on 22 February 2014
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY  [Blu-ray] [US Import] The Boldest Book of Our Time . . . Honestly, Fearlessly on the Screen!
In this landmark film, passion and tragedy collide on a military base as a fateful day in December 1941 draws near. Private Prewitt [Montgomery Clift] is a soldier and former boxer being manipulated by his superior and peers. His friend Maggio [Frank Sinatra] tries to help him but has his own troubles. Sergeant Warden [Burt Lancaster] and Karen Holmes [Deborah Kerr] tread on dangerous ground as lovers in an illicit affair. Each of their lives will be changed when their stories culminate in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Won: Best Picture for Buddy Adler. Won: Best Director for Fred Zinnemann. Won: Best Writing for a Screenplay for Daniel Taradash. Won: Best Supporting Actor for Frank Sinatra. Best Supporting Actress for Donna Reed. Won: Best Cinematography in Black-and-White for Burnett Guffey. Won: Best Film Editing for William A. Lyon. Won: Best Sound Recording for John P. Livadary. Nominated: Best Actor for Montgomery Clift. Nominated: Best Actor for Burt Lancaster. Nominated: Best Actress for Deborah Kerr. Nominated: Best Costume Design in Black-and-White for Jean Louis. Nominated: Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for George Duning and Morris Stoloff. Golden Globe® Awards: Won: Best Supporting Actor for Frank Sinatra. Won: Best Director for Fred Zinnemann. New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Won: Best Film. Won: Best Actor for Burt Lancaster. Won: Best Director for Fred Zinnemann. Cannes Film Festival: Won: Special Award of Merit. Nominated: Grand Prize of the Festival. BAFTA® Award: Nominated: Best Film from Any Source. The film's title comes originally from a quote from Rudyard Kipling's 1892 poem "Gentlemen-Rankers," about soldiers of the British Empire who had "lost [their] way" and was "damned from here to eternity."
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Philip Ober, Mickey Shaughnessy, Harry Bellaver, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Warden, John Dennis, Merle Travis, Tim Ryan, Arthur Keegan, Barbara Morrison, Claude Akins (uncredited), Willis Bouchey (uncredited), John Bryant (uncredited), John L. Cason (uncredited), Don Dubbins (uncredited), Elaine DuPont (uncredited), Moana Gleason (uncredited), Douglas Henderson (uncredited), Robert Karnes (uncredited), Freeman Lusk (uncredited), Tyler McVey (uncredited), Robert Pike (uncredited), George Reeves (uncredited), Fay Roope (uncredited), Al Silvani (uncredited), Brick Sullivan (uncredited), Robert J. Wilke (uncredited) and Carleton Young (uncredited)
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Producer: Buddy Adler
Screenplay: Daniel Taradash and James Jones (novel)
Composer: George Duning (background music)
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey and Floyd Crosby (uncredited)
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: Dolby Digital Mono (Original), French: Dolby Digital Mono, German: Dolby Digital Mono, Italian: Dolby Digital Mono, Japanese: Dolby Digital Mono, Portuguese: Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono and Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai and Turkish
Running Time: 118 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Big novels often morph into big films during Hollywood's heyday, and 'From Here to Eternity' was one of the biggest of its time. Though initially dubbed "Cohn's folly" after Columbia Pictures studio chief Harry Cohn paid a tidy sum for what many considered to be a too-hot-to-handle property, this all-star adaptation of James Jones' bestselling opus about life on a Hawaiian army base in the months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor proved all the doubters wrong when it became a critical and popular sensation upon its release in the summer of 1953. Seamlessly combining grit, brawn, romance, and a climactic aerial assault, the film also helped usher in a new era of adult-themed motion pictures that pushed the boundaries of censorship, challenged the sanctity of American institutions (in this case, the U.S. Army), and realistically depicted complex human relationships. Sure, the script severely waters down the novel's raciness, crudity, and violence, yet it maintains the tough-minded tone and core thematic elements that make the story so involving. And maybe that's why this bona fide classic continues to impress and move us six decades after it first stormed onto the screen.
'From Here to Eternity' concentrates on character, values, ideals, injustices, and interpersonal couplings instead of detailing the history and impact of the monumental event, Fred Zinnemann's film paints a far more accurate portrait of life and duty in the days leading up to the 7th December, 1941 than Michael Bay's mind numbing blockbuster treatment. Fred Zinnemann's understated style also suits the material well, shrinking the tale's broad scope to an intimate level, thus enhancing emotional resonance. Prior to 'From Here to Eternity,' military dramas and soap operas were mutually exclusive, but the supremely talented Fred Zinnemann manages to blend the two into a cohesive whole, giving the movie universal appeal and coining a style that would be endlessly copied, but rarely equalled.
And then there's that classic beach scene. Who knew a single shot of the Hawaiian surf cascading over the interlocked bodies of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster (see the beautiful slip cover art) would test the tolerance of the censors and immediately become one of the most iconic images in all of cinema history? Though the sequence instantly identifies the film and cements its romantic status, it doesn't define it. The theme of a lone wolf standing up against the establishment and sticking to his beliefs at great physical and emotional cost is what truly distinguishes 'From Here to Eternity,' and the message gains even more power when viewed in the context of the time, when the country was still gripped by the McCarthy witch hunts, and criticisms of any government entity were tantamount to treason.
The lone wolf in the film is the newly demoted Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt [Montgomery Clift], a transfer from the esteemed Bugle Corps, who's assigned to serve at Schofield Barracks under the arrogant, unscrupulous Captain Dana Holmes [Philip Ober]. Obsessed with the championship of the regimental boxing team he coaches, Karen Holmes [Deborah Kerr] pulled some strings to snag Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt, whose reputation as a top-class middleweight preceded him. Yet Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt refuses to join the team for personal reasons (which become clear later), much to the chagrin of his commanding officer, who authorises the company's sergeants to give the recalcitrant private "the treatment," a punitive going-over that includes bullying, extra duty, and other forms of abuse. Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt, however, refuses to buckle under the constant strain. "A man don't go his own way, he's nothin'" is a line Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt lives by, and it applies to other characters as well, most notably Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt's best buddy, Angelo Maggio [Frank Sinatra], whose cocky, street-wise attitude and disregard for authority get him more trouble than he bargains for, and Captain Holmes' right-hand man, Staff Sergeant Milton Warden [Burt Lancaster], who enters into a passionate and risky affair with Holmes' neglected and bitter wife, Karen Holmes [Deborah Kerr]. Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt also finds love and comfort in the arms of Alma "Lorene" Burke [Donna Reed], a stuck-up "hostess" with a heart of gold in a USO type social club in the book, she's a "lady of ill repute" who longs to leave her tawdry existence behind and become "proper."
Despite the story's anti-military slant, the movie was produced with the cooperation of the U.S. Army, which only demanded a couple of script changes before endorsing the project. Fred Zinnemann and Daniel Taradash reluctantly agreed to the alterations, and the army seal of approval goes a long way toward validating the on-screen action. After years of shamelessly laudatory propaganda films produced during World War II, it's refreshing to see such a warts-and-all portrait of a military body, which is depicted here as a mini totalitarian state where absolute power corrupts absolutely and integrity is only valued under optimal circumstances.
Fred Zinnemann wisely adopts a straightforward cinematic style, allowing the story to tell itself, and concentrates instead on the actors, all of whom assert themselves admirably. All five principals earned Oscar nominations (that's quite a feat!), and it's a shame Montgomery Clift didn't win for his stoic yet sensitive portrait of the hard-headed Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt. An actor with the same blistering intensity and broad range as Marlon Brando and James Dean, Montgomery Clift is a magnetic presence who gets under the skin of his characters, exposing their heart and soul in a measured, understated manner. His work here ranks among his best, and it's impossible to imagine anyone else as Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt.
Burt Lancaster plays the macho Warden well, and generates plenty of heat with Deborah Kerr, who at the time was cast against type as the adulterous Karen Holmes. Hers is a passionate performance, filled with spirit and heartbreak, and it forever changed the course of her career, instantly shattering her patrician good girl image and allowing her to graduate to more dimensional and challenging roles. The actor-singer Frank Sinatra, who had hit rock bottom professionally, lobbied incessantly for the role and offered to do it for nothing. After a screen test he financed himself, and Frank Sinatra got the job and was paid a paltry $8,000 for his services, but his resulting success (and subsequent Oscar) completely revitalized his career, which never went south again.
A (relatively) young Ernest Borgnine makes a notable impression as "Fatso" Judson, the sadistic stockade sergeant who harbours a grudge against Private Angelo Maggio [Frank Sinatra], and Jack Warden, Claude Akins (in his film debut), and TV's original Superman, George Reeves, also appear in small parts. But aside from Montgomery Clift, the most riveting presence in 'From Here to Eternity' is, surprisingly, Donna Reed, who sheds her perfect wife persona, spawned from the holiday classic 'It's a Wonderful Life,' and sinks her teeth into the pouty, haughty, yet deceptively vulnerable Lorene. Devoid of histrionics and affectation, Reed's nuanced portrayal is about as real and raw as they come, and certainly deserving of the Oscar it received.
Though there's not much war in 'From Here to Eternity,' Fred Zinnemann's film stands as one of the great war films, for it depicts not only the attack on Pearl Harbor, but also more importantly the battle of the human spirit to maintain its integrity, follow its duty, and fight for its beliefs. The producers of From Here to Eternity wanted a "serious" actor such as Eli Wallach in the role of Maggio. But Sinatra saw a wonderful opportunity to prove what he was really capable of doing. So he began lobbying for the part, even calling Columbia studio head Harry Cohn personally, only to be dismissed with "You're a singer." In desperation, Frank Sinatra lowered his price to $1,000 a week. In the end, his price, persistence and scheduling changes in the competition won him the role. Crashing waves notwithstanding, this is a substantive classic film that earns its stripes, as well as its rarefied standing in Hollywood history. Keep an eye out for George Reeves, whose role was trimmed when audiences laughed at the incongruity of seeing TV's Superman in the film. Guitar great Merle Travis contributes music.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Fans of 'From Here to Eternity' have waited patiently for its Blu-ray release, and will certainly want to ditch their previous inferior NTSC DVD format for this high-quality 1080p transfer. The biggest difference between this high-definition rendering and the Super-bit DVD is the pristine nature of the source material, which has been scrubbed clean. Gone are the multitudes of nicks and marks that littered the previous print, leaving a clear, vibrant image that sports excellent grey scale variance and a natural grain structure that enhances the film's realism. Black levels are rich and inky (just look at Lorene's lush gown in her opening scene), with only a hint of crush occasionally creeping into the frame's darkest recesses, and bright whites balance nicely against the neutral greys. Day-for-night sequences look especially well defined, and patterns, such as Karen's striped shirt and the checkerboard table cloth in her bungalow, remain rock solid and resist shimmering. Gritty, naturalistic photography has always lent 'From Here to Eternity' a harsh, cold look, but clarity is still excellent, even in the rougher-looking exterior scenes. The detail in the Hawaiian shirts worn by the soldiers is striking, and close-ups are marvellously crisp, highlighting the male actors' rugged facial features and female leads' creamy complexions. Montgomery Clift's double in the fight scene with Sergeant Galovitch [John Dennis] is even easier to identify now, and the raindrops that douse Burt Lancaster early in the film are sharp and distinct. Without question, 'From Here to Eternity' looks better here than in any other home video incarnation, so an upgrade is essential for fans.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track also ups the ante aurally, providing superior sound, especially during the climactic aerial attack. Though only minimal surround activity could be detected early in the film, mostly in the ambient effect category, the assault sequence kicks the mix into high gear, with speeding planes soaring overhead and across the soundscape, lending certain shots a thrilling immediacy. The hefty rumble of bombs shakes the room, and rapid machine gun fire also gives the subwoofer a nice workout. Yet as much as the showy sounds shine, so, too, do the subtle nuances. The driving tropical rain, the sound of weeds being yanked out of the grass, even the hairbrush coursing through Deborah Kerr's blond locks all possess a distinct texture that adds essential atmosphere to various scenes. The music, which runs the gamut from romantic, string-laden love themes and the lazy drawl of the folksy "Reenlistment Blues" to Fatso's sloppy piano tinkling and Prewitt's organic bugling in the bar, flaunts a high degree of fidelity and tonal depth, and thanks to a wide dynamic scale, distortion is never an issue. Dialogue is always clear and comprehendible, and any age-related imperfections, such as pops, crackles, and hiss, have been meticulously erased. 'From Here to Eternity' may be 60 years old, but this crystal clear, well-modulated track often makes it sound much younger, and helps this classic motion picture relate to contemporary audiences.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Tim Zinnemann: Tim Zinnemann, is the son of the film's director, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent of 'Ordinary People' and 'Julia,' who played a small part in the picture, sit down for an insightful commentary that starts strong, but fizzles out toward the end. Fred Zinnemann often speaks haltingly, as if he's not completely sure of his facts, but his cogent points concerning his dad's personality and work ethic enhance our appreciation of the film. Alvin Sargent analyses his brief scene with Clift and recalls the actor's kindness and sensitivity, and also outlines how he got another key bit in the movie announcing the Japanese attack. In addition, we learn about alternate casting choices for key roles (Aldo Ray for Montgomery Clift's part, Ronald Reagan for Burt Lancaster's role, and Joan Crawford for the character played by Deborah Kerr); how Fred Zinnemann got the plum directing assignment; script changes that had to be made to facilitate shooting at the U.S. Army Schofield Barracks in Hawaii; why Fred Zinnemann demanded the use of black-and-white film stock instead of colour; Montgomery Clift's rigorous preparation for his role; and some key advice director John Ford gave Fred Zinnemann early in his career. Gaps intensify in length toward the film's climax, but despite the lulls, this is a worthwhile dialogue that especially fans of the film will enjoy.
Special Feature: Documentary: The Making of 'From Here to Eternity [2:00] This is a poor excuse for a making-of documentary, blink-and-you'll-miss-it piece only skirts the surface of this classic film, as it focuses on casting choices, the iconic beach scene, and the film's Academy Award® victories. Clips from Fred Zinnemann's personal colour home movies shot on location only mildly salvage what amounts to a cursory backward glance.
Special Feature: Documentary: Fred Zinnemann: As I See It [10:00] More colour home movies shot by the director Fred Zinnemann and highlight this excerpt from a thoughtful profile of Fred Zinnemann, which includes lengthy comments from the man himself about 'From Here to Eternity.' Fred Zinnemann discusses his affinity for "outsider" films, recalls how he was awarded the plum assignment of helming ''From Here to Eternity,' and why he cast Deborah Kerr against type to portray Karen Holmes. He also says his filmmaking credentials are to "tell the truth as I see it."
Special Feature: Eternal History: Graphics-in-Picture Track: Picture-in- picture tracks often can be frustrating, because the content is sporadic and difficult to isolate. Thankfully, though, that's not the case here, as this enlightening and entertaining bonus view feature combines interview segments with pop-up trivia cards to provide a constant stream of information. A number of journalists and historians, including TCM host Robert Osborne, chime in with plenty of facts and anecdotes, while first-hand recollections from Fred Zinnemann's son Tim, Frank Sinatra's daughter Tina, and Jack Larson, a friend of Montgomery Clift who's best known for his portrayal of Jimmy Olson in the original 'Superman' TV series, give us a more intimate look at the making of this Oscar-winning classic. Topics include the revitalisation of Frank Sinatra's career and his closeness with Clift; the censorship issues that afflicted the famous beach love scene; the possibility of a real-life affair between Lancaster and Kerr during shooting; the appearance of George Reeves (TV's Superman) in a small role; Montgomery Clift's inner conflicts, demons, and self-critical nature; the tyrannical Columbia studio chief, Harry Cohn, and how he interfered with Fred Zinnemann's work; and a distraught Frank Sinatra's distraught inner demons depression over his tempestuous marriage to actress Ava Gardner. The pop-up factoids look at, among other things, the military and literary careers of author James Jones and differences between the novel and screenplay, and supply stats about the cast and film, as well as some behind-the-scenes trivia. Even if you already know a lot about 'From Here to Eternity,' as I do, this recommended track will almost certainly teach you something new.
Finally, with its multi-layered story, provocative themes, and stellar performances, 'From Here to Eternity' stands as one of Hollywood's most absorbing and finely textured productions. This Best Picture winner uses Pearl Harbor as a stunning backdrop for a tale that brims with emotion, vitality, and a rugged individualism that sets it apart from other movies of the period. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, and Donna Reed all perfectly embody their roles and file nuanced portrayals that remain solid and strong six decades after the film's premiere. Though it took Sony far too long to release this Oscar-winning classic on Blu-ray, the top-notch presentation is worth the wait, with excellent video and audio transfers, a brand-new picture-in-picture track, and five collectible lobby card reproductions sweetening the pot. 'From Here to Eternity' may be best known for its iconic beach scene, but the crashing waves can't drown the film's spirit or the potent messages it transmits. Diehard movie buffs will surely want to add this first-class drama to their Blu-ray Collection, and those who haven't yet experienced it are in for a real treat and that is why I am honoured to actually add this to my Blu-ray Collection, as it is one of those classic films that will be loved by many generations to come and character driven films of this calibre will go on forever. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom