***/**** Image B+ Sound B+
starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed
screenplay by Daniel Taradash, based on the novel by James Jones
directed by Fred Zinnemann
by Bill Chambers Lovelorn soldiers stationed in Hawaii have their romantic lives torn asunder when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor: You can add remaking Fred Zinnemann's Oscar-winning From Here to Eternity without due credit to the tally of Pearl Harbor's sins, although a picture as cool and sensitive--the two qualities exactly lacking from Pearl Harbor--as From Here to Eternity would hardly want the acknowledgment. Based on the novel by James Jones, a veteran wounded at Guadalcanal who also wrote the book on which Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line is based, the film finds the director of High Noon following his didactic muse into an allegory that is considerably less paint-by-numbers, even arcane. From Here to Eternity is a sudser, ultimately, albeit one that may be of more significance to those who've served. That's a step up from Pearl Harbor, at least, which will most directly appeal to chimpanzees.
From Here to Eternity takes place at the Hawaiian army base Schofield, where the patriotically-named boxer Robert E. Lee Prewitt (the sublime Montgomery Clift, author Jones's rumoured lover) makes waves for refusing to earn his stripes in the ring. Prewitt befriends Maggio (a spectacularly gangly, oddly young Frank Sinatra), a goofball with a dangerously-short fuse; falls for Lorene (Donna Reed), a woman paid to fraternize with the male clientele at a local nightspot who, like Marilyn Monroe, has repressed her small-town alter ego; and gets on the good side of his one sympathetic superior, Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster), who's carrying on an affair with the sonuvabitch captain's wife (Deborah Kerr). Lancaster and Kerr's shoreline dalliance is so iconic an image that many viewers of the film today are surprised to discover the two performers have only supporting roles.
Zinnemann shoots From Here to Eternity in the square style of his The Men (1950), a social-conscience picture about a war hospital that, it's worth noting, said everything John Huston's documentary Let There Be Light got in trouble for saying four years earlier; the American establishment has always been much more amenable to the truth when it's shaped by the structural biases of a Hollywood narrative. (Even Oliver Stone's polemics are attired in maudlin garb, or he'd be an underground figure.) The major difference between The Men and From Here to Eternity is that the latter's agenda seems geared to creating stars out of certain members of the cast and reinforcing the stardom of certain other cast members. (This may be directly attributable to the absence of preachy producer Stanley Kramer.) It's kind of a beauty pageant in that regard, and Clift smoulders to the crown. Yet From Here to Eternity is not a slight movie by any means, because whatever its ineffable message (anti-authority? Conscientious objection? The aphrodesiac of war?), it's a formidable actor's showcase.
The DVDs in Columbia TriStar's first wave of Superbit titles seemed to get criticized for what they lacked in supplements rather than what they didn't in technical finesse. Let us review: these discs exist for the sole purpose of providing an optimum viewing/listening experience to videophiles, and since the studio has yet to issue a film exclusively as a Superbit DVD, in many cases one can choose a version with bonus material over these movie-only editions. The average consumer would probably not notice the trade-off in quality, anyway.
The Superbit release of From Here to Eternity strips away commentary from Zinnemann's son and some making-of material from the original Special Edition but adds a DTS track, "upmixed from 5.1." This means that while this disc does not contain an official 5.1 remix with discrete audio, the film's mono stems were reprocessed to provide a sense of multi-channel spatiality. The DTS 5.1 upmix shows up the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track most significantly during the climactic attack on Schofield (and Pearl Harbor), though the former tends to disorient the listener with its unlocalized sound effects. Once again the Superbit brand does not extend to defects in the source print, as flecking beleaguers From Here to Eternity throughout this presentation; maybe someday, the picture will receive, to invoke Lorene, a proper restoration. The DTS 'flying-disc' logo precedes the upmixed version of the film. Originally published: February 18, 2003.