ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
As part of Universal celebrating its 100th anniversary as a studio, it has released the classic anti-war film “All Quiet on the Western Front” from 1930. Based on a German novel, the film tells the story of young German men who join the fight in World War I. Initially brought into the service with a promise of heroism and a duty of patriotism, the young German soldiers soon learn the horrors of war.
Like many films made more than 80 years ago, “All Quiet on the Western Front” takes a little time to get used to. The opening scenes are hard to resolve simply because while the characters are Germans, they are portrayed as wide-eyed Americans, using common American slang and wearing common American fashions. Not that speaking in German accents give them any more credibility, but it would help because the American slang and American accents make it difficult to see them from a American-centric view.
I understand that young Germans enlisting into the military face the same challenges and fears as the Americans did, but the characters prior to their service didn’t even feel vaguely European.
However, these problems faded away once the movie moved into the war itself. Throwing the soldiers on the front lines was the great equalizer. It was a daring movie to be made, especially in its day, sandwiched between two world wars. It was daring because it dared to show the humanity of the German soldier. It was also daring because it showed extremely realistic battlefield violence, which soon went away after the Motion Picture Production Code took effect a few years later.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” took an opportunity to question warfare and its civility long before the war protest film became popular in the 70s. It’s dated, obviously, but still powerful. And it’s a great example of powerful and epic filmmaking from many decades ago.
This new Blu-ray book release includes an introduction to the film by Robert Osborn, along with the featurettes celebrating Universal’s 100th anniversary: “Restoring the Classics” and “Academy Award Winners.” For a unique perspective, the Blu-ray also includes the rarely seen silent version of the film from the Library of Congress archives.
Additional features are available through the pocketBLU app and BD-Live access. The set also includes a DVD of the feature, packaged with a collectable booklet offering insight into the film.