directed and written by Melissa Peltier, A&E Home Video, 4 hours, boxed set .
“To my mind, the world of today woke April 15, 1912,” wrote the Titanic survivor Jack Thayer, quoted in this ambitious and absorbing four-part documentary about what remains the century’s most shocking disaster. The story of the great doomed liner emerges from living witnesses and historians of the tragedy, and over the film’s four hours the fascination only grows. The idea for the ship was dreamed up over after-dinner brandy by the White Star line’s owner, J. Bruce Ismay; its construction took four years. For the few easy days of its maiden voyage from Southampton, in April 1912, the Titanic ruled the seas as the biggest, most elegant liner in the world.
Late on Sunday, April 14, the ship—which confidently carried lifeboats for a little more than half its 2,224 passengers —suffered its fatal collision with an iceberg. “To say a ship was unsinkable was flying in the face of God,” one woman remembers her mother saying on board. Frank Goldsmith, who escaped as a child, said later that the roar at a baseball stadium often horrified him as a reminder of the screams of his fellow passengers going under.
The film’s first three hours detail the ship’s construction, its brief but lavish life, and its tragic end. Part four chronicles the exciting rediscovery and exploration of its remains.