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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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It's fairly common for novel-movie adaptations to, quite literally, fail before a release has made it to the theatres, and the same can even be said for remakes (Colin Farell's casting in Total Recall made the entire planet groan). In the case of 'All Quiet on the Western Front - a subject encapsulated by warfare - the legibility can become even more crucial since Erich Remarque's translations of a lost generation where already harrowing in their textual form. So harrowing that it stands as one of the greatest pieces of anti-war literature ever conceived.

Fortunately, this 1930 movie is one of the rare adaptations that not only meets, but often exceeds the imagery found in the original book. Sure enough, if you're not used to watching movies from this era then it's perfectly acceptable to question the actors accents and, at times, very staged performances, but these are attributes born from the era that this film was made. Being one of the first 'talkies' to have any kind of success, it's fascinating to witness the often awkwardness of the older actors bellowing into the microphones (in order for the sound to be picked up), and the gentle naivety of guiding the audience vocally.

'All Quiet...' is shocking, thought provoking and genuinely cruel. Based upon the diary entries of a young German soldier, the experiences perfectly exemplify the propaganda, excitement, reality, frustration, acceptance and death that formed the livelihood of almost everyone involved. And for every generation lost, a new one was ready and waiting to serve.

You'd expect a film over 80-years old to not have the same degree of realism that we have come to expect today - particularly during action scenes - but in many cases, the scenes present in 'All Quiet...' are worryingly real. So real that it disposes any notion CGI could recreate this kind of drama whilst still retaining an emotional connection with the characters. The black and white photography only enhances the realism of this footage as it mirrors the similar style photography that we have come to expect from archive footage. Everything, from the explosive effects to the trenches, is completely genuine and not wrapped up in a self-indulgent mess.

As for the restoration of this film, I was pleased to read that Universal spent so much money (little under a quarter of a million) and time getting it up to shape for a new master, and the results on the whole are excellent. Detail is truly amazing - particularly if you've been used to watching an old DVD or VHS version of this film. Contrast is simply excellent, and the removal of judder from ageing film stock has really stabilised what used to be awfully shaky scenes.

Could Universal have done a better job themselves? Perhaps, but only if they invested even more time, and with the breadth of their release schedule at the moment that was obviously not possible. Their work is not always perfect - scratches appear only on certain elements - but it simply looks wonderful on the whole. If I only had one complaint, its the 'digitised' effect that the grain has on some scenes.

The audio however is flawless, which is rare coming from a mono track. The clarity and dynamic range is vastly improved (possibly beyond it's original state), and the really reveals little details that you may never have heard. One the very last scene of this movie, you actually hear the motor of the camera running in the background, and during the battle sequences, shell fire effects sound unbelievable better. Hiss is obviously a product of it's time (due to optical recording techniques), but one of this movies most powerful elements is it's lack of music, and the decision to grant silence as an emotive catalyst. It's insanely powerful.

Finally, we have the 'Digibook' itself - an addition that will mean a lot to some, little to others. Considering how cheap this product is, I think it's absolutely excellent that Universal have included such lovely packaging and a wonderful book inside to match, and the best part is that it forms part of a 'Collectors Series' that Universal have begun (with titles like Jaws, E.T and The Sting having the same format). You can read bios about the actors and much, much more. Sadly this doesn't make up for the lack of Bonus Features on the disc itself, and if it wasn't for the awesome quality of the rest of the product, then I would go down to 4 Stars. Such a groundbreaking and culturally significant film deserves at least ONE feature that critically reflects on the film, but Universal decided to include absolutely nothing apart from the silent version of the movie, and two very short features that reflect on the studios history.

Despite this annoyance, 'All Quiet...' on Blu-ray demonstrates just what can be achieved through restoring something over 80-years old, and this only serves to give the product far more impact than in its previous battered state. If you are unable to weep at the very last scene of this movie, then do yourself a favour and at least read the original diary.
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on 13 March 2009
This film is a passionate, shocking and emotional journey through the life of a German volunteer during the First World War. Because the film is shot in black and white, it forwards a sense of immediate presence (much as Schindlers List did). Unlike, Schindlers list, shot in modern times, this film was shot not long after the war itself, and so has an atmosphere of absolute reality to it, even when the dialogue seems slightly cheesy at times. The battle scenes are absolutely shocking, and no modern film, with all its special effects, can match up to it. This film should be shown in schools. It shows the horror of war in a form that disturbs but does not repel.
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on 20 March 2014
Delivery prompt and DVD of good quality especially because of age of the film . Very happy to now own a copy of such an phenomenal film which leaves one stunned by the futility of war like no other.Quite simply one of the best films ever made. Should be part of every school curriculum
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on 22 January 2014
A superb piece of film making by Lewis Milestone. An early film made from the German point of view, but no ass hysterics or patriotism here - just the hard facts and truth about life in the trenches. if you are a film buff get this version - NOT the more modern one!
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on 12 January 2014
My Grandfather took my Father when he was 14 to see this film sometime in the 1930's. I had forgotten how many of these "old" films were so brutal and truthful in their intent and entertainment value. Technically, the "Blue Ray" option seemed to add value to the reproduction quality and I am glad to have spent the extra pennies for this format.

I think that Lew Ayres might be over 100 now if he was still alive?
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on 13 February 2014
An absolutely first-class film and one of the first anti-war films. Remarkable book written soon after the war ended. A newer version in colour starring, amongst others, Ernest Borgnine, has a less 'period' feel but is none-the-less well-worth watching.
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'All Quiet On the Western Front' is easily seen as a yet another war movie but is very anti-war! It is arguably the best example of an anti-war movie from any era, past or present.

When WWI started over the assassination of the Austrian Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand and the desire to be seen to maintain historical alliances to support one ally or another, whatever the consequences, it was initially perceived as rather a localised war of the old kind - man against man, the use of thousands of horse-mounted troops by all parties involved and certainly, and by no means least, the traditional military attitudes of the past.

Matters soon got out-of-hand when thousands of men's lives could be sacrificed in an attempt to gain even a short-lived advantage over a few feet of land. Very soon, its participants were literally bogged down into the mud for weeks and months on end and without moving forward. In came motorised vehicles for the first time, aircraft and later the tank, all in an attempt to overcome the enemy and to obtain some gain of territory. In between came poison gas and biological weapons, never previously used in any war, that were developed for no reason other than to cause death or permanent injury to thousands. War had become technological. It was no longer man-against-man!

Were it not for the attrition on both sides, the war may have continued for many more years.

This is that story. It shows the affects upon the soldiers whatever their side and how they spent not just their days but weeks, months or years. A brilliant illustration of events that caused the loss of millions of lives and millions more permanently changed, quantities never previously experienced in any prior conflict. Modern warfare was now that of the future.

The book was written in the 1920's by a German when matters were still very fresh and raw and the film followed very shortly afterwards. Many in its audience would have been participants or the immediate families of participants.

As a final note, this version may be a restored one. The sound quality is not up to modern standards but it isn't that bad for something over 80 years old. The image quality is very good and is sepia-toned. I am far to young to have seen it in the cinema, but I had seen on TV although probably not for 40 years or more, so I do not know whether the toning is original or not. I do know from other vintage movies, that sometimes scenes were deliberately toned in green, blue, purple or red but most often in sepia. It was an early attempt to add 'colour' and interest when sound was still a novelty and not every cinema provided it.
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on 10 May 2014
Was brought in conjunction with the book. Fast delivery, good condition. In black and white and an interesting watch. Interesting subject if you are at all interested in the war fought in the trenches.
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on 29 January 2013
A stomach-churning voyage into the First World War - you would wonder how our great grandparents survived the physical and mental strain of it all Highly recommended as a reminder of the past - I cried.
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on 16 September 2013
Ahead of it's time. This film taught me a lot about war, the picture, sound and actors can not be matched; quality all around doesn't come often in films. This one conveys a real message and is not driven by stupid story lines. Please watch this film it is not your average war film.
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