Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour star in the timeless love story of a young writer who sacrifices his life in the present to find happiness in the past in Somewhere in Time. After one of his plays, Richard Collier (Reeve) is approached by an elderly woman (Seymour) who gives him an antique gold watch and pleads with him to return in time with her. Years later, when Richard sees a photograph of a beautiful young woman at the Grand Hotel, he realizes she is the same woman who had approached him and becomes obsessed with returning to 1912 to find her. Co-starring Christopher Plummer and Teresa Wright, this romantic fantasy is an unforgettable story of passion, obsession and love that will live on forever.
Let me set the scene for you. I'm a young teenager in the mid-1980s with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon but flip through the channels on TV (pre-cable, so my options were limited). This was back in the day when your local TV station would still run movies instead of sports or news on a Saturday, and I came across this little film starring the guy who I only knew then as 'Superman'. Intrigued, I sat down on the couch and watched it. A couple hours and more than a few tears later, I realized that I had just watched that rarest of the rare when it comes to a movie: a perfect film. Which is not to say it doesn't have flaws or technical goofs along the way – I'm talking here about purity of story, a film so good that it affects you in ways you'd never thought possible for something that is, after all, 'just a movie'.
Although I know many who think 'Somewhere in Time' is as corny as Kansas in August, I make no apologies in telling you that it's my favorite movie of all time. It became my favorite film on that Saturday afternoon in the 1980s, and I've watched nothing since then to change my mind. Are there better acted films? Tons. Better shot movies? Hundreds. But there's never been a movie that's given me the kind of emotional impact – the pure joy of great storytelling and sadness of true loss – as this film has. When people ask me why I'm so passionate about film, I tell them to go watch 'Somewhere in Time.'
Based on the novel 'Bid Time Return' by Richard Matheson (who also penned the movie's screenplay), the film begins in 1972, where a young playwright named Richard Collier is celebrating the debut of his very first play. He's approached by an elderly woman who gives him a pocket watch and simply says 'Come back to me,' before disappearing into the night. The story then picks up eight years later, with a despondent Collier suffering from both writer's block and a recent romantic break-up. Looking to get away for a while, he comes across the Grand Hotel and is charmed enough by the location to decide to check-in. While perusing the hotel's hall of history, he's taken by a photograph of a young beautiful woman. He'll soon find out that the woman in the photo is an actress named Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) – the same woman who gave him the watch in the past.
A film like 'Somewhere in Time' hinges a great deal on believability, and could not have been pulled off without the incredible talent of Christopher Reeve in the lead role. If he had given one false note in his performance, it might have sunk the entire movie. However, he's so good here that I don't think it's doing his other films a disservice by saying that this was his best performance as an actor. Seymour and Christopher Plummer, who plays Elise McKenna's manager, are equally strong in their roles, and even today it's hard to think of any other actors that would be more perfect for these parts (thank goodness Universal never tried to reboot this).
While we're on the topic of characters, there are a few in this movie that aren't even animate objects, yet they play a huge part in my love of this film. The first and most obvious one is the Grand Hotel itself, which still stands to this day and is located on Mackinac Island in Michigan. It's just a beautiful setting for a film, and it's a huge reason for both the beauty and timelessness of the movie. Secondly, there's the watch that Elise gives Richard at the beginning of the film. Yes, this may seem like just a simple watch, but it's a remarkable thing if you start to think about it (minor spoiler alert!). The watch can't possibly exist. It has no beginning or end or point of origin. Elise gives it to Richard in 1972, Elise gets it from Richard in 1912, and the loop continues over and over again. Pretty crazy, huh? Finally, there's that darn penny, which I won't say anything more about for those who have yet to see the film. I just like the fact that the least valuable thing in the world can cause…well, those of you that have seen the movie know exactly what I mean.
One final thing that hit me as I watched 'Somewhere in Time' for the first time on Blu-ray, but probably close to the fiftieth time in my life: and that's the sad fact that more than half the cast of the movie is no longer with us. In fact, only Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer remain with us in terms of the primary actors. Of course, many of the actors in 'Somewhere in Time' were already up there in years at the time of the filming and led very full lives. But it's hard not to watch this film and equate the fate of Richard Collier to that of Christopher Reeve. In many ways, what happened to Chris somehow managed to make this movie even more meaningful and moving for me over the years. I can't help but to now equate one of the last lines of 'Somewhere in Time' to the actor who starred in it: 'Such a fine man'.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Somewhere in Time' travels onto Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which house the 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray, along with an insert containing a code for both an iTunes (or Windows Media if you so choose) and UltraViolet digital copy of the movie. The Blu-ray isn't front-loaded with any trailers, and actually starts the movie immediately, after notifying viewers that they can access the menu at any time using the "pop up menu" button on their remote.
There's going to be a lot of debate among fans about the video quality of this release, as this latest version of 'Somewhere in Time' looks different than any other we've seen before on home video (and you're talking to someone who owned the VHS, the laserdisc, the 1998 DVD, and the 2000 20th Anniversary DVD).
Let's start with what we know – or at least what I've heard over the years regarding that 20th Anniversary DVD. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the movie in 2000, Universal remastered three new 35mm prints of the film, for a limited release run in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. However, that new remaster was not the version that was put on the 2000 DVD release. It does appear, however, that Universal has used that 2000 remaster of the movie for this Blu-ray title.
Unlike all prior home video versions of 'Somewhere in Time' where there was some – but not a huge – difference between the 1980 scenes (shot on Kodak film stock) and the 1912 scenes (shot on Fuji film stock), the difference is quite obvious here. The 1980 stuff looks more or less like it always did, albeit clearer and sharper than we've seen in before. However, the 1912 stuff is really different this time around, with a much softer look to the image (some scenes almost look like a layer of haze is over the screen) and the colors really saturated and almost blooming. The best example I can give of the difference between older prints and this 'new' one (albeit seemingly from 2000) is in the shirt that Chris Reeve wears under his brown suit in 1912. You can see it on the box cover to this title, where it still retains its previous look of what's always appeared to me as an off-blue. Here, however, we see the shirt as it was always meant to be seen – and it's not any shade of blue at all, but a very pastel green! Many other scenes and costumes which appeared rather stale on prior video versions in the 1912 footage also now burst with color on this release.
Another advantage of this latest version is that Universal seems to have applied very little DNR to the picture, if – in fact – they've applied any at all. A healthy amount of grain is present, but never obtrusive. Black levels aren't superb, but they're decent for a film this old (remember, even the remaster, if indeed that's what was used, is pushing 15 years at this point). While details aren't always great in the 1912 material (again, by choice, to give the past a very historical feel), they're very good in the 1980 stuff, as I was finally able to see and read some of the plaques Chris Reeve's character has on his loft's wall at the opening of the movie, as well as pick up on other fun details I never noticed in the other home video versions.
The biggest downside is that there's still some noticeable dirt and defects on the print, although not nearly as many as in prior versions. Still, flecks of white and black can often be seen intruding on solid backgrounds to many of the scenes.
Even though presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, I found it amazing how much dialogue I heard here for the first time – particularly in those opening moments of the movie where we hear Richard Collier's friends talking among themselves at a party. Of course, one of the big highlights of the movie is Composer John Barry's wonderful score, which sounds more beautiful than ever here.
Although the track obviously can provide nothing in terms of directionality, I was impressed at what a good job it did with its distinctness. Nothing on the track feels muddled or muddy, with most sounds – including the spoken word – coming across as very crisp and clear.
Subtitles are offered in English SDH only.
Although Universal hasn't produced any new bonus features for this release, fans of the film will be happy to know that all the primary extras (minus some production notes and bio stills) from the 2000 Special Edition DVD release have been ported over to this disc. Please note, like the original DVD, none of the bonus materials are in HD, nor have they been anamorphically enhanced.
Although it provides nothing new in terms of bonus materials, fans of 'Somewhere in Time' are going to be quite pleased with this release, which provides a wonderful never-before-released-on-video transfer of the film and a solid 2.0 lossless track. Of course, the movie itself is just wonderful and still holds up all these years later. I have no shame in saying this is my favorite movie of all time and, naturally, I give it the highest of recommendations.