Many books, TV specials floated for Titanic anniversary

04/15/2012 12:00 AM

04/15/2012 11:29 AM

Near, far or wherever there is a TV or a Kindle: Titanic-themed entertainment options swell today, the 100th anniversary of the luxury liner's sinking.

James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" was greeted with critical enthusiasm but only middling box office upon its re-release in 3-D earlier this month.

Yet Titanic-related books and television shows keep coming, inspired by public demand (or at least the demand of dads who watch the History Channel) and by the Titanic disaster's endless storytelling possibilities.

From the ship's wreckage spring the surefire elements of glamour, hubris (and its meaner cousin, debris), class distinctions, massive machinery and the triumph of the human spirit.

Here are some of the more intriguing variations on those themes, available to read, watch or listen to today:

ON THE PAGE

A slew of nonfiction books has arrived in recent weeks and months, one of the more intriguing of which is "How To Survive the Titanic: Or the Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay," (Harper Perennial, $15.99).

Author Frances Wilson chronicles the post-Titanic life of disgraced ship owner Ismay, branded a coward after leaving the ship via lifeboat with passengers still on board. Wilson uses letters written by Ismay to tell his post-Titanic story.

Several novels use the Titanic as a backdrop or starting point, including "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Titanic Tragedy." (Titan Books, $9.95). The novel puts Holmes and Dr. Watson aboard the Titanic luxury liner to perform a secret U.S. government mission.

Out in a new trade paperback edition, the Holmes book initially was published in 1999. So it wasn't tied to an anniversary. It simply was a story that needed to be told.

THE MINISERIES

"Downton Abbey" and "Gosford Park" writer Julian Fellowes again taps his fascination with upper-deck/steerage distinctions in "Titanic," a two-part ABC miniseries, the conclusion of which airs at 9 tonight on Channel 10 (KXTV).

Unlike Cameron and the crew of his 1997 big-screen epic, the producers of this small-screen "Titanic" did spare an expense or two. Shot in Hungary, its most recognizable cast member is Linus Roache of "Law & Order: SVU."

'THE TITANIC REQUIEM'

We know it, Robin Gibb knows it: No maritime disaster or its 100th anniversary can be significant until a Bee Gee weighs in.

Gibb, now battling liver and colon cancer, composed "The Titanic Requiem" ($9.99 on iTunes) with his son, RJ.

The Gibbs' first full symphonic work, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, includes three vocal pieces. Robin Gibb, always the most soulful Bee Gree, lends his searching vocals to the lovely "Don't Cry Alone."

'GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS'

It's not new, but it's a classic among underwater-footage fans.

Director James Cameron and "Titanic" actor Bill Paxton went deep-sea, with 3-D cameras, for this 2003 cinematic exploration of the Titanic's wreckage. Amazing in Imax 3-D, "Ghosts" still looks pretty great when streamed via iTunes or Amazon.

At $2.99 on iTunes or $1.99 on Amazon, it's also about $10 cheaper than a ticket to "Titanic" in 3-D. And who needs that pretty boy Leonardo DiCaprio when you can watch the excitable Paxton grimace and grin through an undersea adventure?

DOCS ALL DAY

Nerd-irific cable channels NatGeo and History exist for events like the Titanic centenary that let them break out the deep-sea cameras and computer models.

Deciding nothing else matters today, NatGeo will run Titanic programming from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. A highlight: the 4 p.m. encore showing of the confidently titled "Titanic: The Final Word," in which director Cameron assembles an expert panel to further comb already much-combed Titanic facts.

At 5 p.m., the History Channel gathers its own experts for "Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved," which, according to History's publicity department, promises "unprecedented new discoveries" and "astonishing pieces" of never-before-seen wreckage.

That second boast should thrill viewers who have memorized all the previously shown wreckage..

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