Fred Zinnemann's classic drama about Pearl Harbor on the eve of the fateful Japanese attack. Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is newly arrived at the military base, and has already fallen foul of his superiors due to his refusal to box on the company team. Given the worst duties as a result, Prewitt is befriended by Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), a young soldier who is himself persecuted by the Italian-hating Sergeant Fatso (Ernest Borgnine). Meanwhile, Sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster), Prewitt's superior, treads on dangerous ground when he allows himself to get caught up in affair with an officer's wife (Deborah Kerr). The film won eight Oscars, and features one of the most famous scenes in cinema: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr's kiss in the Hawaiian surf.
From Here to Eternity
offers a much more heartfelt interpretation of the event that propelled the United States into World War II than any film made in recent years. Here there are no angst-ridden scenes where "true love" returns from the dead, no costly CGI and definitely no Hallmark happy ending. This is a film about illicit sex, military machismo and tragic loss of love, friendship and ultimately life. The filmmakers did, however, have to make some compromises when adapting James Jones's novel
: Alma becomes a "hostess" rather than a prostitute and the very downbeat ending, where Captain Holmes is essentially rewarded for his brutality by the military, was replaced with the morally acceptable punishment of his actions by a more self-aware army. Although Private Robert E Lee Pruitt's story provides the meat of the film, there are other subplots woven into the narrative, including a couple of doomed love affairs, which explore themes of adultery and social acceptance. Sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster) begins a torrid affair with the commander's wife Karen (Deborah Kerr) leading to one of the most famous moments in movie history--the "clinch in the surf". From then on everything is challenged. Love, honour and eventually whether you should conform or stand up for what you believe in. At the end the couples are left wondering about the future of their relationship, but fate decides for them as the Japanese launch their attack on Pearl Harbor, leaving us with one of the most dramatic and moving endings of any war film.
On the DVD: The black and white film is not anamorphically enhanced but presented full frame in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, although the transfer is well done and the picture is pretty sharp. Sound is 2.0 mono rather than the standard 5.1 reworking of the audio track, and it works. The dialogue is clear without any noticeable hiss. There's a 22-minute "making of" documentary, which doesn't really do justice to the film and contains very little information of interest. Along with this is Fred Zinnemann's As I See It, an extract from the director's home video footage from the shoot. You also get the theatrical trailer, but the best feature is the audio commentary, by Fred Zinnemann's son Tim and screenwriter Alvin Sargent, which has some fantastic detail about the struggle between director and studio-head Harry Cohn over casting, along with the run-ins with the censor and US military over the "inflammatory nature" of the film.--Kristen Bowditch
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