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From Here to Eternity on DVD

From Here to Eternity on DVD

A classic, and "Best Picture" Oscar-winner, the movie offers a look at army life just before the US was thrust into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Set on a US army base in Hawaii in 1941, it follows the life of Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift, in an excellent performance) as an army bugler whose past ghosts cause him to refuse to fight for the company's boxing team.

This causes him to be a marked man in the company, whose commander wants more than anything to win the boxing title that'll be up for grabs in December. He's treated shamefully, forced into the most menial of army work and made to do forced marches and other physically taxing routines in order to "convince him" that he should put his principles aside and box "for the good of the company."

Meanwhile, the CO's lonely, ignored wife (Deborah Kerr), whose husband regularly and openly sleeps around, begins an affair with his tough-as-nails-but-fair-and-principled sergeant (Burt Lancaster), while on his few times allowed off base, Prewitt falls in love with a gold-digging club hostess played by Donna Reed.

There's a lot of boozey characterization in "From Here to Eternity," as the characters unwind off duty, and the actors play drunk very well. In fact, all of the acting is first rate: supporting players Frank Sinatra (whose portrayal of the Italian-American friend of Prewitt helped revitalize his then-moribund career) and Donna Reed both won Oscars while Ernest Borgnine, as the vicious and mean-spirited stockade sergeant, is remarkable.

The film actually won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Cinematography.

The film culminates with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, rousing everyone in one horrible moment from their complacent peacetime routine to a war footing they really weren't prepared to be on. And in that one moment, these peoples' lives go from worrying about what to drink next to rising to the challenge of the gauntlet thrown down before them by the Imperial Japanese fleet.

The climactic attack opens with a frightening shot of a Japanese Zero (well, while there's some authentic footage in the scene, the made-for-the-movie shots use North American Harvards to double as Zeros) swoops in low over the parade square, strafing a chilling line of death across the ground which catches a single ill-fated dogface in its lethal burst.

Then all hell breaks loose…

Okay, the attack scene isn't as well done as in the 2001 "Pearl Harbor" with its Industrial Light and Magic effects, but the movie on the whole is a towering and shattering achievement as it shows the sleep giant's awakening much in the manner that the September 11th attacks on the U.S.A. shook the country from its self indulgent complacency, giving it a reality check it isn't soon to forget.

The DVD is presented in its original full screen aspect ratio, which means people with 16x9 TV's will have to zoom it to fill the screen if they don't want to watch (or burn in!) bars to each side of the screen. Still, the digitally mastered black and white picture is excellent, and the Dolby Digital mono sound is very good as well, considering recording methods back in the early 1950's.

Extras include an audio commentary by Tim Zinneman (the director's son) and Alvin Sargent (longtime friend of the director and a player in the film). There's also a "making of" featurette, an excerpt from "Fred Zinneman: As I see It" as well as production notes, filmographies and trailers.

From Here to Eternity, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
118 min. black and white, full screen (not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra
Produced by Buddy Adler,
Written by Daniel Taradash, Directed by Fred Zinneman


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Updated May 13, 2006