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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.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Digital Monaural
French Dolby Digital Monaural
German Dolby Digital Monaural
Italian Dolby Digital Monaural
Japanese Dolby Digital Monaural
Portuguese Dolby Digital Monaural
Castillian Spanish Dolby Digital Monaural
Latin American Spanish Dolby Digital Monaural
Chinese Traditional
Latin Spanish
Castillian Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/1/2013

• Audio Commentary from Tim Zinnemann and Alvin Sargent
• “Eternal History” Graphics-In-Picture Track
• “Making of From Here to Eternity” Featurette
• Excerpts from “Fred Zinnemann: As I See It”


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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From Here to Eternity [Blu-Ray] (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 20, 2013)

While 1953’s From Here to Eternity won’t qualify as one of my favorites among the films on the AFI 100 list, it still offered a solid experience, and one that wasn’t what I originally expected. Before I first saw it in 2001, I knew of Eternity’s most famous image: the shot of Burt Lancaster and 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”!

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, As Eternity starts we meet Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), 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 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 (Deborah Kerr) have a poor relationship, mostly due to his philandering. She gets around, too, and eventually the captain’s assistant, Warden (Burt Lancaster), 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 characters 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 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 dark and sullen turn by Reed as Lorene. I’m mainly aware of Reed from her wholesome material like her TV show and It’s a Wonderful Life; I wasn’t prepared to see her show any form of edge. She brings it off naturally, and she 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 rich and involving experience.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

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

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