ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1930
Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Owen Davis Jr and Walter Rogers
Lewis Milestone’s Oscar winning portrayal of the World War I epic story about the lost of innocence upon the youth
Oscars: Winners- Best Picture and Best Director; Nominations- Best Cinematography and Best Writing
CLICK HERE and watch TV SHOWS FOR FREE!
It is the beginning of World War I and all around Germany parades are being thrown for the young men who have signed up to defend their country. It is during this time that in a class room that a schoolmaster is giving an arousing speech to a room full of young men about how great it is to fight for your home land, convincing them to enlist. This is followed by a montage of basic training, ready for action, when they are confronted by their training officer, Himmelstoss (John Wray), who beats the enthusiasm out of them and turns them into stern men of war, and then they are called to the front.
Their first day on the front, the young cadets are shocked to see the mayhem that surrounds them; shells dropping around them, soldiers running all around them, wagons full of ammo weaving through the crowds of people trying to get to the front. On their way to their station, one of the cadets is killed, and many of the others start worrying. When they finally reach their post, the young, scared cadets are met by a group of hardened soldiers, who weren’t very accommodating. In that first night, with shells dropping all around their bunker, one of the cadets breaks down, runs out of the bunker and gets injured while another is bury alive right in front of them, shaking the group to its core.
All of them carnage is followed by a loud rumbled as the German soldiers retreat from their bunkers to find that the French army is on the attack. Although suffering huge losses, the French army is able to enter the German front line trench and pushes them back to the second line where the Germans counterattack and push the French back to their original line. Of the 150 men that were in the company, only 80 were left.
The night after the battle, the remaining men of the company, including the narrator, Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) have a discussion about the cause and meaning of war. Blaming generals who need to quench their egos, politics or manufacturers who need to war for business purposes. They finally end the topic by deciding to visit one of their friend’s who was injured during the battle. Upon their arrival they see that their friend (Kemmerich played by Ben Alexander) had his leg amputated due to the wounds that he suffered, something that Kemmerich did not know until Muller (Russell Gleason) accidentally blurred it out. This sent Kemmerich into shock and died shortly after.
This is immediately followed by a battle sequence with no dialogue, were Muller gets is injured. The next day, while the soldiers recover, Corporal Himmelstoss (Wray), comes to the front, he is spurned by the troops and then leads them into battle. In this battle we see the most anti-war scene in the film, it happens while Baumer is ducking through a cemetery and is confronted by a French soldier who Baumer immediately kills which he then tries to save, but unsuccessful. He then uses the dead body as cover as French soldiers pass. Hours pass and Baumer begins crying begging for forgiveness from the dead body. He eventually is able to make it back to the German lines.
Soon there is another attack where Baumer and another friend Albert Kropp (William Bakewell) are both injured and brought to a church to recover. It is here Baumer wounds were so bad that they believe he is going to die, so he is relocated but by the grace of God recovers, so he is brought back out by Kropp whose leg had been amputated.
As soon as Baumer recovers, he is given a furlough and makes a brief trip home where finds his very sick mother. While there the towns’ people confront him who want to know how glorious battle is. He also goes back to visit his old schoolmaster who is giving another class a speech about the “glory of war”, which disgusted Baumer and immediately made his way back to the front.
When Baumer returns he finds out that only a few men are still alive from his company, one being a long time vet named Stanislaus Katczinsky (Louis Wolheim), so Baumer seeks him out, finding Katczinsky laying in a field. They talk briefly about Baumer visit home as they walk towards the front, when an enemy plane flies by and drops a bomb, wounding Katczinsky, Baumer throws him over his shoulder and takes him to the hospital only to find out that Katczinsky had died on the way. This event shakes Baumer to his core.
In the final scene of the final, Baumer is standing in the trenches, not paying much attention to anything at all, news had just broken out that the war was soon to be over. The naÔve kid who entered the war is now a bitter vet, as he stands there, a butterfly catches his eye and just as he reaches out to grab it, a French sniper shoots him. The film ends with an image of a cemetery.
Much of the credit for this film’s greatness can be attributed to Lewis Milestone (director) for the creative way he shot the battle sequences, putting the audience right in the middle of the action. A technique that Steven Spielberg later referenced when he was shooting the D-Day scene in his war epic Saving Private Ryan. This film earned Milestone the Oscar for Best Director and it also won Best Picture.
Although it was a huge hit in the United States, it suffered much controversy in Europe and due to it’s anti-war message, and what the Nazis to be anti-German, it was banned in Germany. All bans have sense been lifted.
In 1998 the American Film Institute listed it as #54 on its Top 100 list but when the list was redone in 2007 it was left off. However, 2008 it was voted #7 in AFI’s epic genre in a Top Ten list they complied from several different genres.
For overall technique, this film has many flaws that today’s audience look down on, and the fact that it is in black and white is another turn off many of today’s viewers. However, the message of this film can’t be ignored. Its strong anti-war message is one that rings true in every generation.
Although a remake was done in the late 70s, I believe the 1930 version is far superior and highly suggest a watch. Enjoy.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT 1930