From Here to Eternity appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer looked excellent and gave us a terrific representation of the source.
Sharpness appeared solid. Very little softness appeared, and when it did occur, it came from the source photography. The movie boasted consistently fine accuracy and delineation. No moiré effects or jagged edges caused issues, and edge haloes remained absent. With a fine layer of grain, I detected no signs of digital noise reduction, and this clean presentation lacked specks, marks or other print flaws.
Black levels came across as deep and dense, and contrast impressed. Despite a few awkward “day for night” elements, low-light shots displayed nice clarity and delineation. Everything satisfied in this smooth, film-like image.
In terms of audio, two English mixes appeared. Given the age of the material, the film’s original Dolby Digital monaural audio sounded quite good. Some of the dialogue was poorly looped – especially the beach shots, which seemed 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. Overall, this was a good representation of an older monaural soundtrack.
In addition to this track, the Blu-ray packed a DTS-HD MA 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 5.1 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 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. Ultimately, the 5.1 remix was perfectly decent, but I preferred the more natural feel of the mono, even if it didn’t come in a lossless version here.
When I address the “Blu-ray vs. DVD” issue, it becomes complicated because I have to consider which DVD to use as the basis of comparison. In 2001, I reviewed the original DVD, and then I looked at the Superbit edition in 2003. Finally, I checked out a disc from a massive ”Best Pictures Collection in 2008.
Apparently sourced from the same flawed transfer, I thought the 2001 and 2003 DVDs had definite issues, but the 2008 disc was a notable improvement. The Blu-ray gives us a clear step up from that one, though mostly in the visual domain. Both discs offered identical monaural mixes, and the age of the material meant that the lossless 5.1 track was a little peppier but not by much.
On the other hand, the image of the Blu-ray demolished what I saw on the DVD. The Blu-ray was tighter and showed superior contrast and shadow detail. It also came without any issues connected to edge haloes or the like. This was a strong improvement in terms of visuals.
The DVD’s extras reappear and we also get some new elements. We start with an audio commentary from director’s son Tim Zinnemann and Alvin Sargent, a bit actor in Eternity who later worked with the elder Zinnemann on 1977’s Julia and who also became a successful screenwriter. He snared Oscars for his work on Julia and 1980’s Ordinary People. Both men were recorded together for this running, fairly screen-specific track.
On the positive side, the commentary starts off very well. During the first half of the movie, the two contribute a lot of useful information. Zinnemann relates many details about the production and his father, and he tosses in some personal perspective from childhood encounters with some of the stars, especially Montgomery Clift. Sargent also provides good notes about Fred Zinnemann and his brief experiences on Eternity as well as some of his later work.
However, the track peters out badly during the second half of the movie. Long stretches of silence start to dominate, and even when the men speak, their remarks tend to be fairly bland. Some interesting facts still appear from time to time, but with much less frequency. Overall, I think this is a fairly good track at times, but be warned that it doesn’t keep up its early pace.
A few other supplements appear as well. Possibly the crummiest program of its sort that I’ve ever seen, we find a two-minute and 23-second piece called The Making of From Here to Eternity. No, that’s not a misprint; the featurette really does last less than two and a half minutes.
In its entirety, it tells us that only Burt Lancaster was anyone’s unanimous choice among the main actors; all the others had opposition. We also find out that the romantic beach scene is really famous. We glimpse scant shots of Fred Zinnemann’s behind the scenes home movies from the set, but these amount to maybe 10 seconds total; otherwise we simply hear a narrator and watch snippets from the film.
All of the information already appeared in the commentary, and in greater detail. Whose idea was this joke? It’s about as useless a featurette as I could imagine; it’s pointless and it seems actively insulting to find something this inane presented as a “making of” program.
Somewhat stronger - but not by a ton - are the Excerpts from Fred Zinnemann: As I See It. This nine-minute and 33-second program combines movie clips, more home movies, and interviews with Zinnemann. Most of the latter seem to come from the Nineties, though one appears to be from the Fifties or Sixties.
The brief home movies continue to be moderately interesting, but Zinnemann’s remarks become redundant after the commentary, which provides most of the same information, and in more detail, too. For example, Fred Zinnemann discusses the studio’s original choice to play Prewitt but doesn’t name him; Tim Zinnemann tells the same tale but lets us know who Columbia wanted. The program also includes far too many movie snippets; I’d estimate those fill more than half of the short show. Ultimately, it’s mildly watchable, but not very compelling.
New to the Blu-ray, we find Eternal History, a “graphics-in-picture track”. It combines text, photos, and interviews. We hear from Tim Zinnemann, author/film historian Alan K. Rode, journalist/film historian Virginia Campbell, film critic Kim Morgan, 80 Years of the Oscar author Robert Osborne, Frank Sinatra’s daughter Tina, actor/friend of Montgomery Clift Jack Larson, and Burt Lancaster – An American Life author Kate Buford.
We learn about the source novel and issues related to its adaptation, notes about cast and crew, the era in which the film was created and censorship concerns, story/characters and performances, various production notes, the movie’s release, reception and legacy. “Eternal” delivers a fairly good overview of the film. It relies more on text and less on interviews as it progresses, which makes it lose some steam, but it still comes with useful information. These factors allow it to become a quality experience.
Overall, From Here to Eternity offered an interesting and surprisingly gritty experience. The movie showed its age at times, but it still appeared to work quite well. The Blu-ray provides excellent picture quality along with generally positive audio and bonus materials. The Blu-ray brings us a fine representation of a classic film.
To rate this film visit the original review of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY