Raise the Titanic is a movie released in 1980 about raising the R.M.S. Titanic based on the novel with the same name, plus an exclamation mark, by Clive Cussler. It's a special mission to recover something inside the Titanic. The U.S. must race against the Russians to see who can get to the shipwreck first. The secret on board is a rare mineral that can be used to produce a weapon to stop an enemies missile from reaching the U.S. or another country. It's an action filled movie about the chase and mission to find and actually raise the ship.
The film opens on the fictional island of Svardlov in the far North Sea above the Soviet Union where an American spy breaks into an old mine where he discovers the frozen body of a US Army sergeant and mining expert Jake Hobart. Next to the frozen corpse is a newspaper from 1912 as well as some mining tools from the early part of the 20th Century. Using a radiation meter, the spy discovers that what he seeks, an extremely rare mineral named byzanium was there but has been mined out leaving only traces. He is then chased and shot by Soviet forces but rescued at the last moment by Dirk Pitt (Richard Jordan) a former U.S. Navy officer and a clandestine operator.
It is explained by scientist Gene Seagram (David Selby) and the head of NUMA The National Underwater and Marine Agency, (a NASA like agency for sea exploration) admiral James Sandecker (Jason Robards) that the mineral their man was trying to find is needed to fuel a powerful new defense system code named "The Sicilian Project" that, using laser technology will be able to destroy any incoming nuclear missiles during an attack and "make nuclear war obsolete".
The CIA and Pitt soon find out that boxes of the raw mineral were loaded onto the Belfast-built RMS Titanic by an American in April 1912. A search is then conducted in North Atlantic to locate the sunken ocean liner. It is aided by one of the Titanic's last found survivors (Alec Guinness) who explains he was also the last person to see the American alive. Just before the Titanic foundered, the sailor said he locked the man inside the ship's vault containing the boxes of mineral, his last words being "thank God for Southby!" At this point it is decided that the only way to get a hold of the byzanium is to literally "raise the Titanic" from the ocean floor. Pitt comes up with a salvage plan that Sandecker then sells the president on it and the operation is on.
At this time the Soviet KGB station chief in Washington D.C., Andre Prevlov (Bo Brundin) is receiving bits and pieces of information on the project and leaks elements of this to a reporter, Dana Archibald (Ann Archer), who is also Seagram's lover as well as a former girlfriend of Pitt's. The story blows the project's secret cover and Sandecker must hold a press conference to explain why the ship is being raised. Questions are raised about byzanium but are not answered.
After a lengthy search in which a Titanic band member's cornet is first found, experts and the U.S. Navy then begin the dangerous job of raising the ship from the seabed, in which one of the submersibles, Starfish, experiences a cabin flood and implodes. Another submersible, the Deep Quest, while attempting to clear debris from one of the upper decks suddenly tears free and accidentally crashes through the skylight above the main staircase and becomes jammed. Dirk Pitt who heads the salvage operation then decides to attempt raising the ship before the crew of the Deep Quest suffocates.
Eventually the rusting Titanic is brought to the surface using explosives to break the hull loose from the bottom suction, compressed air tanks and buoyancy aids with the Deep Quest safely breaking away during the ascent. In response, Prevlov who has been aboard a Soviet spy ship nearby arranges for a phoney distress call to draw away the American naval escorts and comes aboard and meets with Sandecker, Pitt and Seagram. He tells them that his government knows all about the mineral and challenges them for salvage of the Titanic and ownership of ore claiming it was illegally taken from Russian soil and that if there is to be a "superior weapon" made from it then "Russia must have it!" Sandecker then tells Prevlov they knew he was coming and what he would threaten them with. Pitt then escorts him to the deck where U.S. fighter jets and a nuclear attack submarine have arrived to protect the Titanic from their attempted piracy. Prevlov then leaves in defeat.
The ship is then towed to New York harbor - its original destination and moored at the old White Star Line dock - with much fanfare, cheered on by huge crowds, escorting ships and aircraft. On entering the watertight vault, the salvage team discover the mummified remains of the American, but no mineral only boxes of gravel. As they contemplate their probable failure Sandecker tells Pitt and Seagram that they actually were thinking of a way to weaponize the byzanium to create a super bomb, not just to power a defensive system which went against everything the scientist believed in. As Pitt listens he goes through the belongings of the dead American found in the vault and finds the clue was in those final words, "Thank God for Southby". Looking at an un-mailed postcard showing a church and graveyard in the village of Southby on the English coast and where the American had arranged a fake burial for the frozen miner Jake Hobart prior to sailing back to the United States on the Titanic. Pitt and Seagram alone go the small graveyard and find that the byzanium is indeed buried there. They decide in the end to leave the mineral in the grave because they agree its existence would destabilize the status quo that maintains the peace between the West and the Soviet Union.
Raise the Titanic was poorly criticized. It was nominated for three razzie awards (worst picture for producer William Frye, worst supporting actor for David Selby and worst screenplay for writers Adam Kennedy and Eric Hughes) at the 1st Golden Raspberry Awards. The producer Lord Grade said later that "It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic".