All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) (Blu-ray)

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Released 29-Feb-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Introduction-Film Historian Robert Osborne
Alternative Version-Silent Version of the Film
Featurette-100 Years of Universal: Academy Award Winners
Featurette-100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
Theatrical Trailer
More…-Pocket Blu
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1930
Running Time 133:25
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Lewis Milestone
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Louis Wolheim
Lew Ayres
John Wray
Arnold Lucy
Ben Alexander
Scott Kolk
Owen Davis Jr.
Walter Rogers
William Bakewell
Russell Gleason
Richard Alexander
Harold Goodwin
Slim Summerville
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
French dts 2.0 mono
Italian dts 2.0 mono
German dts 2.0 mono
Spanish dts 2.0 mono
Japanese dts 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.19:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Japanese
Cantonese
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Icelandic
Korean
Norwegian
Portuguese
Swedish
Mandarin
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

" the story of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war”
Erich Maria Remarque

     Thus concludes the opening screen of All Quiet on the Western Front, giving ample warning, even to those not familiar with Remarque’s novel of the same name, that this is not a film glorifying war.

     Urged into a patriotic fervour by their professor, six school friends volunteer to join the German army to fight in France in the early years of WWI. Paul (Lew Ayres), Behm (Walter Rogers), Albert (William Bakewell), Muller (Russell Gleason), Kemmerich (Ben Alexander) and Leer (Scott Kolk) are young and idealistic, ready to die for the Fatherland, but their enthusiasm is tempered quickly by some sadistic basic training under ex-postman Sergeant Himmelstoss (John Wray), then by their first time under fire and their first casualties. At the front they are fortunate to come under the wing of veteran soldier Kat (Louis Wolheim) who teaches them the skills that may allow them to survive the slaughter in the trenches, at least for a time.

     In the mud and blood of the rat infested trenches, during attack and counter-attack, disillusionment and causalities mount as the relentless shelling continues. As the combatants find more and more inventive ways to kill each other and the war drags on, survival for even the most experienced soldier seems a fantasy, and death a reality few can avoid. When Kemmerich is killed and Paul and Albert wounded, Paul spends time in hospital and is granted home leave to visit his family; yet there Paul suffers from the unreality of the expectations and ignorance of the conditions at the front by those back home, and cannot wait to get back to his comrades, where more dead awaits him.

     All Quiet on the Western Front is astonishing filmmaking, a master class from director Lewis Milestone that deservedly won him the Oscar for best director; All Quiet on the Western Front also won a second Oscar for best film but lost out on best cinematography to With Byrd at the South Pole, a documentary. All Quiet on the Western Front holds up extremely well 80 years after being made. Compared to later more bloodless war films, at least until films such as Saving Private Ryan upped the ante again, All Quiet on the Western Front has intense, bloody action sequences; soldiers cross the cratered and muddied no-man’s-land through areas of barbed wire amid exploding shells into the machine guns that mow them down in droves. It is carnage, bloody, brutal, intense and shocking. Life in the trenches is not much better; the soldiers shelter in dugouts shaken by the constant shelling which only ceases when another attack is imminent.

     All Quiet on the Western Front is still a moving and powerful indictment of the futility and soul destroying nature of war. War is not glorious; it is, as Paul tells the new class of naïve cannon fodder, “dirty and painful to die for your country”. All Quiet on the Western Front is a brilliant film; it does not feel as if it was made 80 years ago, so modern does it seem in its construction and themes.

     Some years ago PhilipS reviewed the DVD release of All Quiet on the Western Front on this site and you can find his excellent review here. Now, as part of Universal’s 100th Anniversary, All Quiet on the Western Front gets a fabulous HD make-over on Blu-ray. I doubt if it has ever looked and sounded better and as a bonus we get the silent version of the film. Don’t hesitate: All Quiet on the Western Front must be included in any film lover’s library.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    All Quiet on the Western Front is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1, in 1080p using MPEG-4 AVC code. The original theatrical ratio is given by the IMDb as 1.20:1.

     For this Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-ray the print of All Quiet on the Western Front has been digitally restored – I was amazed at how fabulous it looks for a film now over 80 years old. It is surprisingly sharp and detailed; the blacks during the night actions in no-mans-land are wonderful and shadow detail was also excellent. Shades of grey are very good, with great contrast and none of the flicker or softness of other old black and white prints I have watched. Contrast and brightness did vary occasionally, as might be expected, but never too markedly.

     I saw the occasional flicker of damage, and at one place a vertical line, but these were the exception as artefacts were otherwise absent. There was some MPEG motion blur apparent (such as 19:38, 65:14) but it was fleeting. With the boosting of some of the faded film elements, grain was quite evident in a number of scenes but it certainly was not unpleasant and in fact enhanced the viewing experience.

     In brief, fabulous - I doubt if this film has ever looked better.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono, with dts mono dubs into French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.

     The audio still has a slight hiss during quieter moments but cracks or pops are absent. Dialogue can sometimes be a bit difficult to hear. The crash and boom of the shelling has a surprising resonance that helps make the battle scenes as effective as they are. There is no surround or sub use. Obviously, the audio is not up to modern standards but the restorers have done the best job they could with the materials at hand and the track is impressive.

     Music is minimal. It is used early in the film but once the boys get to the battlefield and music is within a scene, such as in the café.

     Lip Synchronisation was not perfect but was only occasionally noticeable.

     Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired and a host of European and Asian languages.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Introduction by Film Historian Robert Osborne (2:40)

     Osborne mostly talks about the casting and career of lead actor Lew Ayres in his introduction to the film.

Silent Version of All Quiet on the Western Front (132:54)

     The silent version of All Quiet on the Western Front released in theatres in the 30s that had not yet converted to sound. This is not really a fully silent version but the Library of Congress version, with white title cards. It has no dialogue but does have added music and some sound effects, such as the shell explosions, some crowd voices, screams and machine guns. This is in SD and the print has been restored, but not to the extent of the sound film. There are frequent small marks and scratches but it still looks surprisingly good.

100 Years of Universal: Academy Award Winners (7:23)

     More a promo piece for Universal looking at a number of Academy Award winners in different categories.

100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics (9:13)

     An interesting look at the restoration process, including removal of damage, colour correction and sound. This featurette is well worth a look and includes before and after examples, including some for All Quiet on the Western Front.

Pocket Blu

     Download bonus content to your Smartphone or Tablet. Not tested.

Theatrical Trailer (2:30)

     The 1939 rerelease trailer. With unrestored sound and vision, this shows what the film probably looked and sounded like before restoration.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-ray release of All Quiet on the Western Front is the same worldwide except for some language and subtitle options although the US Region All release comes with a 40 page booklet.

Summary

     Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957) and Lewis Milestone’s 1930 All Quiet on the Western Front are two of the most powerful anti-war films ever made. Even today, 80 years after being made, All Quiet on the Western Front remains a searing indictment on the futility and destructiveness of war, and should be included in any film lover’s library.

     As part of Universal’s 100th Anniversary, All Quiet on the Western Front gets a fabulous HD make-over on Blu-ray. I doubt if it has ever looked and sounded better, and as a bonus we get the silent version of the film. Even if you have purchased this film before on DVD this Blu-ray is definitely worth the upgrade.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, September 21, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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