Raise the Titanic (1980)
When Lord Grade made the decision to bring Clive Cussler’s best selling novel to the screen he made the logical decision of hiring Jerry Jameson to handle the directing chores. I say logical because Jameson had already overseen the raising of a jumbo 747 airplane when he directed an all star cast trapped beneath the ocean in Airport’77.
Espionage mixes with deep sea adventure when it is determined that a rare ore mined in 1912 was loaded aboard the Titanic and shipped by the military to America. It’s called byzanium and the U.S. wants it enough to launch the largest salvage operation the world has ever known.
Jason Robards takes on the role of Admiral Sandecker who oversees the operation but places Richard Jordan firmly in charge of the day to day operations. Jordan is playing the role of Dirk Pitt. If you are not familiar with the series of novels from Clive Cussler, Pitt is an adventurer of the sea and frequently gets entangled with Bond like villains while locating many rare and or lost treasures.
Chasing the mystery of the lost ore leads Jordan to England where he meets a surviving member of the crew from the lost ship. Played by Alec Guinness it’s probably the best scene in the film and it should come as no surprise that Sir Alec had me believing he really was aboard the ill fated luxury liner.
Using plenty of models and over sized swimming pools a good part of the film involves men sitting in a sub looking at monitors and the bottom of the ocean in search of clues and debris. Included in the search are M. Emmet Walsh and J.D. Cannon. Both well known character actors.
Stunning Anne Archer is the leading lady within though her role is more or less window dressing and substantially cut down from the novelization. The same goes for Michael Pataki playing the Russian counterpart who is trying to get his hands on the ore for the Kremlin.
I guess I should point out that I’ve read every Dirk Pit adventure after getting hooked on them in high school. I’ve never had a problem with either Robards or Jordan being cast here though Robards looks nothing like the Admiral of the novels. Still, he does command the screen and could play an Admiral in most any film.
The late Richard Jordan does alright here as Pitt but the script removed all the action scenes from the novel. By doing so the character isn’t quite the man of action as portrayed in the novels. Years later Matthew McConaughey would rectify that aspect of the character on screen in only the second attempt at bringing Cussler’s characters to life in Sahara.
The highlight of the film is without a doubt the raising of the ship. Even though it’s all done with models in the style of Eiji Tsuburaya it’s a stirring scene. You also have to realize that at the time of the novel and the subsequent film, the world had no idea that the real Titanic lay in two pieces on the ocean floor. It was one of those great topics for conversation. Is it possible? Could it really be raised to the surface. When your a young boy at the time of this films release it fueled one’s imagination.
This movie proved to be a commercial failure and as a fan of the books that’s kind of sad. Cussler had a falling out with tinsel town and for years refused to have anymore of his books turned into scripts for the movies. Eventually he gave in and Sahara was born. I for one enjoyed that film and though it too was a failure overall I was fine with it and was hoping to see McConaughey carry on with the Dirk Pitt character. Once again Cussler had a falling out and the rest is history.