Titanic 1953

This is generally regarded as the lesser Titanic movie however it has some very creditable miniature effects work supervised by Ray Kellogg. The miniature iceberg shots at the beginning of the film are particularly effective. One odd aspect to the depiction of the event is that the iceberg is clearly shown passing to the starboard side of the ship but the underwater shot shows the iceberg penetrating the port side of the hull. There is one shot during this sequence that shows the water pouring into the interior as the hull is gashed. The interior is a miniature with the running extras combined into the scene with a traveling matte.

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The model Titanic was 28 feet (8.5m) long and weighed about a ton. There are also miniature rowboats which were about 40 inches (1m) long packed with rubber survivor figures. The rowing figures were mechanised. The picture below shows one of the miniature lifeboats as it is today, when it came up for auction.

The model of the Titanic was re-used in three further films in the same year of Titanic’s release. See details after the pictures below.

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According to Jim’s Titanic movies site  after the Titanic film, the model was modified, having the four tall funnels replaced with three shorter fatter ones and used (along with the sets) in a further three movies, firstly Gentlemen prefer Blondes (the only time in colour), followed by Dangerous Crossing and finally Blueprint for Murder all released in 1953.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1953

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Dangerous Crossing 1953

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Blueprint For Murder 1953

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Visit this page on Jim’s Titanic movie site and follow the navigation forward for more pics and info concerning the fate of the model which was sold in 1971, converted back into a Titanic and still exists. It can be seen on display at the Fall River Maritime Museum. Thanks are due to reader Patrick Walsh who kindly submitted the following photographs he took of the model as it exists in the museum while on holiday in the USA in 2013.

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Storm Over the Pacific 1960

AKA Hawai Middowei daikaikûsen: Taiheiyô no arashi

AKA I Bombed Pearl Harbor (US release)

This movie recreates, in miniature, the attack on Pearl Harbour and the Battle of Midway.The special effects are by Eiji Tsubaraya famous for the effects on the original and subsequent Godzilla movies. In terms of the miniature shots this can be seen as a colour re-creation of his earlier black and white work on The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya in 1942.

I find the Japanese style of miniature work compared to the American work, lacks a certain level of realism, probably due in some part to much lower budgets, but in its place there is an exuberance in the staging of the action particularly in the use of pyrotechnic effects that makes up for it. There is a strange joy in the execution of all the miniature explosions, tracer fire, flak bursts, torpedo hits and general destruction that perhaps sometimes American miniature shots can lack. There are a lot of nice details in the miniature shots, like the trees being buffeted by the passing aircraft and all the mechanical miniature waving figures on the aircraft carrier as the aircraft take off.

The miniature photography in this film was deemed so successful that many shots were re-used in a number of subsequent movies, Admiral Yamamoto in 1968, the American film Midway in 1976 and another Japanese film, The Imperial Navy, in 1981.

Once again thanks is due to Roger Todd for supplying the visual material for this post.

Storm Over The Pacific DVD Booklet




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New Moon 1940

This MGM musical has a few shots of model ships by the ever reliable Arnold A Gillespie and team. The ships were 1/12th scale with some foreground palm trees at 1/4 scale. The night shots were, as was usual, taken in the middle of the day using the day for night technique. The scenic art for the background night skies is also very convincing and contributes greatly to the success of the effect.

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Glory at Sea AKA Gift Horse 1952

Glory at Sea – American title, Gift Horse – original British title.

This film concerns itself with one of the 50 obsolete four funnel American destroyers that were given to Britain in the early stages of the second world war. The title refers to the fact that the ships given their age were prone to breaking down and were not liked by their crews but as the saying goes you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

The miniature work on show here is always pretty dry with no water interaction in sight. For shots of ships on the ocean Wally Veevers was fond of using photo cutouts optically composited onto real ocean plates and there is plenty of that in evidence in this film. In my view this technique is a poor substitute for miniature in a tank and has a lot of shortcomings. Although the copy of the movie I have is very poor in quality, you can clearly make out camera moves in the ocean background plates that don’t match the stationary cutouts.

The last half of the film is based on the 1942 St Nazaire raid where the obsolete destroyer, was used to ram and then blow up the only dry dock the Germans had on the Atlantic coast big enough to house the battleships Tirpitz and Bismarck. This subject was again covered in the film Attack on the Iron Coast in 1968 and more recently as a documentary hosted by Jeremy Clarkson that also featured an excellent miniature ship sequence supervised by Jose Granell, then of Cinesite, now of the Magic Camera Company. A very enlightening making of can be found on Youtube along with the documentary itself.

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