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From Here to Eternity - Superbit
Savant reviewed the earlier 'normal' Columbia Tristar disc of From Here to Eternity in November of 2001, so that's where to go for my discussion of the merits of this classic Oscar-winner. This review will be a short rundown of my reactions to the promised higher quality of this Superbit edition - from Savant's commonsense, non-tech POV. (Read: finicky personal opinion.)
This is the first opportunity I've had to really compare a Superbit release with its garden-variety predecessor. I've heard that it's hard to tell the difference between them, but I didn't find that to be the case with my 65" rear projection Mitsubishi screen. Both images had grain, but the Superbit disc exhibited both a subtler range of tones and better definition of shapes. Terminator lines between light and dark areas were free of haloes or 'outline' fringing. On a big screen, the picture does look substantially sharper all around.
Grumblers about the Superbit concept say that top bit rates and processing should be the standard, and that this amounts to double-dipping. Maybe they have a point, but there are an awful lot of discs that could use a new edition, either for lack of 16:9 enhancement, flipper-formatting, or just plain lacklustre transfers. I'm thinking of titles like The Wild Bunch, The Right Stuff ...
The naysayers also have a potential point when they gripe that the movie experience is the same with either disc. This is rather obvious, considering that most of us first appreciated pictures like Casablanca in dirty 16mm prints shown on old televisions. But sharper and more detailed is sharper and more detailed, nothing more or less. The Superbit concept may mean 'less for more' for some people, but anything that offers more choice and better quality, even just the margin of improvement shown here, is going to get my vote. It's equally as valid as re-buying Army of Darkness or Lord of the Rings for a second or third time, just to enjoy a different set of extras.
For awhile, I was hoping that Columbia would reformat the picture in 1:66 16:9, to show it in the aspect ratio of its Widescreen reissue in 1954. The main titles are certainly grouped for such a screening, and play perfectly well matted on a widescreen monitor. But From Here to Eternity comes from a year of format transition, 1953, Half of that year's releases were flat (War of the Worlds) and the other half followed the new cropping to 1:66 trend (Kiss Me Kate, It Came from Outer Space). To me, most of the picture still looks better at the normal 1:37 setting.
The plainwrap disc reproduces all the chapter stops of the earlier disc, but has none of its extras. The attractive silver packaging uses a smaller reproduction of the same DVD cover. If this is a top title for you, I'd recommend it, provided you're watching on a large or finely tune-able monitor.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, From Here to Eternity - Superbit rates:
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: March 6, 2003