A Sinking Feeling

Media, The Arts


SPOILER ALERT: It sinks.
We’ve talked here before about TV’s obsession with brands, which are used to safeguard audience figures – turn a well-known story into drama and you’ll have a guarantee that some section of the audience will watch. Now comes the latest addition to the brand stable, with ITV’s four-part drama of everyone’s favourite disaster.

It’s the only branded disaster I can think of; The Black Hole of Calcutta is politically incorrect (although an astonishing story), the Hindenburg involves foreigners (not the right demographic), the Great Fire of London is too expensive. So we get Julian Fellowes, the go-to writer for all things Edwardian.

Interestingly there is still a fresh story to be told, and it has only been touched upon in one unlikely earlier version. ‘Titanic – The Musical’ was a Broadway Tony-winner which took a surprisingly serious look at the politics behind the ship’s construction. Backed by a dark choral score, on stage all classes were represented by boxes containing different cabins that slowly tilted. Let’s hope the TV version concentrates on something more than weepy farewells amid the gushing water.

Long before we had the 1958 British version, ‘A Night To Remember’ with Kenneth More, based on the true account of the disaster, and of course the ghastly, endless James Cameron farrago which went to the trouble of getting the crests on the cutlery perfect but ruined any chance of verisimilitude with its hilariously awful script. Meanwhile, the artefact touring exhibition and various other incarnations have toured the world. We get it, so why not make a film about the Lusitania?

Where to next for brand TV? I think Tarzan has probably been retired now, but Jack the Ripper will doubtless return. We’re probably overdue a Frankenstein – after the National’s huge stage success (review somewhere on this site, probably in the attic) and Dr Jekyll perhaps?

God forbid we get anything from a less trodden-to-death literary source.

10 comments on “A Sinking Feeling”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    The movies may now be shy of Tarzan, but I doubt he’s retiring.
    This week John Carter of Mars opens on the big screen here. And there are plenty of reprints and new paperback takes on Carter available. And a few fresh Tarzan reprints, too. Can the Lord of the Jungle be but a vane or two behind?
    Doesn’t Carter’s Mar’s “Barsoom” sound like something Auston Powers would have cried? “Barsoom, Babe!”
    Glad to hear you were underwhelmed by Titanic. I think it must have been that scene of the lovebirds in the bow, hair whipping about, that floated that boat. And that song, that song!
    I almost drowned in the movie theater, as I was surrounded by relatives along with other quitely weeping viewers. One person way down front, truth, called out: “It’s so beautiful” and later “Take his hand.”
    I didn’t go to see Cameron’s blue wonderland. It looked liked he’d used Easter egg dye on everything.

  2. Gretta says:

    I have never watched the Titanic movie. No intention of doing so, either. The review of Fellowes’ Titanic in the Radio Times made use of the phrase ‘soggy Downton’, which I’m guessing will be pretty accurate. And another reason not to watch it.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    The Lusitania would make a good film and a friend is reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Princess of Mars. Perhaps that would make a good story – she says it reads well. I think the Hindenburg would be at least as good as Towering Inferno (now there was a ridiculous title)and we’re surely ready for a film with sympathetic German characters, most of whom would die. As long as we didn’t have to have the radio commentator of the day. I agree about The Black Hole, unless it was accurately done and the causes of the thing fairly put. (Some days I really feel like an apologist for everything wrong in the world.)

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    Don’t most people feel like apologists for everything wrong in the world? It’s not a bad thing to be, only more tiring some days than others.
    I don’t believe history marches foward; rather it accreates, slowly – almost glacially – most decades with unfortunate periods of melt.
    Didn’t Flashman end up in The Black Hole in one of the books? Now, I tend to think more of those monsterious space-drains sucking matter down to who-knows-where, rather than of Calcutta.

  5. Gretta says:

    There was a Hindenburg movie, because I have the soundtrack of it. Came out sometime in the 1970s? No idea if it was any good, and rather think it probably wasn’t(and yes, it did have that radio announcer on it).

    What I would really like to see is an accurate(ish) telling of either of the World Wars from a non-Allied perspective. How many Australian/New Zealand movies and books have there been regarding Gallipoli? How many Turkish? You can see, hear and read so much about the Blitz, and yet precious little about Dresden, it seems.

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    Gretta: The problem is so little is translated. Must be a lot of Turkish Gallipoli stuff out there, but so little is brought into English, although there must be work by the well-known Turkish writers in English. Perhaps a bit of Goog & Bling could dig (web-crawl?) it out. There’s a good bit on Dresden – once more a fine city with museums! – but it’s in Dresden. I would have hated to be there, though, in the season of bombs.

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Gurr… Next to last line, trying again, but it’s in German and most easily found in Dresden’s bookshops.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    There was a movie called Gallipoli & I understood that to be from an ANZAC perspective. It takes a lot of pushing and shoving to get one’s perspective and history recognized and Aussies as we know are such quiet and shy people. The problem for Kiwis is mostly that there aren’t enough of them.
    There is an excellent YA book called Fly Away Home about Austria during WWII. (The nursery rhyme is almost identical in English & German.) Because the characters were sympathetically drawn the 12 year olds identified with them and were horrified when I told them that the bombers were ours.
    The Flashman book is the third in the series but I can’t find the title.

  9. Gretta says:

    Dan, absolutely. For some reason a lot of that sort of history seems to stay ‘in house’, which is a shame.

    Helen, yes, the movie was courtesy of those shy, retiring neighbours of ours. We have books and docos for Africa here about Gallipoli, but I doubt that many(if any) have made it outside New Zealand. Sort of On Topic, it was only fairly recently I found out about Vimy Ridge, and that was via The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart some 5-ish years ago. Prior to that I’d never heard of the place, let alone realised its significance to Canada.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Right, Gretta, and in Canada there are large numbers of people who don’t know that July 1st (Canada Day) was a day of mourning in Newfoundland because the whole Newfoundland Regiment was destroyed on that day in 1916. It was a small colony and the loss of all those men devastated the place, to say nothing of removing a whole generation of the men who would have run the Island during the twenties and thirties. Celebrating Canada on the Rock has been rather iffy since they joined us in 1949 (on April 1st yet!)

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