Raise the Titanic (film)

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Raise the Titanic
Raise The Titanic Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jerry Jameson
Produced by William Frye
Lord Grade (Uncredited)
Screenplay by Adam Kennedy
Story by Eric Hughes (Adaptation)
Based on Raise the Titanic! by
Clive Cussler
Starring Jason Robards
Richard Jordan
David Selby
Anne Archer
Sir Alec Guinness
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Matthew F. Leonetti
Edited by Robert F. Shugrue
J. Terry Williams
Distributed by Associated Film Distribution [1]
Release dates
  • August 1, 1980 (1980-08-01)
Running time 114 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[1]
Box office $7,000,000[1]

Raise the Titanic is a 1980 adventure film by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment and directed by Jerry Jameson. The film, which was written by Eric Hughes (adaptation) and Adam Kennedy (screenplay), was based on the book of the same name by Clive Cussler. The story concerns a plan to recover the RMS Titanic because it is carrying cargo valuable to Cold War hegemony.

Although the film starred Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer, and Sir Alec Guinness, it was poorly received by critics and audiences and proved to be a box office bomb. The film only grossed about $13.8 million against an estimated $40 million budget. Lew Grade later remarked "it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic".[2][3]


The film opens in Northern Siberia where an American spy breaks into an old mine where he discovers the frozen body of a US Army sergeant. Next to the corpse is a newspaper from 1912. Using a radiation meter, the spy discovers that the mineral he seeks was there. He is then chased away by Soviet forces.

US intelligence soon find out that boxes of the raw mineral were loaded onto the Belfast-built RMS Titanic by an American in April 1912. A search is then conducted in North Atlantic to locate the sunken ocean liner. It is aided by one of the Titanic's last survivors who explains he was also the last person to see the American alive. Just before the Titanic foundered, the sailor said he locked the man inside the ship's vault containing the boxes of mineral, his last words being "thank god for Southby!"

Experts then begin the dangerous job of raising the ship from the seabed, in which one of the submersibles, Starfish, experiences a cabin flood and implodes. Another submersible, the Deep Quest, experiences a battery shortage, which causes its manipulator arm to become locked onto the Titanic wreckage.

Eventually the rusting Titanic is brought to the surface using compressed air tanks and buoyancy aids. The ship is then towed to a dry dock in New York - its original destination. It turns out no expense is being spared because the mineral that is sought will be used as the power source in a weapons system that could take down any missile entering US airspace. In response, the USSR challenges the United States over the salvage of the ship because they claim the mineral was taken illegally from their land. On entering the watertight vault, the salvage team discover the mummified remains of the American, but no mineral. The boxes are just full of gravel. It soon transpires the clue was in those final words. The American had arranged a fake burial in a graveyard in "Southby", England prior to sailing back to the United States on the Titanic. The group decides to leave the mineral in the grave because they agree its existence would destabilise the status quo that maintains the peace between the West and the Soviet Union.




The film endured an arduous pre-production process. Lew Grade read the script by Clive Cussler and became interested, thinking there was potential for a series along the lines of James Bond movies. He discovered that Stanley Kramer was attached to direct and Grade said he would buy the rights to the book and let Kramer direct and produce.[4] Preproduction began and models of the ship were built; Grade said that the models were at least two or three times larger than they should be. Eventually Kramer quit due to creative differences.[5]

Production costs spiralled to US$15 million as work was undertaken to find a ship that could be converted to look like the sunken Titanic.[6] The screenplay also underwent numerous rewrites.[7] Novelist Larry McMurtry - who disliked Cussler's novel considering it "less a novel than a manual on how to raise a very large boat from deep beneath the sea" - claims that he was one of approximately 17 writers who worked on the screenplay and the only one not to petition for a credit on the finished film.[8]

Elliott Gould was offered a lead role but turned it down.[9]


The film was shot in 1978, but remained unreleased until 1980. An old Greek ocean liner SS Athinai was converted into a replica of the Titanic. A scale model was used for close-up underwater scenes. At the time of filming, it was not known that the Titanic broke in half as she foundered. Therefore, the wreck appears intact in the film. The wreck of the real Titanic was found in 1985.

A 10-tonne 50 ft (15 m) scale model was also built for the scene where the Titanic is raised to the surface. Costing $7 million, the model initially proved too large for any existing water tank.[7] This problem led to one of the world's first horizon tanks being constructed at the Mediterranean Film Studios near Kalkara, Malta. The 10 million gallon tank could create the illusion a ship was at sea. The Titanic model was raised more than 50 times until a satisfactory shot was acquired.[10] Following the completion of filming, the scale model was left to rust for 30 years at the side of the horizon tank (at 35°53′36.36″N 14°32′4.41″E / 35.8934333°N 14.5345583°E / 35.8934333; 14.5345583). In January 2003, a storm caused damage to the model. By 2012, the remains of the metal structure has been moved to a new location closer to the sea (at 35°53′37.51″N 14°32′6.13″E / 35.8937528°N 14.5350361°E / 35.8937528; 14.5350361).


Renowned Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning English composer John Barry created the film's musical score which became the most acclaimed aspect of the production. Though the original recordings of the music have been lost, Silva Screen Records has since commissioned a re-recording of the complete score with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in 1999. Christian Clemmensen, reviewer of Filmtracks.com, later considered it one of the best of Barry's career, stating: "When the film came out in the theatres, the score was a remarkably fresh and unique experience, and out of the novelty of that style of music arose the popularity of techniques that would inform Barry's Oscar-winning efforts for Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves."[11]

In August 2014 Network On Air are releasing Raise The Titanic on Blu-ray in the UK with the only known available original Barry score. As to which tracks will be contained is unknown. There are tapes from M&E which contain the score plus sound effects. There is no known source for the original, complete score.[12]


Raise the Titanic received mostly negative reviews at the time. However, its musical score was given a positive response. It currently scores a 50% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

At the time of its release, Cussler was so disgusted with the film adaption of his book he refused to give any further permission for cinematic works based on his books.[13] (In 2006 Cussler sued the filmmakers of Sahara, a film adaption of his 1992 book, for failing to consult him on the script when it also made huge financial losses.[14])

The film, which had a budget of $40 million, only managed to gross $7 million at the US box office plus $6.8 million in video rentals.[1][2][3] However, it was popular in Japan.[4]

Lew Grade later wrote that he "thought the movie was quite good" particularly enjoying the actual raising of the Titanic and the scene where Dirk Pitt walks into the wrecked ballroom. He blamed the failure of the film in part on the release of a TV movie on the topic SOS Titanic.[4]

Raise The Titanic, along with other contemporary flops, has been credited with prompting Grade's withdrawal from continued involvement with the film industry.[15]


Nominated: Worst Picture
Nominated: Worst Supporting Actor
Nominated: Worst Screenplay


  1. ^ a b c "Raise the Titanic - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Fowler, Rebecca (31 August 1996), "'It would be cheaper to lower the Atlantic'", The Independent (London), retrieved 2009-05-11 
  3. ^ a b Kennedy, Duncan (25 August 2012). "Australian billionaire on mission to recreate Titanic". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 25 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Lew Grade, Still Dancing: My Story, William Collins & Sons 1987 p 260-261
  5. ^ Walker, Alexander (1985). National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties. Harrap. pp. 198, 202. ISBN 9780245542688. 
  6. ^ Suid, Lawrence H.Suid (2002). Guts and Glory. University Press of Kentucky. p. 413. ISBN 9780813190181. 
  7. ^ a b Cettl, Robert (2010). Film Tales. Wider Screenings TM. p. 74. ISBN 9780987050007. 
  8. ^ McMurtry, Larry (2010). Hollywood: A Third Memoir. Simon & Schuster. pp. 59–60. 
  9. ^ Mann, R. (1978, Oct 22). MOVIES. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/158662943?accountid=13902
  10. ^ "His special effects bring magic to the screen". Weekly World News. 24 Mar 1981. p. 28. 
  11. ^ Clemmensen, Christian. "Raise the Titanic". Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 
  12. ^ http://networkonair.com/shop/1947-raise-the-titanic-5027626707040.html
  13. ^ Cunningham, By Lawrence A. (2012). Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter. Cambridge University Press. p. 153. ISBN 9781107020078. 
  14. ^ "Don't give him rewrite.". LA Times.com. 8 December 2006. 
  15. ^ Barber, Sian (2013). The British Film Industry in the 1970s: Capital, Culture and Creativity. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137163325. 

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