FILM clips

Following are VHS videocassette reviews from the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) Office for Film and Broadcasting.

The Abyss (1989)

Derivative sea adventure tracking the attempt to rescue a U.S. nuclear submarine that has sunk in waters inhabited by mysterious, benign alien creatures. Writer-director James Cameron drowns the fantasy in a sea of dopey interpersonal distractions and technological razzle-dazzle. Intense underwater action with drownings, resuscitations, and locker room language. The USCC classification is A-III. The film is rated PG-13. (FoxVideo, $14.98)

The Cruel Sea (1953)

Convincing dramatization of Nicholas Monsarrat's World War II novel about the captain (Jack Hawkins) of a British convoy escort battling U-boats in the Atlantic until the ship is torpedoed and he finishes the war in command of a corvette guarding convoys bound for the Russian port of Murmansk. Director Charles Frend calls up a sense of realism by filming the action in semidocumentary style, but what makes the picture memorable is its understated story of a conscientious captain, a sensible crew made up mostly of civilian conscripts and their courage in facing the enemy as well as the perils of the sea. Wartime violence. The USCC classification is A-I. (Republic, $9.98)

The Last Voyage (1960)

When the boiler in an aging ocean liner blows, the captain (George Sanders) delays evacuating the sinking vessel while his chief engineer tries to contain the damage. Writer-director Andrew Stone's so-so disaster movie centers on the plight of a trapped woman (Dorothy Malone) whose husband (Robert Stack) gets heroic help from one of the crew (Woody Strode). Much menace, including a terrified child. The USCC classification is A-I. (MGM/UA, $19.98)

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Massive tidal wave overturns an ocean liner, leaving just enough survivors to exemplify every stereotype and clichÈ expected by disaster movie fans. Gene Hackman plays a liberal minister leading his instant flock of Hollywood stars to the deepest part of the hull where there is an air pocket and chance of escape. Ronald Neame directs the mushy but occasionally gripping tale for viewers seeking escapist fare. Stylized violence, a few sexual references, and some profanity. The USCC classification is A-III. The film is rated PG. (CBS-Fox, $19.98)

Raise the Titantic! (1980)

Failed action melodrama with Jason Robards and Richard Jordan in a story about attempts by American and Russian soldiers of fortune to recover rare minerals from the sunken luxury liner. Director Jerry Jameson's lackluster underwater adventure is unbelievably lethargic and muddleheaded. Menacing situations. The USCC classification is A-II. The film is rated PG. (CBS-Fox, $29.98)

A Night to Remember (1958)

Vivid British dramatization of the tragic end to the 1912 maiden voyage of the Titanic, the so-called unsinkable luxury liner, after it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and went down with some 1,400 victims, leaving only 705 survivors. Directed by Roy Ward Baker from Eric Ambler's adaptation of Walter Lord's book, the story of the voyage is told through numerous vignettes of the passengers, both famous and ordinary, with one of the ship's officers (Kenneth More) providing some narrative continuity, especially during the scenes of panic, confusion, and resignation aboard the sinking vessel whose end moves viewers with its sense of human loss. Menacing situations mixed with uplifting ones. The USCC classification is A-I. (Paramount, $19.95)

Titanic (1953)

Uneven dramatization of the 1912 sinking of the “unsinkable” title liner bogs down in the shipboard strife between a rich dandy (Clifton Webb) and his estranged wife (Barbara Stanwyck), though it achieves tragic proportions after the liner's hull is ripped open by an iceberg. Director Jean Negulesco spends most of the movie developing characters who only become compelling in their varied reactions to the ship's disaster and lack of lifeboats for all the passengers. Marital discord and life-threatening situations. The USCC classification is A-II. (FoxVideo, $19.98)

The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)

Ponderous screen version of Meredith Willson's stage musical about a Colorado backwoods tomboy (Debbie Reynolds) who, after a stint singing in a frontier bar, marries a rich miner (Harve Presnell) but is snubbed by Denver society until she is accepted by European nobility and survives the Titanic. Director Charles Walters tries to keep the narrative bright and light-hearted but Molly's elitist hankerings never square with her free-spirited, egalitarian manner, a central flaw compounded by lackluster songs and flat-footed production numbers. Some romantic complications, sexual innuendo, and occasional crude language. The USCC classification is A-II. (MGM/UA, $19.98)

USCC Office of Film and Broadcasting Classification Guide

A-I — general patronage

A-II — adults and adolescents

A-III — adults

A-IV — adults, with reservations (This classification designates problematic films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, require caution and some analysis and explanation as a safeguard against wrong interpretations and false conclusions.)

O — morally offensive.