Based on the 1976 book by Clive Cussler, the film was released in 1980. The basic plot revolves around adventurer Dirk Pitt (Dirk Benedict! Dirk Bogarde! Dirk Diggler! An impressive list of Dirks on Wikipedia) who has to find a very rare mineral which, conveniently, is locked inside Cargo Nine on the Titanic. What ensues is this strange Cold War-espionage, deep sea-diving "thriller", with lots of heavy wool sweaters and beards all 'round.
What makes this film enjoyable, aside from the majestic John Barry-score, is the fact that the book was written nine years before the wreck of the Titanic was actually discovered. Since I was a 12-year-old girl back in 1998, of course I went to see Titanic in the theatres (February 22nd, ten years ago!) and became quite obsessed with all the National Geographic-y documentaries on the subject. It was really great to watch Raise the Titanic as a fantasy of what might have been; of course, watching it now, the whole plot is entirely implausible because the ship broke in two as it sank.
BBC teletext promised us Sir Alec Guinness, but he's in it for all of five minutes. The film flopped at the box office - it cost 36 million dollars to make, and the original US box office gross was only seven million - "When discussing the film's cost, producer Lew Grade famously said that it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic."
Another fun fact, courtesy of IMDb: "A model of the Titanic was built at a cost of $350,000. When it was finished, it was discovered that it was too big for the tank in which it was to be filmed. An additional, bigger tank had to be built, at a cost of $6 million."
Anyways, here's the best bit from the film:
And for those interested, a reenactment in LEGO can be found here.