1001 Films - From Here To Eternity (1953)

There is a trend that has recently plagued my life called the 1001 list.

It all started whenever one of the members of the community at Checkpoint Church mentioned to me the existence of this thing called, “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.” It’s a musical reference book published in 2005 by Robert Dimery.

It’s a fine list and apparently a mediocre book according to Barnes & Noble reviewers. Or an A-list book according to Google Books reviewers. So take reviews with a grain of salt, as usual.

Regardless - I haven’t read the book and don’t intend to. What made this concept so engrossing was the corresponding website that allowed for those interested to work their way through the 1001 albums online. The website sends you a new album each day.

At Checkpoint, we’re listening through one at a time together and reviewing them. It’s a good time!

All that being said - I’ve now discovered that this isn’t exclusive to albums. There is also a “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” by Steven Jay Schneider. There’s a game version by Tony Mott. And a book version by Peter Boxall.

For whatever reason this concept in and of itself triggers every single serotonin receptor in my brain and I simply must complete each list to feel like I’m truly living life in any capacity.

I’ll document some of my journeys here on the blog - with this being the first.

I was proud to have seen over 20% of the films on the movie-watching list, but there are still plenty that I’ve yet to see.

We are doing a similar format to our album-listening over on the Checkpoint Church Discord, which any and all are welcome to join. We’re picking one randomly-generated movie each week and working our way through them all. It’ll take 24 years and I can’t wait to see my youngest walk across the stage at college when I watch the final film.

First up was the film From Here To Eternity starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Deborah Kerr. I had never seen this film, but very quickly recognized one of the most famous scenes of Kerr and Lancaster kissing in the waves on the beach in Hawaii. This scene has been lovingly re-crafted by many films to date, with one of my favorite instances being 50 First Dates that shared the very same beach spot.

This film was apparently one that was barely made. Fred Zinneman had quite a time convincing the publishing and distributors of the merit of this film. It was based off of a book of the same name that was - apparently - so scandalous that many believed it could never be re-created on the silver screen.

The film itself tells the story of several characters serving the US Army in Hawaii in the days preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sergeant Warden, Lancaster, has an affair with the Captain’s miserable wife Karen, played by Kerr. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee Prewitt, played by famed method actor Montgomery Clift, is a new recruit to the army who is being harassed and abused by his squadron as a means of peer pressure to join the boxing club.

It’s a moving story and has some great acting. Side tangent: I used to loathe that trans-atlantic accent, but now it has a special place in my heart.

The end of the film suffers a bit from some good old-fashioned positive twisting to the narratives originally written in James Jones’ work. The death of many characters wasn’t quite as Jones had envisioned it. And the cruel Captain getting his just desserts wasn’t at all the experience of the powerful in the military at the time, leading to a disingenuous twist of unlikely fate.

Intriguingly enough for me - I didn’t realize just how small Frank Sinatra looked. With such a big voice and personality, it was a surprising revelation in this film. Honestly, the same could be said of Clift. The only truly larger-than-life person was Lancaster, who actually did serve in the US Army.

Did I mention that Ernest Borgnine supposedly received real-life death threats after his character in the film abuses Sinatra’s, leading to his eventual in-film demise? It’s nice to know that bizarre parasocial relationships with film characters goes back to even the earliest films of the 50s.

In 2002, the Library of Congress added the film to the United States National Film Registry, stating that it was significant to our culture, our history, and our aesthetics of a bygone era.

I have to agree - this was a film that felt like a milestone as I was watching it. Aside from the historical landmark of one of the major battlefields of WWII, this film set many standards of film-making that would go on for some time - with one certain scene still playing a role in the aesthetic zeitgeist still today.

1 down - 1000 to go. Cheers.


March 23rd, 2022