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Film: Raise the Titanic!

Raise the Titanic (1980) is an adventure film based on Clive Cussler's novel of the same name.

Starring Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer and Alec Guinness, the plot centres around a plan to raise the ill-fated liner from the bottom of the Atlantic in order to recover a rare mineral thought to be on board.

The production was beset with problems, including a change of director and numerous script re-writes. Raise the Titanic was a notable critical and Box Office Bomb, recouping only about $13 million of its $40 million budget, and is credited with bringing about the demise of Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment. It was nominated for three Golden Raspberries. John Barry's score did receive praise, however.


Raise the Titanic proves examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Many aspects of the novel are trimmed, changed or omitted, including the ending. Cussler was not impressed with the final result and it was years before he allowed another of his novels to be adapted.
  • All for Nothing: After the huge effort and expense of raising the ship, it turns out that the Byzanium isn't even on it.
  • Alternate History: Of course, the Titanic was never raised, and nor could it be.
  • And Starring: Alec Guinness gets this credit.
  • Creator Cameo: Clive Cussler has an uncredited role as a bearded reporter.
  • Deus ex Machina: After the Titanic has been raised, the Soviets board and attempt to steal it. Naturally, Pitt and Sandecker anticipated this and so had a submarine and a couple of fighter jets standing by, hidden out of sight and ready to be revealed at the moment the Soviets boarded the ship and attempted to steal it.
  • Dirty Communists: The Soviets are also out to find the Byzanium and thwart Pitt and his team.
  • Double Meaning: Brewster's crypic last words "Thank God for Southby".
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The Titanic's arrival in New York is accompanied by the obligatory shots of the Statue of Liberty and the New York landscape.
  • The Film of the Book
  • History Marches On: The Titanic wreck is shown in one piece, when it is now known that the ship broke apart before it sank. In defense of the film makers, they were working before the wreck's discovery in 1985. Up until then, the received wisdom was that the ship went down intact and every previous film adaptation reflected this.
  • Last Words: "thank God for Southby"
  • Mineral MacGuffin: Byzanium.
  • Not So Different: Both the Americans and the Soviets have defensive, rather than aggressive motivations. The Americans want to protect the USA from missile attack. The Soviets want to guarantee their security by preventing the Americans building a superior weapon.
  • NUMA Series: One of two in this series to be adapted into a film.
  • Photo Montage: The film opens with a montage of black and white Titanic photos.
  • Reality Subtext: John Bigalow, played by Alec Guinness, notes that despite fighting in both world wars and surviving numerous shipwrecks, all anyone ever asks him about is the Titanic. Guinness himself used to complain that despite his long and distinguished acting career, all most people remembered him for was Star Wars.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The search for the Titanic wreck was topical in the late 1970s and 1980s, in particular the attempts of flamboyant Texan millionaire Jack "Cadillac Jack" Grimm and his rival Robert Ballard, who eventually found it in 1985.
  • Shipshape Shipwreck : The film makers can be forgiven for getting it wrong about the Titanic splitting into two before it sank. However, the ship re-emerges at the surface after a dramatic sinking, a two mile plunge to the bottom of the Atlantic and 68 years underwater almost completely intact, to the extent that masts, funnels and ropes are still in position. Even Titanic's famous glass dome survived.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Seagram, who goes insane in the novel after discovering that the Byzanium is not on the Titanic.
  • Title Drop:
    General Busby: Are you talking about... raising the Titanic?!
  • Token Romance: The love triangle between Dana Archibald, her boyfriend Gene Seagram and her ex-boyfriend Dirk Pitt, never goes anywhere and is irrelevant to the story.
  • Trailers Always Spoil
  • Unobtanium: Byzanium. The rare mineral which is needed to power a missile defense system that could protect the continental USA from any missile attack, giving them the crucial upper hand in the Cold War. Unfortunately, the last known supply is believed to have been on board the Titanic.
  • Vehicle Title
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