In my recent review of WALT DISNEY ON THE FRONT LINES I stated that it was " the most important WW2-themed dvd release of this or any year ," an opinion I still hold, though Kino Video's release of the Nazi-made 1943 virulently anti-British film TITANIC easily qualifies as the most fascinating WW2 dvd release of the year, and an excellent counterpoint to  the anti-German propaganda pieces in that great Disney release. With this TITANIC, as well as the just released FANNY TRILOGY, Kino Video firmly establishes itself as a force to be reckoned with, and the only real competitor to the Criterion group.

This is one film where what went on behind the scenes is as fascinating, if not more so, than the production itself. Example: TITANIC'S director, Herbert Selpin, infuriated with the slow second-unit shooting, was overheard making remarks damning the German army, which were reported to the Gestapo, after which Selpin was arrested and later found hanging in his prison cell, the victim of an arranged "suicide.". The film itself, an extraordinarily expensive wartime endeavor, was initially thought of as a golden opportunity to exploit the alleged corporate greed of the British, though once it was completed Berlin censors banned its German release because of the terrifying scenes of panic which were all too familiar to German civilians undergoing nightly Allied bombing raids.

There's no getting around the fact that, even in its somewhat truncated 85 minute form, this TITANIC is an extremely  well-made film both dramatically and technically, and is equal in many respects to 20th Century Fox's very good 1953 film, which turned the event into a superbly acted watery soap opera, and the proficient, if somewhat dry, British semi-documentary version A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, which squandered the talents of the great Kenneth More (and actually used some shots of from the 1943 version), and is infinitely superior to James Cameron's more recent, and thoroughly repugnant and simple-minded exploitation of the tragedy.    

In order to fully appreciate this TITANIC, however, for which Kino has somehow managed to unearth a very good full screen black and white print, it is important to remember that this is a film originally financed by and enthusiastically championed  by the Third Reich. Therefore, one has to swallow whole such hilarious conceits as the one person on board who is continuously warning the ship's Captain and executives that they're acting irresponsibly is ----surprise! ---- the only German aboard, who is regarded by all present as just another sour kraut. And the fact that we're acutely aware that all the actors on view here were, in reality, most probably Nazis, skews our sentiments about the fates of these particular Titanic passengers in an interesting way ----- this may be the only cinematic TITANIC where the viewer is rooting for the iceberg!                       


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