Cast & Crew
In his drive to keep up his ship's speed, a luxury liner's captain sets his course for disaster.
Ernst Fritz Furbringer
Forget everything James Cameron ever told you- there's not much of a love story here. Instead, we're treated to a steady stream of increasingly absurd anti-British propaganda. The screenplay contends that the real reason the luxury liner crashed into an iceberg resulting in more than 1,500 passenger deaths - was that the company that owned it was trying to set a speed record in order to drive up the price of its stocks. All the British characters are portrayed as greedy incompetents, if not outright pigs, and the ship's solitary German crew member is the only hero. Leave it to the Nazis, of all people, to assert that Britain cared little for the sanctity of human life.
During filming, Selpin, who co-wrote the script with Walter Zerlett-Olfenius, unwisely made some negative remarks about the German Navy around the rest of the crew. Someone informed the Gestapo, and Selpin was promptly thrown into Prinz-Albrecht-Palais prison in Berlin. He was later found hanged in his cell, the result of a not particularly believable "suicide." (The rest of the picture was shot by Werner Klingler, who, one can reasonably assume, kept his opinions about Hitler's war machine to himself.)
When Titanic was finished, the building where its debut print was stored was leveled in an air raid (luckily, the film negative was housed in a different location). Then Goebbels began to worry that its scenes of mass panic would disturb German audiences that were experiencing their own terror during Allied air raids. The release was postponed, and the movie was finally shown, in highly edited form, only in Nazi-occupied Paris. Goebbels also barred one of the film's lead actresses, Jolly Bohnert, from appearing in any more movies for reasons which were never made clear.
Most Germans never saw the film until it was finally released, to little fanfare, in 1949. The only good that came out of the entire production was that the rescue sequences were eventually used in A Night to Remember (1958), so the British got the last laugh by incorporating Goebbel's best footage into their own movie.
Even the ship that was used during the filming of Titanic ended up in a hellish tragedy. Called the Cap Arcona, the vessel was commissioned to transport liberated prisoners from the brutal Nazi camp, Neuengamme. During what should have been a voyage to freedom, Allied forces accidentally fired at the Cap Arcona and sank it. The vast majority of the prisoners who didn't die as it went under were shot and killed by nearby Nazi forces. Such horror casts a sinister shadow across what little dramatic impact the film itself generates.
Directors: Herbert Selpin, Werner Klingler
Screenplay: Herbert Selpin, Walter Zerlett-Olfenius
Principal Cast: Sybille Schmitz (Sigrid Olinsky), Hans Nielsen (1st Officer Peterson), Kirsten Heiberg (Gloria), Ernst Fritz Furbringer (Sir Bruce Ismay), Karl Schonbock (John Jacob Astor), Charlotte Thiele (Lady Astor), Otto Wernicke (Capt. Edward J. Smith).
by Paul Tatara
Titanic (1943) - Titanic - The 1943 German version on DVD
More of a sprawling class study than a character-driven study, the film begins with the mavens at the White Star Line boasting about the benefits of their increasingly reckless cost-cutting and the ridiculous displays of wealth and nobility to be found on their new flagship, the Titanic. On board we bask in the accoutrements of the bourgeois class and meet some of the principals including a representative of the Balkan genry, Sigrid Olinsky (Vampyr's Sybille Schmitz). Lust for power, jewelry, and cash drives most of the passengers, who spend most of their time exchanging quips about business and love as if their lives were bargaining chips. Not surprisingly, the German crew provides the only voice of reason while Western hubris steers the vessel straight for disaster.
Anyone digging for themes will find the film largely at cross-purposes with itself; the simplified portrayal of big business as self-consuming and monstrous may still resonate today, but the film doesn't really offer much of an alternative. Only the film's concluding courthouse ranting ("Now we'll see if there really is such a thing as justice") and closing crawl ("the deaths of 1,500 people remain unatoned for - an eternal condemnation of England's quest for profit") - excised from many prints but reinstated here - offer blatant evidence of the film's political origins; the rest of the proceedings could easily be grandstanding Hollywood hokum transplanted with German actors.
Kino's DVD offers a nicely restored print of this rarely-seen curio, whose well-appointed disaster footage was later excerpted in the far more famous A Night to Remember (1958). The bulk of the black and white print looks crisp and in good condition, though some of the previously deleted footage can easily be spied by an peculiar greenish cast over the film.
Extras include the German theatrical trailer (without subtitles), which surprisingly deemphasizes the spectacle of the piece, as well as press clippings, a stills gallery, a 1912 newsreel assembled after the sinking of the Titanic (with its sister ship, the RMS Olympic, standing in for several shots), and a White Star promotional film offering a tour of the similarly constructed Olympic complete with giddy onlookers gasping in awe.
For more information about Titanic, visit Kino International. To order Titanic, go to TCM Shopping.
by Nathaniel Thompson