History Channel // 2006 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // May 3rd, 2006
If you've never heard of Titanic, then where have you been living? One of history's most captivating tragedies, the sinking of the Titanic draws countless numbers to learn more about the catastrophe. That fateful trip is absolutely fascinating, and I've watched a great many documentaries about that famed ship. When the movie Titanic came out, I certainly didn't see it for Leo, Kate, or the love story. For me, what brought me in and kept me glued to my seat for all those hours was seeing the ship. A glorious super liner, Titanic is perhaps more famous today than it was in 1912.
As a result, most of us know what led to its sinking, either from the movie or from documentaries. This latest entry into the fold from The History Channel, Titanic's Final Moments: Missing Pieces has a new postulation on the now generally accepted theory of the ship's demise. That current theory states that Titanic saw an iceberg straight in its path. It tried to turn to miss it, but the big ship clipped the side of the iceberg, tearing a gash or a series of small gashes along its side. Water flooded in, filling enough watertight compartments to cause her to go down. As remarkably shown in Titanic, the nose of the ship went under first, causing the stern to rise above the water. At some point, something caused the ship to split in half, causing the stern to crash back to the water. The nose then quickly went under, pulling the stern deep down to the bottom of the Atlantic.
Five years ago, an expedition to explore the wreckage made an interesting discovery south of the stern's debris field. They said they found "long strips of metal." Unfortunately, the submersible's camera equipment malfunctioned and they had no proof of what they saw. But this set in motion a new theory. Maybe these long strips were from the bottom of the ship. If so, then Titanic just didn't graze the side of the iceberg, but it actually ran over part of the iceberg too. We learn that an iceberg does not go straight down below the water (like a cliff); instead, the water causes the iceberg to form a shelf below the water. Hence, it's now theorized that Titanic somewhat ran aground on the iceberg. If so, in addition to the gashes on the side, maybe there was also significant damage on the bottom, explaining how the ship sank in less than three hours. If that were true, it could also explain why the front of the ship is relatively intact while the stern is crushed upon itself.
Now that I've told you all that, is there any reason to watch the special? Maybe. The two-hour special -- now only 90 minutes (not 100 minutes as the packaging states) with the commercials excised -- does show you the 2005 expedition to look for these strips of metal to add proof to the theory. It's an interesting journey, one that's fun to watch to see what is or isn't found/learned. Sadly, there's a bit too much padding in the special. As is usually the case with a Titanic documentary, they restate the history again and again. There is too much historical regurgitation that consumes too much time. The expedition, once we get to the bits where the "long strips of metal" are either found or not found, occurs far too late in the show.
I liked the special, but it's nothing special. It is well done, but it's not one that needs to be added to my DVD collection. Just sit tight and keep your eyes open for a repeat on The History Channel. Yet if my words do not dissuade you, this disc is nicely crafted. First, the video transfer is well executed. I must admit my confusion over the correct aspect ratio, so I am simply saying it's full frame. There are times when it's clearly widescreen (the high definition footage from the voyage to the ocean floor) and other times when it's not. I am postulating (just like the show) that those sequences were just letterboxed when aired on television. Either way, the video is crisp with excellent details and color representation. Next, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix also suits its purpose with clear, easily understood dialogue.
Included on the disc are two bonus items. Starting things off is the wholly unforgettable, PR fluff piece "History in the Making: Titanic" (5 minutes). This is one of those filler pieces probably shown on The History Channel to get people to watch the show when it premiered. Faring infinitely better is the second item, "History's Mysteries: Doomed Sisters of the Titanic" (42 minutes). This is a complete episode of History's Mysteries that details the unfortunate careers of the White Star Line's trio of sister ships, Olympic, Titanic, and Brittanic. This episode, without as much historical repetition, is fascinating and I learned much about the apparently cursed ships.
Review content copyright © 2006 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "History's Mysteries: Doomed Sisters of the Titanic"
* "History in the Making: Titanic"