Latest Posts

Random thoughts about sound and vision.

Up From The Depths: Raise The Titanic's miniature liner

The 1980 film version of Clive Cussler's best-selling novel Raise The Titanic fails for many reasons - the weak script, the lacklustre direction, the lifeless acting. Despite its failings, I've always had a fascination with the huge model liner they built for the climactic sequence where the Titanic breaks through the surface of the ocean like a rocket.

Water (along with fire) has always been the perennial enemy of miniature special effects. It refuses to reduce in scale with the model, so no matter how finely detailed the miniature is, the realism of the sequence is undermined by the water. One way to address the problem is to build as big a miniature as you can afford - this was the route taken by the special effects team on Raise The Atlantic, which had a suitably blockbuster budget. They created a massive 55 foot replica of the original liner, with a slavish attention to detail that pushed the cost of construction to more than $3m over the price of the original (and full-sized) ship. It was then installed in a specially built 350 ft wide by 35 ft deep water tank in Malta, at a cost of an additional $2m.

he shots of it emerging from the north Atlantic in the finished film are very impressive, although the "scale of water" problem still wasn't successfully defeated. The film itself had a disasterous showing at the global box-office, making far less than the budget spent on making it. The model was subsequently used in a couple of other productions but now lies derelict at the studio facility in Malta, rusted and broken beyond repair. The water tank itself has proved far more durable and is frequently used as a location and for special effects work by films, TV shows and commercials.