NB: As is Amazon's Wont, they've very unhelpfully bundled all the reviews for various editions and formats together.
There's a reason that Lewis Milestone's All Quiet On the Western Front is still the best remembered of all the many films about the horrors of the First World War despite rarely being revived on television: it really IS a great and often very moving film that plants itself firmly in the memory. While WW1 movies had been gradually moving into darker territory as the silent era came to an end, perhaps only J'Accuse had dealt with the bitter disillusionment so many felt at the time quite so graphically. In that, All Quiet was aided at the time by having its lost generation on the losing side - British, French and American films would deal with the horrors of trench life but would still regard them as a price worth paying for victory. It would not be until the 1960s that futility on both sides would become the cinematic norm.
Filmed on a truly epic scale with a striking visual fluidity that was still unusual for an early talkie thanks to Arthur Edeson's pioneering cinematography, after the initial establishing scenes there's no real story, simply a succession of incidents as its group of schoolboy recruits are gradually killed off. As impressive as these incidents are, the film wouldn't be nearly as effective if the characters didn't convince, and the film is anchored by a superb lead performance from Lew Ayres as the idealistic young schoolboy who gradually becomes a shell of his former self, with excellent support from Louis Wolheim as the old soldier who takes him and his friends under his wing. Wisely replacing the flashback structure of Erich Maria Remarque's book with a chronological narrative, rather than introducing the characters as the cynical survivors they become, the film gradually shows their idealism worn away. While the attack and counter-attack sequences are still incredibly vivid, breathtakingly edited and surprisingly violent - in one memorable shot an explosion leaves only a pair of severed hands clinging to barbed wire - the real horror almost seems to be the way the characters adapt to their dehumanising conditions at the front to such an extent that they no longer fit in at home when they do get leave. It becomes impossible to imagine a life after the war so completely have they been consumed by it.
Ironically the film's most famous scene is nowhere to be found in the novel. Remarque never describes the final death: his body is simply discovered, appearing to be at peace. Milestone opted for something more explicitly powerful, but not without much trial and error. After at least seven scripted versions had been rejected, another ending of Paul hallucinating of French and German troops marching into the same grave and crying out in anguish before being shot by a sniper had been filmed but satisfied no-one - the studio wanted a happy ending (Milestone jokingly suggested having the Germans win!) while Milestone hated the rushes: it was cinematographer Karl Freund who suggested that the ending should be `as simple as a butterfly.' Hastily shot by Freund with Milestone's own hand standing in for Ayres, the iconic scene would become one of cinema's most enduring moments. Yet perhaps even more moving is the film's closing shot of the boys marching up the line to death, their faces superimposed over their graves as they look back at the camera and the audience without life and without hope. It still packs an incredible emotional punch more than three-quarters of a century later.
It's a shame there isn't a documentary to accompany the film on DVD or Blu-ray, as the film's history is fascinating (Andrew Kelly's book Filming All Quiet On the Western Front gives an excellent account). Numerous scenes were reshot with different cast members - ZaSu Pitts' scenes as Paul's mother were reshot with Beryl Mercer because Pitts had just had a comedy on release and the studio were afraid audiences would laugh when they saw her - while the film was exhibited in both sound and silent versions. Future directors Fred Zinnemann and Robert Parrish were extras in the film while an uncredited George Cukor was the film's dialogue coach. The film was banned in several countries in Europe before WW2 (New Zealand was the first country to ban it, on the bizarre grounds that it was `not entertainment' and therefore `unsuitable for public exhibition'!) and attacked by McCarthy as Communist propaganda after it when he included the Russian-born Milestone in his list of the 19 most `dangerous' subversives in the film industry.
The film's German premiere was disrupted by the Nazis, who even released mice in the theatre and organized several days of riots that successfully got the film banned in Germany to `preserve public order.' Over the subsequent years music was added to some scenes and the film was heavily cut with each reissue, even turned into an anti-Nazi pro-war propaganda film in 1939 by the judicious deletion of certain scenes and the addition of newsreel footage of Nazi rallies and book-burnings. Yet ironically the film's restoration was largely based on the longest surviving print, which had been found in Joseph Goebbels private collection - while he publicly attacked the film, he genuinely admired its artistry.
The version on DVD is still missing a few minutes of footage, some of which has been subsequently restored to 35mm prints and the Blu-ray release, but it's still well worth picking up. However, if you have a Blu-ray player, the BD version is definitely the way to go: the sound version is some two minutes longer and the improvement in picture quality is astonishing. It also includes the silent version, which uses some alternate takes and different edits, as well as a reissue trailer, brief introduction by Robert Osborne and a couple of anniversary featurettes on universal Pictures. The limited first edition also come in a handsome hardback digibook with booklet featuring rare stills and telegrams.
on 16 February 2012
I remember seeing this film on bbc as a young child.Ever since then,this film has always been one of my favourites.I vividly remember one sequance from the television showing.After returning from a lightning raid in to French lines,a group of German soldiers break open and share a bottle of cognac.Years later i bought this film on vhs.The sound was very muffled,the picture flickery,and the scene of the soldiers drinking the cognac was not there.Later i upgraded to dvd and bought a region 1 copy of this film.The picture and sound was a lot clearer and their was a moment showing one of the soldiers drinking from the cognac bottle.Now this film has been released on blu-ray and what a treat it is.This is the version of the film i have been waiting for since that television showing in 1969.The picture is crystal clear and sharp,the sound clear without any noise or hiss,and the missing sequance in the film.There are also many other brief moments inthis version which i have not seen elsewhere before.Obviously a lot of time and effort has gone in to remastering and cleaning up the film.This is the best version of all quiet on the western front that we are likely to get.The digi book is a treat,as are the extras on the disc.The film has lost none of it"s power and impact after 80 years.If anything,blu ray only adds to the power of the film with it"s clarity and sharpness.Thank you universal for giving us this release and treating the film as the masterpiece it is.T o update my earlier review,i have just been comparing this version directly with the dvd copy i have.The difference is amazing.My dvd copy is flickery,muffled and hazy compared to the crystal clear clarity of the blu-ray edition.If their was any argument for upgrading to blu-ray,then this film is it.To fully appreciate this film as the masterpiece it is,then i encourage you to see it on blu-ray.
on 15 May 2005
I first saw this film many years ago and was immediately taken in by its pure genius . Written and acted way way before its time. What first strikes you is the difference in attitude from then to now. All brainwashed by a patriotic teacher the characters go together to fight in the trenches of ww1. thinking themselves doing the right thing and truly believing that it is going to be one big adventure and that they will all return as heroes to the flag waving public.the boys soon find out at training camp that it is no picnic. So eventually its off to war and greeted by old warhorses who soon teach them that life on the front line is dog eat dog. Scrapping for the last morsal, for days pinned down by shelling from enemy lines . Death affects every one of them as friends dissappear or die.The most touching part is after an assault on french enemy lines the main character has to spend the night in a shell crater when losing his platoon stranded in no mans land.The nignt is not spent alone, a french soldier he has killed lies there looking at him all night.an ending you dont expect shows there is no glory in war.Although made in 1930 the film is superbly acted and very atmospheric.No plastic explosions to hide weak story lines that many films of today must have to hide their lack of content. and much better than the remake with richard thomas made in the eighties. Had this film been created and released today no one else would have to turn up at the oscars. Your war collection will only be complete when this is purchased for your collection..
on 5 October 2012
Surprisingly All Quiet on The Western Front 1930 (Blu-ray) does not feature in the critics BFI 2012 list of greatest ever films, even though it is undoubtedly one of the best anti war films ever made and even today has a tremendously poignant message of the follies of war and unlike many early sound films has stood the test of time extremely well and I thought it was far better than many of the critics favourites such as 'Tokyo Story'. Seeing this incredible restoration is like watching a different film, when compared to the DVD version. Gone is the camera flicker inherent of many early sound films, the contrast and uneven exposure issues and damage to the film has been nearly totally removed. Many of the shots have quite a lot of depth especially in the tracking shots over the trenches. The battle scenes look as if they have been shot recently and computer enhanced to look like the genuine thing. Gone is all the hiss and crackle on the soundtrack and it has real atmosphere despite the gunfire/artillery sounding a bit muted. Also on this disc is a documentary about Universal's dedicated team who are doing incredible work on restoring the classics in the vaults. Incidentally this documentary is also on the excellent restored `Pillow Talk' now available on the Blu-ray. It struck me, having recently bought quite a few classics of recent times, that The Studios need you `The Collectors' support to finance this programme of preserving the great films of the past by buying the Blu-ray restored versions, after all most of them cost relatively little compared to a lot of things. Many Blu-rays I own (replacements for the DVD version) have cost around £10, which is far less than two tickets at your local multiplex!
I first saw this as a young boy, and couldn't understand why I empathised with these soldiers when they were German. And then I watched transfixed, and when the ending came that clinched it - it was, and remains till this day, very close to my heart. It permanently changed me as young person and my moral compass and my view of the world. It was that important. It also helped fire up my love of great cinema and how total an experience a great film can be.
And of course, it was made very close to the real events, and has that touch of realism that films made now cannot reach back and grasp.
Too many highlights to list here - the individual stories, the great scenes (alone in a foxhole with a frenchman he's killed etc) - but what is permanenty etched on my mind is the view from behind a row of machine guns as they mow down the men running towards them.
This goes beyond cinema - a great novel, a great film, and a kind of testament of the 20th century that will simply endure
As a child I sat with my dad a British soldier and my German uncles and great-grandfather in the kitchen of a house in a small village in Germany and listened to them talking about the wars they fought in. They brushed over the harshness of the trenches during WW1 and the cold winters on the Russian Front during WW2, they talked of the loss of friends, joked about the better times and the road home. They never ever showed any animosity to their enemy even though they had all suffered wounds in the conflicts. I listened intently as I realised that my English great-grandfather aged 21 died on the Somme while my German great-grandfather aged 17 served there on the opposing side at the same time. Never a bad word was said or has been said about who they fought. They showed respect.. This film bring back the feelings I had then, it brings back theose conversations I listened to. A truely great film.
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 BLU RAY 'COLLECTOR'S SERIES' BOOK PACK VERSION ***
In April 2012 Universal Studios is 100 years old - and to celebrate that movie-making centenary - they've had 13 of their most-celebrated films fully restored for BLU RAY. But it doesn't stop there. As many as 80 other titles will be given re-launches across the year each featuring distinctive "100th Anniversary" gatefold card-wrap packaging - and in some cases a host of new features. Most of the AMERICAN issues (non-region coded so they play on all machines) will be two-disc sets containing the BLU RAY, the DVD and also means to obtain a Digital Copy via download. It appears that the UK issues will contain ONLY the BLU RAY in a Book Pack.
1930's "All Quiet On The Western Front" is one of the thirteen singled out for full restoration (see list below) - and age hasn't diminished its anti-war punch one jot. If anything this incredible new restoration finally gives this black and white masterpiece the care and attention it so thoroughly deserves.
US released 14 February 2012 (13 February in the UK) - it comes in a gorgeous limited edition 'book pack' (Barcode 5050582882773). The outer hardback holder has a card-pouch wrapped around it at the base and a 40-page booklet contained within. The book has a two-page preamble by American film historian and chronicler Howard Maltin followed by biog pages on Lewis Milestone the Director - whose other credits include "The Front Page" 1931, "Of Mice And Men" 1939, "Ocean's Eleven" 1960 and "Mutiny On The Bounty" 1962. Each of the principal actors is featured accompanied by a classy black and white photo. Unknown at the time - Lew Ayers played the disillusioned German soldier Paul Baumer - a burly and gruff Lewis Wolheim played Sergeant Katczinsky who fathers it over the rookie platoon - and wizened-up Arnold Lucy played the rabid almost Nazi-like teacher Kantorek - who whips the young idealists of his 'beloved class' into patriotic 'Fatherland' frenzy with a mixture of bullied-guilt and sly wording. There are some 'Not In Picture' stills from deleted scenes, pages of press clippings and telegrams... It's a visual feast and Universal are to be praised for it. But the real fireworks comes in the glorious new print...
Digitally remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements - Universal are reputed to have stumped-up over $300,000 for the restoration - and the results are BEAUTIFUL. First up is the picture quality - when you see what it did look like before (covered in lines and scratches) - the new print is little short of miraculous. Lines, tears, blocking, flickering and rips in the negative - have all been repaired. Women buying flowers to throw at the troops marching through city streets at the beginning - the recruits exiting a train at the front when the town gets shelled - Katczinsky stealing a pig carcass at night in the rain - it all looks amazing. It isn't perfect by any means - there are occasional scuffs and grain - but mostly the depictions of war are so authentic and the print so clean - that it feels like you're eavesdropping on actual historical footage. And the sound is expertly woven in too - hiss gone, crackle - the voices now expressive and clear. Then you also notice the complete lack of music - which adds an almost eerie and maniacal feel to many of the scenes - especially in the trenches and bunkers where the soldiers are slowly losing it after days of shelling and starvation. An exemplary job done.
Unfortunately - after the copious amount of quality extras on "To Kill A Mockingbird" (which sent that release into the stratosphere - see separate review) the extras here are frankly a major let down. The 'Introduction' by Robert Osborne turns out to be barely two and half minutes long - but it's followed by The Library of Congress 'Silent Version' of the film (with word cards replacing the dialogue) which does at least show you how bad the original print was. The two 'Universal' features are very interesting (and indeed informative) - but as generic titles to the series, they'll be on all releases and don't advance this one. What was needed here was a dedicated 'Making Of' - and it's a very real let down not having it...
The movie itself has entered into folklore - based on the 1929 novel "Im Westen Nichts Neues" by Erich Remarque - he was a German World War One veteran who joined the Rhineland front in 1914 (his book's prologue printed on screen at the beginning of the movie titles this review). The adapted screenplay involved as many as 8 experienced writers including Maxwell Anderson and George Abbott. The huge production utilized the fearless skill of Arthur Edeson as principal cameraman and cost 1.5 million dollars to make - a staggering amount of money for the time.
Some scenes are seared into the memory - the transformation from youthful exuberance to terror as the new arrivals dig trenches and cut their hands on barbed wire to the muzzle flashes of artillery in the distance - the machine guns panning left to right as they mow down soldier after soldier in No Man's Land on yet another pointless assault - Baumer trapped in a bomb crater haunted by the look of the young boy he's just killed.
Being so old though, it's not without problems. With talkies only beginning - it has to be said that some of the acting is seriously hammy - a throw back to silent films where over exaggeration was the way to get noticed. But it doesn't stop the set pieces from being unnerving. We get the training 'before' they went to war where the men are brutalized ("Full Metal Jacket" really fleshed this out). On the other side of the coin we get the brief moments of elation and humanity - an officer lets the famished men have two rations of food instead of one despite a cook's clumsy protests - laughing, flirting and swimming with the local farm girls in the moonlight. To get authenticity they even brought in a German drill Sergeant who put 50 extras through their paces - callisthenics, marching, drill, discharging and maintaining arms - just as it would have been in the Hell Hole of the trenches. It was money well spent - "All Quiet On The Western Front" wowed audiences and critics alike and won Universal their 1st Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930. Director Lewis Milestone also received the Academy Award and there were nominations in two other categories - Cinematography and Writing. Its anti-war message has been a subject of scholarly debate ever since.
"All Quiet On The Western Front" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" are amongst the first vanguard of these 'restored' releases - and they're superbly done. It's heartening to see Universal Studios finally throw some proper money at the preservation of its movie legacy - and be proud about doing so too. I for one will collect the whole series - and live in hope that other studios respect their past in the same glorious way.
To sum up - despite the lack of a documentary on the making of the film - this is an absolutely first-class release because the money's been spent on what matters - bettering and preserving the print for posterity. It won't be everyone's idea of a nice afternoon in - but that was of course the point - and "All Quiet On The Western Front" has proved its point very well for over 80-years. Impressive to say the least...
BLU RAY Specifications:
1. "Introduction By Film Historian Robert Osborne"
2. "All Quiet On The Western Front (Silent Version)"
3. "Theatrical Trailer"
(Blu RAY Exclusives)
3. "100 Years Of Universal Academy Award Winners"
4. "100 Years Of Universal: Restoring The Classics" - An in-depth look at the intricate process of preserving the studio's film legacy by those involved
5. Pocket Blu - download content to your Smartphone and Tablet
VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Full Frame 1.33:1
(Print Digitally Remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements)
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese DTS Mono 2.0
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Traditional Mandarin
PS: UNIVERSAL RESTORED CLASSICS ON BLU RAY
If you search Listmania on Amazon UK for "Universal 100th Anniversary - Restored Films To Blu Ray"
It will give you my visual list of the following 20 titles. The list also contains fuller details on the releases, region coding, packaging etc.
As noted below - some are reviewed too...
1. Abbott And Costello in Buck Privates (1941) BOOK PACK
2. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) BOOK PACK
3. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) BOOK PACK [see Detailed Review]
4. The Birds (1963) [no individual release as yet - but the restored version is part of the "Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection" Box Set]
5. The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
6. Dracula (1931)
7. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
8. Frankenstein (1931)
9. The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
10. The Invisible Man (1933)
11. Jaws (1975) [BOOK PACK version is USA-only - see visual list]
12. The Mummy (1932)
13. Out Of Africa (1985) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
14. The Phantom Of The Opera (1943)
15. Pillow Talk (1959) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
16. Schindler's List (1993) Release date to be advised...
17. The Sting (1973) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
18. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) [BOOK] [see Detailed Review]
19. Universal's Classic Monsters - The Essential Collection
Released both USA and UK (non-region coding so will play on all machines) in October 2012 - this superb 8-disc box set contains Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), The Phantom Of The Opera (1943) and The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954). There's also a 'Coffin' shaped version of this box set that is a limited edition. Both come with booklet and poster prints for each of the movies.
20. The Wolf Man (1941)
PPS: For a list of the 'USA' titles in the "100th Anniversary" series to date (Oct 2012) see the 'comment' section attached to this review (60+ BLU RAY and 90+ DVD).
There are a large number of great films available Stateside that have no UK or European release date as yet. However, most are Region Free so will play on UK machines - but check this first to be sure...
on 27 March 2009
While most movies made these days almost automatically take an anti war slant (eg Jarhead) back in the 1930's most war films had a Boys Own feel to them, emphasising only the glory and honour of battle.
In it's day then, All Quiet on the Western Front really broke new ground by overtly criticising the pro-war rhetoric that was common on all sides in the First World War. It also shows in grim the detail the appalling conditions the soldiers lived in on the front and the inadequacy of the training the young volunteers received. There are some good scenes showing the soldiers coping as best they can with food shortages. The varied reaction to the soldiers to non stop artillery bombardment is also
great , though tough to watch.
Even though the famous final scene is familiar even to people who haven't seen the film it still has a great impact. The same goes for the replaying of the young friends first march to the front before the end titles. The scene showing the machine gunners slaughtering the soldiers in a frontal assualt is also harrowing as first the French and then the German infantry die in their droves.
To a modern eye some aspects of the film jar slightly, such as the over the top acting (eg Lew Ayers in the main role) and a few melodramatic scenes.
Overrall, though it really is an excellent movie and has stood the test of time.
Lewis Milestone’s 1930 screen adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name remains one of the greatest anti-war films ever. Perhaps most remarkably, not only is Milestone’s film one of the bravest (particularly for its time) in terms of its unusually explicit anti-war sentiment (causing it to be banned extensively), but the film is also cinematically ahead of its time, coming just three years after the invention of the 'talkie’ and containing much stunning cinematography courtesy of Arthur Edeson (featuring exquisite slow pans across trenches, skilful framing through windows and battle scenes that would set the future standard for war films).
Milestone’s eye for cinematic storytelling is evident as the film-maker brilliantly tops and tails his film with Arnold Lucy’s jingoistic Professor Kantorek, preaching 'blind patriotism’ to a class of starry-eyed recruits, latterly with the addition of Lew Ayres’ now war-weary and disillusioned Paul Bäumer. Paul has first had to suffer the brutal training regime of John Wray’s Corporal Himmelstoss (resembling a toned-down instructor Hartman from Full Metal Jacket), before being unceremoniously dumped at the front with his fellows rookies in order to suffer rat infestations, bickering, nightmares, shell-shock, duplicitous senior officers and unanswered prayers. Paul’s (and the film’s) mood is lightened slightly by the growing sense of camaraderie and reminiscence, plus the (Laurel and Hardy-like) pairing of Louis Wolheim’s’s cynical, world-weary joker and pragmatist, Katczinsky, and his sidekick Harold Goodwin’s equally pessimistic, Detering. The recurring comedic and, indeed, romantic (as Paul and pals are 'tempted’, whilst bathing, by a 'bevy of French beauties’) threads also distinguish Milestone’s film from much other anti-war cinema.
Milestone and his writers, however, present a largely unsentimental (and uncompromising) picture of the horrors (and ironies) of war ('It’s a corpse, no matter who it is’). These themes are brought home as soldiers argue over a dead man’s desirable boots and their attempts to avoid being shipped to the 'dying room’ whilst laid up in hospital. There is also a memorable (if resigned and semi-comical) scene in which the soldiers attempt to rationalise the possible reasons for war – touching on ruling class prestige and weapons sales.
Eventually, though, Milestone’s film takes on a personal angle as an increasingly desperate and mentally unstable Paul – having come face-to-face with death (in a memorable scene with a French soldier) – becomes disillusioned and sympathetic towards the enemy (reinforcing themes of universal humanity). These feelings culminate in two superb sequences as Paul is home on leave – initially, as the ignorance of the 'armchair generals’ is brought home to the disillusioned soldier and thence to Professor Kantorek’s unchanging, misguided speech to the new recruits.
The film’s great cinematic qualities are once again displayed in the inventive and powerful denouement sequence, merely one of many great moments which, taken together, place the film on a par with other great anti-war films such as Paths Of Glory, King And Country and La Grande Illusion.
on 20 December 2012
(This review refers to the Blu-Ray 2012 release) Universal is to be congratulated on the amount of love and care they have afforded the restoration of this all-time greatest war movie. Not a flash or flicker to been seen... we can only hope that this new technology will be used resurrect other silent and early sound masterpieces, e.g. Wings. All thanks to the talent that restored All Quiet to its former devastating glory!