HTF REVIEW: "From Here To Eternity" Superbit (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 24, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    From Here To Eternity: Superbit

    Studio: Columbia
    Year: 1953
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 118 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portugese,
    Chinese, Korean, Thai

    The boldest book of our time... Honestly,
    fearlessly on the screen!

    For quite some time, I had ceased doing reviews for
    Columbia's Superbit line, mainly for the fact
    that I was having a difficult time determining if
    the DVDs really offered superior image quality over
    their original counterparts. For every Superbits
    title I reviewed, arguments sparked over my unfavorable
    opinions. I finally decided it best to stop reviewing
    these titles.

    So what am I doing here reviewing a Superbit
    title? I chose to review From Here To Eternity
    for the mere fact that it was a film I have never
    seen, and thus, don't already own it on DVD. For that
    reason, I am finally enjoying a Superbit title
    without any predetermined notion. I can sit back,
    enjoy a DVD for what it offers, without having to
    compare it to an original release.


    Throughout my life I had only seen the one clip --
    perhaps the greatest romantic moment ever to take
    place on screen where Burt Lancaster and Deborah
    Kerr are tightly locked and intertwined in an embrace
    as they kiss each other and the white foaming waves
    pour over them. The scene is such a staple in
    American cinema that it has been spoofed over and
    over again. Yet, up until now, I never saw the
    entire film.


    The film starts off in 1941 Hawaii where Robert E.
    Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), a former bugler and
    ex-boxer, joins the army after having lost his spot
    as first bugle for the army band. Prewitt, who is
    renowned for being a champion boxer, is asked to join
    the army's boxing team by his army captain, Captain
    Dana Holmes (Philip Ober). However, Prewitt has quit
    boxing and refuses to join. This results in Prewitt
    being harassed by various sergeants who try to break
    him into agreeing to return to the ring.


    Meanwhile, Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster)
    has his eye on Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), the
    wife of Sergeant Warden's company commander, Captain
    Holmes. Captain Holmes has been cheating on his wife
    since almost the beginning of their marriage. Karen
    falls for Warden and the two begin a relationship
    that could potentially ruin their lives.


    Then there's Pvt. Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), a
    "hot-head" that ends up in the Stockade only to spit
    in the face of “Fatso” (Ernest Borgnine) and suffer
    the consequences. It was the role that revitalized
    Sinatra's career!

    I really enjoyed From Here To Eternity, though
    I felt it to be a little melodramatic at times. For
    its time, the attack on Pearl Harbor was done quite
    well as I found the film's editing and cinematography
    really pulled me into these scenes. It's quite an
    accomplishment when you consider that this film holds
    up today simply because of its story rather than its
    special effects.

    From Here to Eternity racked up 12 Academy
    Award nominations, and won eight Oscars, including
    Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and
    Best B/W Cinematography. Winning the only Oscars
    of their careers were Best Supporting Actor Frank
    Sinatra, and Best Supporting Actress Donna Reed.

    How is the transfer?


    The main question that bothered me throughout the
    viewing of this film: Was it necessary to make
    this a Superbit title?
    First of all, most very
    well done B&W transfers look incredible on DVD at
    standard bit rates. The problem here is, the source
    material used for this transfer of From Here To
    is nothing to rave about. You can
    increase the bit rate all you want, but if the
    original print is not in immaculate condition you
    aren't doing anyone a favor here.

    Don't get me wrong -- the film doesn't look bad.
    The problem is, the film is littered with an awful
    amount of speckle and dirt that resided within the
    existing elements that Columbia used. There also
    seem to be a varying degree of image sharpness
    depending on which scene you are watching. In some
    scenes images look slightly washed out while in
    others, you can see a nice amount of detail along
    with nice deep black levels. You'll also find quite
    a bit of noise introduced to the outdoor scenes.

    As far as video goes -- and I say this without
    having seen the original standard DVD release --
    the Superbit doesn't make this film look
    nearly as good as some of the best B&W transfers
    I have seen on the format.

    The audio, on the other hand, is a totally different
    ball of wax....


    I did an interview a few weeks ago with a magazine
    concerning studios taking original classic mono
    audio tracks and revamping them for 5.1 presentation.
    My opinion was that as long as the studio includes
    the original mono soundtrack in addition to the new
    mix, I had absolutely no problem.

    The worth of this entire Superbit title may lie
    in this brand-new remixed 5.1 DTS track. Maybe I
    am missing something, but I never thought a studio
    could take a mono track and make it sound this close
    to a 5.1 surround presentation. It's not a perfect
    5.1 mix, mind you -- the dialogue does not rest
    firmly in the center channel -- but man oh man, I
    was just blown away by the amount of surround
    activity present here. First, there's actually
    distinct stereo separation across the front channels.
    Sound also comes across with a good amount of
    dynamics -- much better fidelity than I hear in
    most films from this period. The real treat is
    the amount of effect noise that is added to the
    rears. You'll find yourself surrounded by the
    sounds of ocean waves, the bustling crowds of
    River street, dialogue echo inside a gymnasium,
    a marching platoon and even rain showers. When
    Japanese planes attack the island, they fly across
    the entire soundstage rear to front. I even sensed
    a small level of LFE activity that supports Composer
    George Duning's orchestration. While some of the
    surround activity sounds like simple reverb, I was
    impressed that much more of it sounded pretty darn
    realistic, definitely enhancing the viewing experience.

    Final Thoughts


    I am not certain I can fully recommend From Here
    To Eternity
    as a Superbit purchase. I was
    not overly impressed with the quality of the print,
    and I am surprised the studio tried to hawk this
    film as a Superbit title in the condition
    that it is in. I have just seen so many better B&W
    transfers on standard DVD editions that boast a
    slightly lower bit rate and contain a wealth of
    supplements to boot.

    On the other hand, this new 5.1 DTS mix certainly
    is an added bonus, particularly for the fact that
    although not perfect, is well designed.

    In any case, this is an American classic that should
    be owned by any enthusiast of film.

    Release Date: March 4, 2003

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Regarding the video presentation of this dvd, I kind of suspected as much, especially considering Columbia's latest efforts in their recent catelogue releases such as "You Can't Take It With You" and "The Talk of the Town". I'm starting to question Columbia's effort in the film elements they're using for the transfers.

  3. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

    Jun 15, 2001
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    This may be worth the purchase just for the new 5.1 DTS audio track. I already own the prior release.
  4. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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  5. Kim D

    Kim D Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 18, 2002
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    This is one of my all time favorite movies. My first trip to Hawaii I made it a point to go to this beach. You have to climb down rocks to get to it but it was worth it.

    I couldn't wait to buy it when it first came out on DVD. I don't know if I will buy this new version but I am intrigued by the DTS track.

    - kim
  6. Joseph_mx

    Joseph_mx Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 14, 2002
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    Rain, the answer is yes. It includes the original mono track
  7. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

    Apr 19, 2000
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  8. Jo_C

    Jo_C Second Unit

    Oct 20, 2001
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    Actually, the film was originally released in true stereo...there was a stereo mix done for "Eternity", and there were few theatres that played "Eternity" in stereo. I read someplace that the one remaining print in stereo is held by a private collector and was unwilling to lend it to Columbia for this release. So, in a sense, Columbia has re-created a stereo mix from a mono mixdown of a stereo mix.
  9. Deepak Shenoy

    Deepak Shenoy Supporting Actor

    Jul 3, 1998
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    That is indeed very disappointing. I almost took it for granted that the transfer on this release wouldn't have the speckles and dirt that plagued the original release (given that it is a Superbit title). I definitely wouldn't upgrade a title this old just for the audio. What were they thinking ??
  10. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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    I don't mind a few speckles and dust. I'd rather have that than too much digital cleansing.

    I'm just wondering if the transfer quality is at all better than the previous DVD.
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist

    Feb 8, 1999
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    Robert Harris
    A couple of notes:

    1. As has been mentioned, the original mix for large venues was three track discreet stereo.

    2. Speckles, minus density and "niz" have nothing to do with a title being released as "superbit." There is nothing wrong with a fifty year old film showing a bit of wear built in to the surviving elements.
  12. Jenna

    Jenna Second Unit

    Feb 12, 2002
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    Confession: I've never seen this film. A Superbit Release may very well change that...IF I can find a copy available to rent or borrow. The SB titles cost a bit more and are usually NOT released at a sale price, so I hesitate buying one that I've never seen.

    Ron, PLEASE don't stop reviewing the Superbit titles just because it may spark a debate. You are performing a valuable service to the members of the forum. Period. Don't let the comments of the few outweigh the needs of the many. (Hmmm...sounds familiar.) Anyway, I appreciate the time you spend reviewing these titles as I *am* a fan of the SBs (90% of the time). Keep up the good work.

    Last word on the Superbits: I hate that generic "steel" menu. Yuck. I know why they do it (to save "space" on the disc for the movie)...but I still get goosebumps when a cool animated menu pops up. Miss those on the SBs. [​IMG]
  13. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Dec 30, 2002
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    How much space does your average animated menu use, anyway? Most of thhem have about 1 min of material.

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