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Fred Zinnemann
Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Philip Ober, Mickey Shaughnessy, Harry Bellaver, Ernest Borgnine
Writing Credits:
Daniel Taradash, based on the novel by James Jones

The boldest book of our time... Honestly, fearlessly on the screen!

Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor-Frank Sinatra; Best Supporting Actress-Donna Reed; Best Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing; Best Sound.
Nominated for Best Actor-Montgomery Cliff, Burt Lancaster; Best Actress-Deborah Kerr; Best Costume Design; Best Score.

Standard 1.33:1
English DTS 5.1
English Digital Mono
English, French, Spanish, Chinese Portuguese, Thai, Korean

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $26.95
Release Date: 3/4/2003

• None


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From Here to Eternity: Superbit (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 21, 2003)

While From Here to Eternity won’t qualify as one of my favorites among the films on the AFI’s Top 100 list, it still offered a generally solid experience, and one that wasn’t what I expected when I first watched it. Like most people, I know of Eternity’s most famous image: the shot of Warden (Burt Lancaster) and Karen (Deborah Kerr) as they smooch on the beach. How could I not be aware of that shot? The Police even referred to it in their song “Born In the Fifties”!

Anyway, that visual led me to some misconceptions about Eternity. I thought it’d be little more than a sappy love story. I knew it involved some military aspects, but I still believed the romantic elements would dominate.

I was wrong. To be certain, the love story aspects occupied a significant part of the movie, but it included quite a lot more to become a fairly compelling character examination and a look at the burdens of responsibility.

Set in Hawaii during the months that preceded the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, at the start of Eternity we meet Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), a soldier who just transferred to a new infantry unit. He’d been with the bugle corps but requested a change for personal reasons. Known as an excellent boxer, his new commanding officer, Captain Holmes (Philip Ober), wants Prew on the squad, but he refuses for more personal reasons. This puts him on his boss’s bad side, and Holmes ladles on the punishments to try to break Prew.

Speaking of Holmes, he and his wife Karen have a poor relationship, mostly due to his philandering. She gets around, too, and eventually the captain’s assistant, Warden, makes his move. This starts an affair that leads to gritty make-out sessions on the beach, among other things, and the two try to figure out how they could eventually be together in a less sneaky manner.

Prew starts his own romance with Lorene (Donna Reed), a somewhat gruff employee of a local social club at which the female employees dance and chat with soldiers. Prew also stays close to his pal Maggio (Frank Sinatra) and tries to help him through his problems with violent Sergeant Fatso Judson (Ernest Borgnine).

All of this leads inexorably toward the attack on Pearl Harbor. Director Fred Zinnemann offers subtle reminders of this important date but he doesn’t telegraph them too badly. Of course, the characters show no signs of awareness, but we see folks who read newspapers with headlines related to the Japanese, and we also witness shots of calendars that state “December 6”. These keep the impending events in front of us but fail to become too portentous or forced.

For the most part, Eternity neatly avoids excessive melodrama as it combines romantic elements with male bonding. Actually, if I had to pick a theme for the movie, it’d be “duty over dames”. I don’t want to spill too much of the story, but the main characters run into problems due to their conflicting desires; do they do what’s most important for themselves or do they go for what might be the greater good? Not surprisingly – given the era in which it was made - Eternity largely opts for social responsibility, but not for the expected reasons; the characters see more personal motivations to do the right thing.

I found the participants to offer fairly rich and deep explorations of roles that could have been little more than stereotypes. Sinatra helped resurrect his career with his turn as Maggio, and he does a nice job in the role for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. However, I knew that Sinatra had earned additional fame for his work here; what surprised me was the fairly dark and sullen turn by Reed as Lorene. I’m mainly aware of Reed from her wholesome roles like on her TV show and in It’s a Wonderful Life; I wasn’t prepared to see her show any form of edge. She brings it off naturally, and she fully deserved the Best Supporting Actress award she nabbed.

At times parts of Eternity felt contrived, especially in regard to the run-ins between Judson and Maggio; the latter seemed to act out of character to a degree just to suit the story. However, I still felt From Here to Eternity offered a nice character piece that provided a fairly rich and involving experience.

The DVD Grades: Picture C- / Audio B- / Bonus F

From Here to Eternity appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture seemed watchable and occasionally quite good, but a mix of concerns rendered a fair amount of problems.

Sharpness usually appeared reasonably solid. At times the image became slightly soft and fuzzy, but this occurred infrequently. As a whole, the picture looked well defined and accurate. No moiré effects or jagged edges caused issues, but I did see a little edge enhancement at times.

Black levels mainly came across as fairly deep and dense, but contrast could appear a little weak. Some interiors seemed to be too brightly lit, and nighttime exteriors occasionally looked too dense. Shadow detail normally appeared pretty clear and acceptably visible, however, as I thought the low-light scenes were nicely balanced for the most part.

Where Eternity encountered the most problems related to print flaws. At times, the image looked fairly clean, but during most of the film I witnessed a mix of concerns. Somewhat excessive grain showed up throughout the movie, and a mix of blotches, grit, marks and nicks also marred the presentation. White speckles made up the most significant defect, as they popped up all over the place. Some scenes lacked them, but they still made themselves known a lot of the time. Lose the print flaws and Eternity gets into “B” territory, but as it stands, the DVD earned nothing better than a “C-“.

If you examine my review of the original DVD release of Eternity, you’ll note that I offered virtually identical comments about its picture. If the Superbit edition improved on the old one, I couldn’t see it. Unless the movie received a major restoration and a new transfer, it couldn’t. Most of the problems I encountered on the first release came from source flaws, so the simple increase in bit rate found on the Superbit title wouldn’t change that.

While image quality seemed identical, the Superbit From Here to Eternity did offer an alternate auditory experience, which I’ll soon examine. First I’ll discuss the film’s original monaural soundtrack, which appeared on both DVDs. Given the age of the material, it sounded quite good. Some of the dialogue was poorly looped – especially the beach shots, which seemed very artificial – but the speech usually appeared reasonably warm and distinct, and I detected no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects showed thinness typical of the era, but they remained acceptably clean and accurate, and the explosions even offered a modest boom; I won’t say that my subwoofer got a workout, but the low-end material seemed more than adequate for a film of this era. Music displayed good clarity and depth as well. A slight hum appeared on a couple of occasions, but overall the mix lacked source defects. Overall, this was a good representation of an older monaural soundtrack.

In addition to this mix, the Superbit version packed a DTS 5.1 remix that seemed like something of a mixed blessing. On the positive side, this new track definitely opened up the soundfield. During quieter scenes, I heard gentle ambience as well as the occasional example of audio from the sides. For example, speech might come from the left speaker, or the closing of a cabinet might pop up from the right.

Louder scenes provided expanded material, and they came to life fairly well. Of course, the Japanese attack at the end offered the most active sequence, and the battle demonstrated pretty good localization and blending. Elements moved across the spectrum well and meshed together surprisingly smoothly. Scenes like those in bars and clubs also benefited from the broadened soundfield, as they presented a decent sense of atmosphere. The beach shots featured the most noticeable examples of split surround usage, as the waves crashed behind us. Like some other segments, those elements sounded somewhat unnatural at times, but usually the track came across as acceptably well integrated. The mix’s producers didn’t go crazy with effects placement, so the soundfield seemed positive for the most part.

The DTS mix lost some points when it came to audio reproduction, however. Some elements displayed a bit too much reverb, a concern that seemed especially noticeable during dialogue shots. The speech didn’t come across as terribly hollow and thin – I’ve definitely heard much worse from remixes – but it lacked the warmth heard during the mono track. Effects and music also seemed a little more shrill and harsh, though they remained more than adequate. In addition, the DTS version suffered from elevated noise levels that didn’t appear during the mono edition.

In the end, the two soundtracks heard on this DVD both earned “B-“ ratings, though for different reasons. The DTS mix presented a nicely engaging soundfield but offered weaker audio quality. The mono track lacked the expansive and involving spread but it boasted stronger sound as a whole. Both seem good, so whichever one you choose will depend on your personal preferences.

While the original 2001 DVD of From Here to Eternity included some extras, the Superbit edition features none. On the surface, this seems like a big loss, but in reality, the supplements on the old disc weren’t terribly good. Mostly it offered a mediocre audio commentary and some weak featurettes. While they expanded my knowledge of the film, they didn’t include a great deal of useful information, so their loss goes unmourned by me.

Does that mean you should skip the old DVD of From Here to Eternity and get the Superbit? No, I didn’t say that. I liked the film and recommend it, but I’d still advise the purchase of the original disc. I found the two to present virtually identical picture quality, and the Superbit edition loses the extras; while I found them to be erratic, something remains better than nothing.

The only major change for the Superbit edition comes from the inclusion of a new DTS 5.1 remix. I thought that track worked well given the source limitations, but it seemed too inconsistent for me to recommend it over the original mono mix. Some may prefer it, and for them, the Superbit release of From Here to Eternity might merit a purchase. As for me, I like the mono track, and recommend the original disc over the Superbit version. It sells for a little less money and seems like the superior product, at least as long as you don’t care about the DTS soundtrack.

To rate this film visit the original review

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main