William Hale's Titanic
"S.O.S. Titanic", do I really need to tell you the plot because who doesn't know it is going to end with a collision with an iceberg and a sinking where 703 of the 2,220 passengers survived the disaster. I don't think so and will avoid the waste of my words and your time and start of by mentioning that "S.O.S. Titanic" was a 1979 made for TV version of the disaster which originally came in at 144 minus but now is more widely shown in the 109 minute edited version which is the version I watched for this review. As such it is fair to say that as a made for TV production this lacks that bit extra you get from a big screen production most notably in the use of the RMS Queen Mary as the Titanic which you don't need to be a boat expert to pick up on. Maybe it is me but seeing dirty white pain and wear and tear on the wood word just stood out to make it obvious that this wasn't a sparkling new ship which they were making the movie aboard.
Anyway whilst I could go on about the obvious issues when it comes to being a TV movie I will get to the storyline and for the most it tells the story which we all know and like the more recent James Cameron version even has a touch of romance across class divide but not the same melodramatic style of romance of Cameron's later movie. There is enough going on to make it interesting especially as we have episodes which deal with the social classes as they are divided by the decks. All of which eventually builds to the expected disaster.
But this is where I struggle with "S.O.S. Titanic" as it feels like a movie which is more concerned with the look than the story, aiming for an almost docudrama style as it gives us characters based on those who actually travelled on the Titanic. The trouble is that it isn't very entertaining and often feels like a dull procession during the first half. And then even worse is the shift in tone when disaster strikes and it begins to embody what in many ways it is, a late 70s disaster movie which lacks the gloss and excitement of those which came during the first half of the decade.
What "S.O.S. Titanic" has going for it is a very good cast of actors who are all well adverse in playing characters. As such the likes of David Warner, Ian Holm and Susan Saint James all impress with thoughtful portrayals. Not so good for me was Cloris Leachman as Molly Brown and David Janssen as John Jacob Astor as these characters don't feel authentic, too much performance over the characterisations making them feel forced. And whilst only a supporting role "S.O.S. Titanic" also features Helen Mirren as a stewardess.
What this all boils down to is that "S.O.S. Titanic" is a good movie about the Titanic especially when you take in to account it is a made for TV movie from over 30 years ago. But its docudrama styling and lack of tension is for me its lets down as it struggles maintain your attention.