ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

(1930)
With Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Ray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

Ironically, his name was Hans    Based on German writer Eric Maria Remarque's novel, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is an anti-war film that follows a group of soldiers from their recruitment through to the waning days of the First World War. The story is told from the point of view of the eventually defeated Germans, rather than the triumphant English or Americans, making it a film not about "us against them" but rather the sadness and madness of war itself.

     Director Lewis Milestone conquered the technical problems of sound by filming much of the battle footage silent and dubbing in sound effects in post-production, so that the film has the fluid beauty of the best silent films while also exploiting the strengths that sound and dialogue can bring to such a film. The battle scenes themselves, although sometimes using a jarring mix of footage shot at silent and sound speeds, rank among the greatest montage sequences of the early days of the talkies.  The acting may sometime veer into that stagy, wooden style often seen in the transitional years of 1927 - 1930, and the dialogue may occasionally be overwritten and overplayed, but there are so many memorable scenes and images, right up to the final moments of the film, that such issues are easily dismissed.

     Because it was one of the first and most influential sound films covering the miseries of war, some of its power has been diminished over the years as scores of other war films have covered the same ground.  But ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT still remains a masterpiece of the early sound era.  4½ - JB

Drama/War     The Stuff You Gotta Watch Home Page

IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?:  Sharp-eyed hardcore silent movie fans may notice that is it silent comic Raymond Griffith playing the dying French soldier in the trench with Lew Ayres.


Sequel
The Road Home (1937)

Remake
All Quiet on the Western Front (1979 - TV)

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