On April 15, 1912, the frigid North Atlantic Ocean played host to the biggest maritime catastrophe in history. For the last 100 years, the sinking of the RMS Titanic has grown so large that legend has replaced the truth. However, recent findings and modern technology have raised new questions about what really happened that fateful night.
Follow Titanic detective Tim Maltin from the icy Labrador current of the Atlantic to the blistering deserts of the Mojave as he shatters old myths and sheds new light on the disaster that sent over 1,500 passengers and crew to a watery grave.
Combining 20 years of research with thousands of hours of testimony and enquiry reports, we piece together the final hours before and after the collision and reveal how this “unsinkable” liner was doomed from the outset.
Based on Maltin’s books 100 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic … but Didn’t! and Titanic: First Accounts.
I've never been all that interested in the Titanic. As far as having interest in historical tragedies I'm much more obsessed over the JFK assassination than I am over the sinking of the Titanic. I thought the sinking was cut and dry. What I'd heard was that the crew was lackadaisical and their hubris was their downfall. Thinking that the Titanic was unsinkable led to lazy sailing, that's what I believed anyway. That's why I found this documentary from the Smithsonian Channel so fascinating. 'Titanic's Final Mystery' offers up a hypothesis that seems much more believable than many of the commonly known myths that have circulated since that fateful day on April 14, 1912.
Tim Maltin is a Titanic scholar. He's become an expert on the Titanic by studying thousands of hours of eye witness testimony along with ship logs and the climate of that night. Maltin sets about debunking many myths about why the Titanic sank. He soon strips away just about everything I knew to be true about the sinking and presents a much more plausible and simple solution to why that night went so horribly wrong.
The documentary is pretty straight forward, and does seem repetitive at times. Its main focus is trying to figure out two dilemmas. First, why wasn't the ice berg spotted until just 30 seconds before the Titanic struck it. Secondly, why did the Californian (a ship that was only 10 miles away from the Titanic when she started sinking) not come to their rescue. Maltin thinks all the answers lie in the climate that night.
The theory he presents, along with his evidence is astounding. I thought that we'd get another step-by-step of the Titanic's sinking just because this year marks the 100th anniversary, but instead we're presented with a very strong argument that just about everything we know about why the Titanic sank is a myth.
Maltin visits maritime archives on both sides of the Atlantic in order to get the research he needs. He scours ship logs, pours over eye witness testimony, and recreates that night with a computer generated model. Real-life actors are interviewed dressed up as a few of the survivors (admittedly this was a pretty corny aspect to the whole thing).
I hesitate to reveal the core of Maltin's hypothesis, because when he revealed the reason why he thinks the spotters didn't notice the ice berg seconds before impact, it caused me to gasp. "No way," I thought. It couldn't really be that simple of an explanation could it? However, all the evidence points to Maltin's theory of why the spotters were so disoriented on that particular night. I'm not going to reveal his ultimate findings because I think that would be spoiling the surprise. I for one believe the evidence Maltin presents and am in full agreement with his final conclusions.
I hadn't heard of any of these hypotheses until now. Maybe Titanic aficionados had known about Maltin's work far before this documentary aired, but it was great to get a completely different picture of what transpired that night and the reasons why the entire endeavor of the Titanic's maiden voyage ended up with over 1,400 casualties. If you're looking to know more about the Titanic, or you just like a well put together historical documentary then this is the movie for you.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The show was produced by the Smithsonian Channel, but was distributed on Blu-ray by Inception Media Group. The movie is pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and is a Region A release.
'Titanic's Final Mystery' features some intensely detailed 1080i, high-def photography. The interviews with the real-life actors features the most detailed photography. Pores are easily discernible during extreme close-ups. The texture of their early 1900s clothes feature finely woven threads that are visible to the naked eye. The 3D rendering of the Titanic moving through the Atlantic doesn't look as great as CGI might look in a big blockbuster film. While the movie was free of artifacts - save for some jaggies here and there - I did notice a few instances of banding that happened during some of the computer-generated sequences.
For a made-for-TV documentary this looks quite good. All of the principle photography of Maltin visiting different sites, like the Titanic exhibition in Las Vegas, has stellar detail. Check out the bumps and dips in the side of the hull Maltin inspects at the exhibition for a good idea of how detailed some of the photography can be.
Inception Media Group has provided 'Titanic's Final Mystery' with a Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy track. Yes it is a lossy audio track, but there isn't much in this talk-heavy documentary that warrants having stellar high-def audio. Audiophiles will no doubt be annoyed that a lossless track hasn't been included, but the Dolby Digital track sounds fine here.
The track is inherently encumbered by being a documentary in the first place. There aren't many times where the sound gets to shine. Dialogue is clear through the center channel so it's easy to hear the interviews and also the narration. The music is nice and clear also, and even bleeds a bit into the rear channels. The rear channels aren't helped much though and stay pretty silent throughout, except for the occasional ringing bell or cracking of an ice berg breaking free from a glacier.
There are no supplements on this disc.
I really enjoyed 'Titanic's Final Mystery' and the theories that it presented, along with the believable evidence to back them up. A subject I wasn't really interested in before became interesting to me, which is really the goal of any documentary. The worthwhile ones succeed in achieving that goal. The audio and video are decent. The fact that there aren't any special features, brings down the overall score, but it's still worth a look. This is a good find for history buffs and scholars alike.