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USA 1930
Directed by
Lewis Milestone
133 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)

With a cast that, with the exception of Lew Ayres as Paul Baumer, was largely unknown, this classic anti-war film traces the experiences of a group of German high school mates who, inspired by their Principal's nationalistic fantasies of self-sacrificing heroism, sign up to defend the Fatherland and discover the brutality of war at first hand. Based on Erich Maria Remarque's novel of the same name, this was one of the first war films of the sound era and is generally regarded as one of the best anti-war films of all-time. 

Although stylistically somewhat dated and hence feeling over-long (it was originally released at 140 mins) it is still an impressively-made film and one can appreciate the effect it would have made on audiences of its day. It started out as a silent production but went on to take full advantage of the new sound technology, the results of which are far from perfect (and in general the American English accents are somewhat incongruous), as well as utilizing advanced camera techniques, particularly evident in the extended tracking shots. It won the Best Picture Oscar and for Milestone, Best Director.

Ayres, like Milestone, was a committed pacifist and his refusal to take up arms in WWII effectively ended his career, whilst Milestone, who had been a Howard Hughes protégé, never again came close to matching the quality of this film.

FYI: A mere nine years later the world was at was again and the film was re-released with an anti-Nazi prologue. A young George Cukor was dialogue director.




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