DVD Review HTF REVIEW - ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT - Highly Recommended

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Kevin EK, Feb 6, 2007.

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  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    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.
     
  2. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    What's funny is that the trailer looked better than the feature on the old DVD. Shows how much has been improved this time around!

    I own the old DVD and will definitely pick this up. One of the best early sound era films and still just as relevant today as it was 77 years ago.
     
  3. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Awesome news about the restoration! I will definitely pick up this new release based on this review! I'm sure I will be able to find a good home for my copy of the prior release.

    Also awesome is the resurgence of SD-DVD reviews on the HTF! Best of luck to Kevin and Richard Gallagher and any other new reviewers as they start to fill the void that was created by the emergence of interest in high-def DVDs. Nice to see Ron & Parker and gang see the need for continuing reviews of standard-def material! [​IMG] I had really missed the opportunity to read the reviews and take part in the threads.

    Not so awesome is this new trend of chapter stops which are not accessible by menu. Richard reported the same phenomena in his recent review of Here Comes Mr. Jordan. It just seems odd and unnecessary to create chapters and then not include menu access or a paper insert detailing a chapter list. [​IMG]
     
  4. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Great review, Kevin. I saw this movie for the first time last year at a screening of the restored Library of Congress print, so it's great that Universal went ahead and put out a new DVD based on those film elements as well.

    Too bad about no chapter stops in the menu--I remember some jokes back in the early years of DVD about how things like menus and chapter selections would sometimes be labelled as "special features," but maybe things are coming full circle in that direction!
     
  5. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    great to hear!!! I have this on pre-order. Looking forward to revisiting it.
     
  6. Neal K

    Neal K Agent

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    Of course the funny thing is, this LOC restoration had already been completed (and even aired on AMC) BEFORE the old crap disc was released!! They (well, Image) similarly botched "Double Indemnity" the first time around. But all's well that ends well. Check out the price on DDD....under $7!!
     
  7. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    I saw this at school all those years ago.

    I'll revisit this.

    Was this the basis for Metalicca's "One" ?
     
  8. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    no, your thinking of "Johnny Got His Gun".
     
  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Cheers, is this available on dvd ?

    [​IMG]
     

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