XenForo Template All Quiet On The Western Front Universal Cinema Classics Edition Studio: Universal Year: 1930 Film Length: 132 minutes Genre: Drama/Combat Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 theatrical ratio Colour/B&W: Black & White Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Subtitles: English SDH, French Film Rating: NOT RATED Release Date: February 6, 2007 Rating: Highly Recommended (4/5) Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Slim Summerville, William Bakewell From the Novel by Erich Maria Remarque Dialogue by Maxwell Anderson & George Abbott; Adaptation by Maxwell Anderson; Screen Story by George Abbott Directed by: Lewis Milestone All Quiet on the Western Front is a shockingly brutal film for its time. It is a no-holds-barred account of the life of a German foot soldier during the trench warfare of World War I. Even today, some 77 years after it won the Best Picture Oscar (as well as one for director Lewis Milestone), the film still carries an impressive punch. The combat sequences are sheer carnage, and the Lew Ayres’ lead performance carries the viewer from youthful optimism (and naiveté) through the terrors of war to the far side of bitter disillusionment. It is not an exaggeration to say that subsequent combat films including Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Saving Private Ryan among others, owe a debt to this first one. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth two hours of your time to get acquainted. I continue to be amazed at the sophistication of the camera work, and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of war films or simply film technique in general. The current release, part of Universal’s Cinema Classics series, features a digitally remastered picture, from a print specially restored by the Library of Congress. In a prior release (on which cover Universal inexplicably planted the Widescreen banner), the viewer could only see a faded picture with multiple scratches and other problems. This restored print is much improved over the prior one, and by itself it justifies a repeat purchase. If you already have the earlier release, I strongly recommend purchasing this one as a replacement. VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5 The video quality is the story of this release. The restoration by the Library of Congress has made a world of difference. The picture is sharper and brighter, and the overwhelming majority of the picture is free of scratches and marks. To see the film in this condition is as close as we can get to having seen it in a theater in 1930. I can’t quite give it a full 5 stars, as there still remain some inevitable scratches, particularly during some later combat sequences and during a crucial hospital sequence with a minor character roughly an hour into the film. But I am not exaggerating when I say that the new print alone will justify getting this DVD. AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5 The sound quality of this release is fine, although nothing that will overly strain your home theater system. It’s a digitally mastered rendition of the film’s mono soundtrack. The dialogue is fairly clear and there are some piercing sound effects during the bombardment and open combat sequences. Given that this film was made within a couple of years of the advent of sound, it’s amazing how much detail was achieved here. I can’t give it a full 5 stars as it’s not designed to be a mix that completely engulfs or astounds the listener. The fact that it is clean and intelligible, and attempts to bring in some atmospheric sounds to background the action, is enough to give it a solid 3 stars. And to be honest, I doubt that fans of this film would really want anyone to mess with the mono soundtrack anyway – it really doesn’t need it. As a side note here, true to its initial release, the film does not have a score. The director, Lewis Milestone, did not want to distract from the intense realism of the combat sequences by piping in music. So the only places after the titles where we hear music are during sequences where incidental music would normally be heard – a military parade, a bar, etc. SPECIAL FEATURES 1/5 There is a very brief introduction by Robert Osborne (less than 4 minutes). He discusses some trivia about Lew Ayres, whose career suffered when he became a pacifist after making this film, and he mentions the involvement of George Cukor as a casting director, among other tidbits. The disc also contains the trailer for a re-release of the film some years later, which is in nowhere near as fine a condition as the restored print. There are English & French Subtitles available. Other than this, there are no extras to be found here. I should also note that while there are chapter stops liberally placed throughout the film, there is no chapter menu. If you stop the movie halfway in and wish to pick up where you left off, you will find yourself skipping through the film again looking for your last scene. Under normal circumstances, I would really want to see more in the way of documentaries or retrospectives, but I understand this really wasn’t possible. The real special feature here is the restoration of the movie itself. IN THE END... This DVD spotlights an exceptional film being given some overdue TLC in the form of a careful restoration and remastering. It’s not a showcase of documentaries or any of the other goodies we may be used to getting with the usual release, but not every release necessarily needs that. Considering that the price point here is just under $15, it’s absolutely worth your time to pick this up. And this applies doubly if you have the earlier DVD release. Take the time to see this one. You will not be disappointed. Kevin Koster February 04, 2007.