Frogmen Were Hired to Work On the Set of ‘Raise the Titanic’

Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

Raise the Titanic (1980) is an epic adventure film that captivated audiences with its audacious premise and grand scale – even if it wasn’t very good. Directed by Jerry Jameson and based on the 1976 novel by Clive Cussler, it aimed to bring one of history’s most famous shipwrecks back to life. While it didn’t receive critical acclaim, the movie remains an intriguing piece of cinematic history.

Centered around a fictional plot, which aims to recover the ill-fated ocean liner, the RMS Titanic, Raise the Titanic follows a team of experts on a daring mission to retrieve fictional byzanium from the wreck. The stakes are high, as the rare mineral, which had been packaged for a journey aboard the vessel, could revolutionize global energy production with its radioactive properties. The team faces numerous challenges, including technical difficulties, political interference and a race against time.

Raise the Titanic aimed to be a visual spectacle, recreating the iconic ship with remarkable attention to detail. Despite limited technology and budget constraints, the production team crafted an impressive replica of the Titanic, using models and special effects for the underwater scenes. An expert on the original ship, Ken Marschall, was even hired to ensure accuracy.

Two frogmen standing around a replica of the RMS Titanic, in the middle of the water
Raise the Titanic, 1980. (Photo Credit: DrrnHarr / Incorporated Television Company / Associated Film Distribution / MovieStillsDB)

The Featured Image above, dated June 20, 1980, shows one of the frogmen employed to work on the set of Raise the Titanic. One of his jobs was to work with the massive replica of the vessel. Supposedly, it was 55 feet in length and cost $5 million to make. Not only was it costly to construct, but it cost a lot to keep – the team spent another $3.3 million to make a custom tank to house it in Malta. This allowed them to film scenes of the ship being brought back to the surface.

It’s just as well, as it took them over 50 takes before they got one they liked – plenty of work for their on-set frogmen. The model remains at the studio and is open for public tours. It does, however, look a little worse for wear. In January 2003, it was hit by a massive storm, knocking over the third funnel and damaging the sides.

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Raise the Titanic‘s ambition proved to be its downfall. The exorbitant cost of constructing and sinking a replica ship, coupled with a lukewarm reception from critics, ultimately led to financial disappointment at the box office. The film only earned $7 million on a $40 million budget.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.