s track is open, honest, revealing and authoritative.  In addition, Cameron’s knowledge of the history and sinking of the Titanic is encyclopedic.  Imagine what it would have been like if Stanley Kubrick had provided a commentary for one of his films and you’ll get an idea of how valuable the Cameron track is.


The Kubrick/Cameron analogy is apt in more than one way. Both directors have a certain coolness and perfectionism and display mastery of the film medium.  Kubrick used multiple film techniques to achieve the groundbreaking special-effects and ultra-realism of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Cameron does the same for Titanic and works hard to make the film as accurate as possible and provide a heightened ‘you are there’ experience.  One magnificent shot of the cruise ship alone cost $1 million, and although the CGI employed has since become a standard tool, Cameron’s use of it was innovative and groundbreaking at the time. 


The many extras in the set include a clever segment recreating the effect of 1912 newsreel footage as well as a detailed tour of the beautiful sets created for the film.  In addition, there is also an absolutely mind-boggling time-lapse film detailing the construction of the mammoth, full scale re-creation of the ship, Titanic, that will leave you in awe.  Then there is a splendidly wacky and humorous behind-the-scenes satire of the filming process with director Cecil B. De Mille subbing for director James Cameron.  And a special branching-out feature allows one to watch the film and pause periodically to go behind-the-scenes of the filming and see how a scene was shot or conceived. 


But one of the best extra features is the 45 minutes of deleted scenes and the original ending.  Watching the deleted scenes with Cameron’s comments and English subtitles for the film-dialogue is a powerful emotional experience that will allow you to appreciate Titanic on a new and even deeper level.


So clearly conceived was Cameron’s vision for Titanic that the intent of the film footage left on the cutting room floor is somehow conveyed in the film itself by a kind of cinematic osmosis.  The cut footage is anything but throwaway material and the scenes add further proof that Kate Winslet’s Oscar nomination was fully merited. 


The film’s original ending is also included here for the first time.  It is both excellent and spiritually satisfying, though Cameron was ultimately correct to alter it so as to leave just a bit more mystery in his final cut.


Titanic works as a film for a number of reasons, not the least of which are its archetypes and themes of love and heroics; sacrifice and transformation.  Much of the success is due to Cameron’s depth of artistry which is on full display in this set.


Paramount Home Video’s 3 disc Special Collector’s Edition of Titanic is an important DVD release.  For many, it will be the DVD release of the year.  For anyone who loves or studies cinema, it is a must-own DVD.



2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski/ Celluloid Dreams



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