on July 16, 2004
For a movie in the 1930's, Lewis Milestone's adaptation of All Quiet On The Western Front, based on Erich Maria Remarque's novel, follows the book reasonably well. However, rather than starting with the soldiers lining up to get the cook Ginger's stew per the novel (that part comes later), it starts with Paul Baumer's school teacher telling him and his fellow students that they are the light of the Fatherland, the iron men of Germany, the brave heroes who will repulse the enemies when called to do so. In other words, he's exhorting them to enlist, which they do, pressed into patriotism in what was initially thought to have been a quick war with small losses.
From the start, the recruits are eager to get into uniform and to the front, and are puzzled by the behaviour of burned-out experienced soldiers like Tjaden and Kat. This latter, a large, pleasantly ugly man has a knack for scrounging for food and finding enough for the group, and soon, all the recruits stick with and respect this man, especially after their first bombardment. When one of the recruits realizes he has wet his trousers, Kat tells him not to worry about it, as it's happened to better men.
The stages of attacking, the bombardment, attack, counterattack, and repulse, is presented in graphic detail for that period, with the shots of men dying by artillery shells, being bayoneted, or machine-gunned. Some recruits go crazy waiting in the bunker during the bombardment, and one of them rushes outside, only to get cut down by bullets. And the aftermath isn't pretty for some. Franz Kemmerich ends up in the infirmary and has his leg amputated. From the grueling experience of phantom limb pain to the realization that one has lost his limb, the greed of some like Muller who wants Franz's nice boots, to the unconcern of the doctors who see Franz's death as another free bed, war is hell.
War changes people's perspectives. Paul fights and stabs a French soldier at close quarters in a foxhole, and he pleads and apologizes to the dying man, telling him that without these uniforms, they could be friends, and promising to write to his wife. And on leave, Paul is clearly alienated from the older civilians who have no clue that war has burned out his soul, and just keep telling him to give those Frenchies a licking and push on to Paris. I'd go for Tjaden's solution to war: get the politicians and generals wearing just their underpants into a big field and fight it out with clubs. But the discussion of the soldiers yields something still relevant: manufacturers want a war to sell more arms.
The subplot involving the butterflies is new, but the shot of the soldier reaching for the butterfly before being shot by a sniper symbolizes a soldier's whose burned out soul is suddenly heartened as seeing something beautiful, and suddenly thus illuminated within, reaches toward it.
All Quiet On The Western Front deservedly went on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in the US. However, Joseph Goebbels' antics in Berlin demonstrates how Germany was in a state of war denial. The incident at a theatre of the second night showing of the movie involved Goebbels' men starting disturbances and yelling anti-Semitic epithets that resulted in the film's termination after ten minutes. Goebbels hadn't even seen the film; he merely wanted to demonstrate Nazi power in Berlin and discredit Albert Grzesinski, Prussia's Interior Minister who was a Social Democrat. When the film was banned by the Board of Censors because it "endangered Germany's image abroad", the headlines of Goebbels' newspaper Der Angriff (German for The Attack) read "Grzesinski Defeated."
One of the few war films I'll watch due to its pacifist message, denouncing the glorification of war. The prologue at the movie's beginning, taken from Remarque's book, says it all: this story is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all, an adventure. For death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men, who even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.
on December 20, 2003
I can only re-iterate the comments passed by most of your other reviewers, a real master piece. Dated? maybe, the acting is of another age. but for all that the story and cine-matic quality reigns amongst the greatest of all time. The 1st world war is seen through a young, ordinary lad at first enthusiastic to serve his nation after a barrage of lecturing led by his school master on how glorious to wear a uniform with the girls flocking at your feet, the pride of the nation,ect,ect. He and most of his school mates join up only to be confronted with the reality of trench warfare.The story is quite straight forward but interwoven are really great episodes eg: we digress from the characters to follow a pair of boots as they are worn by various soldiers each one loosing them through death.
There are no glorious deaths no famous last words just the passing of a few young men out of the 9,000,000 who's lives ended between 1914 and 1918.
The final scene is a classic in film history.
The anti war message is as strong now 73 years after its release as it was then.
For those who have not seen this film and are real art lovers
this is a must buy for any film collection.
For me i just think it,s in the top 5 best films of all time and definately the best war movie ever made.
on May 28, 2004
'All Quiet On The Western Front' was released in 1930 and won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1929-1930. When you watch it, you will see why.
The films leading star is Lew Ayres, and he gives a very fine performance as a German college student who enlists in the Army during the First World War, along with the other students in his class, because of the professor at the college who makes them all want to become brave soldiers. We then watch the brilliantly shot action scenes, which are very realistic and sad to watch, as they go to fight on the front lines. They certainly discover the horrors of war, while we watch it. The movie is directed by Lewis Milestone, and has a very powerful, and sad ending, that you wont forget it.
Now for this Universal Region 1 DVD. Sadly, the print and sound quality are not really too great in all honesty. However, the film is very old, and still, even if its not in the condition some might like it to be, it is still very watchable. Overall, the DVD is not too bad.
This is an absolute must-have for classic film fans. So if you can pass by the fact that the print used here on this DVD is not brilliant, you will absolutely love this movie.
on January 30, 2007
Even after seeing "Saving Private Ryan" and every other film about war, ALL QUIET is the best ever made. The ending scene alone is worth the price of admission. Dalton Trumbo (Johnny Got His Gun) would have been proud. I highly recommend this film, along with another great one, based on a book by William Huie (screenplay by Chayefsky) titled "The Americanization of Emily"--another great.
Don't be put off by the date ALL QUIET was made, along with the grainy older quality of the film. It's as powerful today as it was decades ago when it was made.
on January 4, 2004
This review refers to the Universal DVD edition of "All Quiet on the Western Front"(1930)....
I feel privileged that we are still able to view this beautiful film from 1930. It is a moving story of soldiers bonding through the horrors of war. The soldiers are German, the war is WWI, but it doesn't really matter what country they are from or which war it is, it is baby faced boys, going off to kill or be killed, and the physical and emotional scars they are left with.
"All Quiet on the Western Front" won the Academy Award(1929/1930) for Best Picture and it was well deserved. Everything about it is amazing. The acting, the story, the photography, all combined for a film that will stand the test of time and will continue to mesmerize audiences always. Even without all the graphic effects used in today's war movies,Director Lewis Milestone and photographer Arthur Edeson, manage to convey a chilling look at the atrocities these soldiers must endure.The film's stars, Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray and Slim Summerville are all exquiste in their portrayals, making us feel the emotions and anguish they are going through. They are characters you will really care about.Some of the immortal scenes, will touch you and stay with you for quite a while after the view.
The film does show it's age. Although the picture itself is fairly sharp, there are many scratches and lines throughout.
I found myself so caught up in the story though, that these things didn't really bother me,The sound in DD2.0(MONO) is at times a bit muffled but very decent. I think the DVD is absolutely worth having for anyone who appreciates fine filmmaking, or any lover of good war(or anti-war) stories.The price now is more than reasonable for this classic treasure.
There are very informative production notes included on the making of the film, and the author(Erich Maria Remarque) of the book the film was based on. There are some biographical notes on a few of the stars as well. The DVD includes subtitles in English, French and Spanish.Universal has done a nice job in bringing this important piece of ciematic historty to DVD for all to enjoy.
A must have for your classic film collection and one to view during the up coming Oscar season....Experience this beautiful film for yourself...Laurie
on October 12, 2003
Winner of the 1930 Oscars for Best Picture and Director, "All Quiet on the Western Front" remains a stunning and timely film. Based on Erich Maria Remarque's classic anti-war novel, the movie follows a group of patriotic German schoolboys as they are urged to enlist in World War II, and shows how their initially idealistic spirits are forever changed by the brutal reality of death and dismemberment, suffering and sorrow. Beautifully acted by its entire cast (with special kudos going to Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, and Slim Summerville), the film also features some incredible special visual effects (those two detached hands clinging to the barbed wire fence never fail to shock) and some meticulously staged battle scenes that manage to put the viewer into the heart of the action. Arthur Edeson's cinematography is often truly astonishing in its artistry; his visual choices are impeccable. Worth a special note is the film's soundtrack; how incredible the terrible sounds of exploding ammunition must have seemed to audiences in 1930, who had first heard Al Jolson speak in 1927's part-talkie, "The Jazz Singer"! The very last sound effect in the film, which abruptly and startlingly leads to the close of the movie, is superbly executed and remains an innovative use of sound technology.
The Universal DVD release of this film features a great sound transfer: on my six-speaker system, the rumbling explosions, staccato machine guns, and whizzing bullets sounded remarkably nearby. Sadly, the visual transfer was sorely lacking; the source was plagued by jumps, scratches, lines, and breaks throughout the film, and the contrast was sometimes out-of-balance. This cinematic masterpiece demands and deserves to be fully restored, and then remastered and rereleased on DVD. (Are you listening, Universal Home Video?) The DVD extras include production notes; cast and director biographies and filmographies; and a Theatrical Trailer from one of the film's many reissues. Warts and all, this DVD edition is definitely worth a look - the film's brilliance is such that it shines above and beyond this rather shoddy presentation.
on December 11, 2002
A powerful indictment of the tragedy of WWI, as seen through the experience of a German squadron, drawn from an elite German school. The bright-eyed enthusiasm and esprit de corps of the youthful recruits is relentlessly ground down under the weight of bombardments, starvation, grime, bloodshed and indifference. As the film's hero, Paul, declares in his famous speech at the film's end, dying for one's country isn't glorious -- "it's dirty and it's painful." Beautifully shot in black and white, this film slowly, mercilessly, artfully rachets up the tension, with battle scenes and psychological dramas that are literally and figuratively gut-wrenching. This celebrated film, made a decade after the end of the First World War, summed up the disillusioning pall the war cast upon its generation with much the same cathartic power as the movie "Platoon" would, more than half a century later. It's pretty strong stuff, surprisingly so for the time; an early talkie, it suffers soundwise in scenes with dialogue, but is crushingly powerful in its use of battlefield sound effects. Lew Ayres, who plays Paul, is both magnetic and intense, as his Leonardo Decaprio baby face hardens into an anger-filled John Wayne-ish mask. Although this film established many of the conventions of the war genre, it did so unsentimentally, thus escaping the cliched feel of its many imitators.
on March 18, 2001
Upon returning to his hometown school from which he had enlisted into duty in WWI, Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) tells prospective recruits: "When it comes to dying for one's country, it's better not to die at all." This is the essence of "All Quiet..." In the film, war is stripped of all its glory, all its valor, all its heroism, and shown in its true state: a hell in which men are taught to kill each other and become animals, fighting not for a cause, but for survival. The film's most powerful scene is its very last, when Paul reaches out of his trench for that beautiful butterfly, a vain attempt to recapture some sense of humanity amongst the horrors that surround him. Notice that many scenes in the movie begin with director Lewis Milestone showing us marching lines of soldiers and flag-waving crowds framed by windows or doorways. This is cinematography at its finest: we see the war not as a part of humanity, but as something foreign, something unknown, like the monster that lurked in your closet when you were a child. Only this monster is real. It is war.
on November 11, 2003
It is surprising that there are as few classic anti-war movies as there are. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is one of them. What is even more surprising is that is was filmed in 1929 when Hollywood was just making the switch from silent to talking films. Director Lewis Milestone adapted the novel by Erich Maria Remarque and lost none of the power of the ghastly images on the printed page. What he filmed has not been topped in the seven decades since then. You will not find any reference to war that has glory attached to it, except perhaps to denigrate glory as a Hollywood adjunct to celluloid combat. There is no call, John Wayne or Stallone-like, to present killing as a means to an end. Here, mass killing and the horror of trench warfare strip away the illusion that war somehow glorifies those who are caught up in it. At the start of the movie, Lew Ayres is German college student Baumer, who one day while in class, gets suckered into the maw of war by his college teacher who regales his class with stirring tales of heroism set amidst some equally stirring martial music. Student Baumer quickly becomes Private Baumer. At their training depot, Baumer and his comrades still think war is simply another side of life. Their collective view of war is not unlike the view that Henry Fleming had at the start of Crane's THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE. Baumer soon finds out that with the first shots of war, the reality mugs the image. What director Milestone succeeds in doing has never been equalled. These new German recruits open the film as happy, confident and goodlooking. Quickly, they learn that war devolves them into blundering atavisms. Not only do they act ignobly and irrationally under stress, but they seem to get uglier as the picture progresses. This ugliness is not simply the result of missing a few baths or shaves, but almost as if they were subject to a regression that swoops tham back to their primeval ancestors. The effect on the audience is startling as it is forced to acknowledge that war destroys both the inner and outer man.
Ayres, of course, carries the movie as he alone seems to maintain his precious sense that his humanity cannot be frittered away even if his sanity might. The technology of the time, while quite crude by today's standards, is still stunningly effective in assaulting the eyes and ears of the audience in a crunching cacophany of disorienting images. There is a series of montages of French soldiers attacking entrenched German trenches and getting slaughtered by massed machine gun fire, and then incredibly enough, the Germans counterattack to meet the same fate. By the time the armistice is announced, the "all quiet" of the title, both Baumer, his comrades, and the audience have been stripped of their flimsy illusions that war has some end other than its cessation. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT serves to remind each new generation that the maw of war will gobble up warm bodies even more rapaciously than it will those illusions that led those bodies into that maw in the first place.
on April 22, 2003
One of the things that can get lost in reviewing cinema is political viewpoint. There are some people that can get pushed away from a great film because some form of political activism gets shoved into it. Needless to say, ï¿½All Quiet on the Western Frontï¿½ is an anti-war film. But the war involved is the First World War. By any standards WWI was the most senseless and brutal of the great wars. However, people will too often turn to this movie as an argument against any war. In fact, that may be true, I never did read the book, but donï¿½t be turned away because of any of that.
This movie is awesome. For a film from the early era of sound, it is epic. We learn to care about the characters, we see the evolution of young men in war, and we see the brutality and senseless death that was WWI. Itï¿½s very entertaining and thought provoking.
Also, when you watch any movie based on a book, you really should suspend your knowledge of the book, and try to judge the median for what it is. Maybe you have read the book, and love every passage, big deal. Donï¿½t nitpick. A lot of people can get caught up in some of that.
This movie will be always an important one. It is the stronger of the two versions made. Not an essential movie for the video library, but worth having around.