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Case Number 23404: Small Claims Court

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Titanic: The Complete Story

History Channel // 1994 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // February 28th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge Kent Dixon's complete story is a pop-up book.

The Charge

"To my mind the world of today awoke April 15th, 1912."—Jack B. Thayer, Titanic survivor

The Case

For better or worse, as we approach the centennial of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it's no surprise we're seeing the resurfacing of previously-released books, documentaries, and other material on the topic. It's a sad fact of life that much of this content is being released largely to capitalize on public interest, but hopefully that same interest results in a solemn understanding of the immense tragedy that occurred so long ago.

While James Cameron's Titanic was largely historically accurate—following actual events and representing many of the key players in the drama—the real story was couched in enough fiction that the film should not be considered an infallible account of events as they happened. It's quite likely the world will never know the whole story, with even survivor's accounts differing wildly on what happened as the ship sank. Debuting on History Channel in 1994, "Death of a Dream" and "The Legend Lives On" are two parts of what is likely the most complete Titanic account we may ever see. Drawing on survivor stories, newsreel footage, numerous archival images, and opinions of historians, this documentary expounded significantly on what I already knew of Titanic. It's a solid history lesson on one of, if not the most significant maritime disaster.

History's repackaging of Titanic: The Complete Story now includes a third documentary called "Titanic's Achilles Heel," that digs deeper into the construction of the ship, attempting to confirm whether certain design flaws contributed to making the iceberg collision more disastrous than it might have been otherwise. While there's some interesting content, it tends to be overshadowed by a somewhat sensationalistic approach fueled by the soundtrack and much of its narration. One key piece of evidence revealed is the fact that an expansion joint built into Titanic's hull may have failed, causing it to split at a far shallower angle than James Cameron's film and expert opinion had previously indicated.

Since it's unlikely the average person would have the time to dig through all of the available historical content, Titanic: The Complete Story is likely the best way to gain a comprehensive understanding of the timeline. From the construction of the ship and her launch, to the collision and sinking, through more recent efforts to understand other possible factors that contributed to the tragedy, this DVD does a commendable job of conveying a huge amount of information in a respectively short amount of time. If you already own the 2002 History Channel release of the same name, you will already have seen two of the three documentaries, with "Achilles Heel" as the only new addition here.

Presented in both standard definition full frame and fake widescreen (matted 1.78:1) with Dolby 2.0 Stereo audio, the A/V presentation does and adequate job presenting music and narration, historical content, and more recent interviews and footage equally. The only bonus feature is a timeline viewers can click on for basic text information.

If your understanding of the Titanic and the lives lost can be summarized by a French-Canadian woman singing about hearts going on, invest the time in viewing Titanic: The Complete Story. While it's likely not as complete as its producers would have us believe, it effectively chronicles the key events surrounding the disaster, delivering it all in a fairly tidy package.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Timeline

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