Don Siegel is best known for his gritty masterpiece Dirty Harry, but Don Siegel was an accomplished director in the fifties with classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Riot in Cell Block 11 under his belt. Don was contracted to direct a quaint action film called Edge of Eternity for Columbia Pictures in 1959. It was one of two pictures he made that year, and it’s sole purpose was to deliver a climax that would take place above the Grand Canyon. This is a popcorn entertainment if there ever was one, but that does not belittle its enjoyment.
Cornel Wilde plays Arizona deputy sheriff Les Martin. Les is a sheriff in a small community near the Grand Canyon. It is a bit of a ghost town, but there are a few people making money at mining and a few other industries. When a mysterious man survives an attack and stumbles his way into town, he is taken in by local eccentric Eli Jones (Tom Fadden.) Eli attempts to get the attention of Les, but when Les sees a lady speeding down the highway he pursues her to writer her a ticket. She turns out to be wealthy socialite Janice Kendon (Victoria Shaw) whose father owns a mining company that sells bat guano mined from nearby caves. While writing up the ticket, somebody has taken the time to murder the mysterious stranger. This leads to the town putting pressure on Sheriff Edwards (Edgar Buchanan) to replace Les. Les has a a checkered past in his previous job in Denver that doesn’t help anything. As the town encounters more violence, the pressure builds for Les to locate the murderer and figure out his motives.
The acting by the principal actors is very serviceable if not filled with entirely memorable performances. I particularly enjoyed Mickey Shaughnessy as the bartender Scotty O’Brien. The score by Daniele Amfitheatrof fits the film like a glove, but will probably be forgotten the moment the movie ends. What is more memorable is the absolutely breathtaking cinematography by Burnett Guffrey. Guffrey shot classics like Bonnie and Clyde and From Here To Eternity, and in this film he fills the screen with beautiful wide CinemaScope views of the Grand Canyon and Arizona desert. The script by Richard Collins and Marion Hargrove is just a means to an end, but the film floats along efficiently after a fairly leisurely first half.
The reason to sit down and watch the film is that final glorious set piece. Don Siegel does an excellent job of laying out all the principals in the final scene including a plane, a helicopter, and the men fighting on a railway car over the Grand Canyon. This scene looks and feels very intense as stuntmen risked their lives. I have a fear of heights that is occasionally activated by film. This film succeeded in giving me that tingle in my toes and based on that reason alone gets my recommendation. The stunt work at the end needs to be seen to be believed.
Video: How’s it look?
Twilight Time provided an absolutely incredible new transfer of the film from Sony of the original elements from a Columbia Pictures using an MPEG-4 AVC codec. I contacted Twilight Time to find out if Sony had provided the transfer in 4K like they had with The Man From Laramie. Although this could be neither confirmed nor denied, my guess would be that this was a 4K transfer due to the incredible amount of detail present. The cinematography by Burnett Guffrey is gorgeous. The beautiful panoramic views of the Grand Canyon and surrounding Arizona desert towns fills the screen in all its CinemaScope grandiosity. The transfer has excellent clarity and color reproduction. I did not see any signs of DNR and the print appeared to be in great shape. This is one of the best transfers in Twilight Time’s catalog, but should be of no surprise considering its sourcing from Sony who do some of the best work in this field.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This DTS-HD MA 2.0 track has excellent fidelity to the original elements. The film has a fitting score by Daniele Amfitheatrof that is at once perfect for the film if somewhat forgettable. It really kicks into gear in the second half of the film as it reaches the climactic action scenes. This track does more than a good job at reproducing the original sound of the film with excellent clarity and no detectable hiss. Well done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Audio Commentary – Film historians Nick Redman and C.Courtney Joyner collaborate for an incredibly enjoyable track where they discuss Don Siegel and the stuntmen that make this film stand out. Most interesting is the discussion towards the finale of the film. Very enjoyable.
Isolated Score and Effects Track
The Bottom Line
Edge of Eternity is not Don Siegel’s best film, but it is a fun popcorn flick with a stunning finish due to some truly insane stunt work. The cinematography by Burnett Guffrey is gorgeous to look at and makes a compelling case for watching the film. I am glad that Twilight Time has released this in what I must assume is a beautiful new 4K transfer. I also enjoyed the commentary track featuring Nick Redman and C.Courtney Joyner. Fans should be astounded with how great the film looks. Recommended.