After showing some promise in "Broken Lance" and "Beneath The Twelve Mile Reef," rising star Robert Wagner was cast in "Between heaven And Hell," along with his "Twelve Mile Reef" co-star/love interest, Terry Moore, and a surprising array of supporting cast members (including Frank Gorshin as a trigger-happy soldier). Having already proved his mettle two years earlier with "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea," director Richard Fleischer filmed some exciting action sequences, including a marvelous beach landing and land assault, and Robert Wagner's frenzied marathon at the film's conclusion.
By 1956, some of the early flaws that plagued Fox' CinemaScope lenses had been fixed, though the nagging problem with close-ups remained. The lenses often squished heads, and several shots aren't particularly flattering to Wagner's melon. Moreover, superimposed titles, as during the film's opening shot, have an orange hue which remain in an otherwise clean and stable transfer. Many of these old CinemaScope titles are fascinating artifacts of widescreen technology in development, so some leeway has to be given to the more obvious flaws. (The one curio, though, is a faint viewfinder rectangle that appears on two shots during the beach assault, as plane are followed to the mountains before bombs are dropped.)
The 2.0 stereo mix is average, and there's some vintage surround experimentation between onscreen characters; when three or more characters are spread about, the left-right placement is rather extreme. The sound effects during the battle sequences are outstanding, however, and Hugo Friedhofer's driving score, based on the ever-popular Dies Irae (a traditional plainsong melody with doom and gloom tonalities) booms throughout the picture.
The disc's extras are limited to trailers, with 20th Century Fox adding an array of vintage and more recent film and DVD trailers for the War Classics series. Of the group, only "Between Heaven and Hell" and "D-Day the 6th of June" are anamorphic.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
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