A devastating story of war and a generation destroyed. In 1914 a group of German schoolboys set off to fight in the "glorious" war. During their brutal basic training disenchantment begins; then, boarding a train for the f... more »ront, they see the wounded being rushed back to the hospitals. They begin to grasp the grim reality of war. When Paul (Richard Thomas) shoots a Frenchman and watches him die, he realizes the futility of war. Wounded, he returns home to a different world, a place where he cannot fit in. Sent back into battle, he meets destiny on a day when the German High Command Communique states simply, All Quiet on the Western Front. Richard Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasance, Ian Holm, Patricia Neal« less
"As a history teacher I am always looking for good materials to use in the classroom. I use exerpts of the book in my Global Hist. class and used to use the 1939 version of the film as a supplement to the reading. The older version is truer to the book but the over the top acting of Lou Ayers doesn't click very well with today's young viewers. They are more likely to laugh at the drama of the older version. The 1979 version misses some of the books irony because it bipasses, or treats very lightly, some crucial scenes in the book, but the character portrayals and somber mood of the film are much more apt to hold my students attention. I enjoyed this film when it first aired on television almost 30 years ago and was happy to finds it on DVD so that I can use it in the classroom."
Great film but would have been better without the editing.
D. M. Kneller | Canada | 07/31/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"As most of the other reviews have noted, this is a great movie. What disappointed me though was that a lot of little parts were edited out. I saw this movie on TV several years ago and recorded it. I thought it was excellent and eagarly purchased the DVD. I wish now that I had kept my tape. Because although the edited parts did not take away much from the story as a whole, those same parts added so much more to it. For example in the unedited version, during training Paul Baumer comes to the aid of one of his comrades who has fallen into the mud. For this he is punished by Corporal Himmelstoss. Later at the front, Paul and his platoon mates are sitting in their dugout and discussing why Himmelstoss received the Iron Cross. By this time Himmelstoss is behaving more human and when he enters the dugout he is no longer taunted. In fact Kat moves over on his bunk to make room for him. These are only 2 examples. There was much more.Still a good movie, but because of the editing I rate it only 3 stars."
Bellum Omni Vorat
Octavius | United States | 04/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'War devours everything' is the general theme of this more recent adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's famous novel. Directed by Delbert Mann, the film satisfies on many levels with a very good script; good cinematography and direction; and, the good acting talents of Richard Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasance, and Ian Holm. The story is a first-person narrative detailing the life of its author, Paul Baumer (Richard Thomas), during the period of The Great War from 1916-1918. Baumer just graduated from high school and, like every other good German, he signs up for the war along with his classmates to serve his Fatherland: it is the ideal that has been pounded into them by their school teacher (Donald Pleasance.) At first all gleaming with overconfidence, the narrator and his friends soon realize that there's no glory in war even if one has dutifuly served the Fatherland and received an Iron Cross pinned to their chest by the Kaiser himself.
As with the book, the narrative uses the characters to show how the reality of war, in one way or another, destroys or changes the ideals of life: it is rich in showing the futility and beastiality of war. The film really looks at the two main schools of thought that were a product of WWI; positivists such as Bertrand Russel who thought that modern progress was a positive factor to humanity if guided by moral values and, the school of nihilism that thought morality was relative and human existence purposeless: that modern industrialization was not a sign of progress but the beginning of the end. Baumer and his friends are, at first, the voices of the positivists: despite the war, they're all still obsessed with their dreams of becoming artists/writers, theologists, farmers, and foresters. Their sergeant (Ernest Borgnine) is the sobering pragmatist who teaches the youths to dispense with idealism and to bear only the brutal reality of war in their thoughts: he teaches them the practical skills of finding good food and to survive by using their shovels to kill the enemy instead of the bayonet. Slowly but surely, each of the narrator's friends become victims of the war despite their idealism: some of them are killed precisely because of their idealism. In short, the narrative subtly explores every possible facet of war in how it permanently destroys, disfigures, or otherwise changes life and the human spirit: it explores the utter futility and dehumanization of war. Although one follows Baumer's optimism throughout the story, one realizes that optimism ultimately changes nothing in terms of the reality of war: only one's perception of it. The story actually leaves the question open as to whether an optimistic outlook serves any purpose at all in either war or peace. The film also shows the growing gap between the young soldiers and the elder generations who still saw war in the context of the 19th century: as a glorious and heroic duty/sacrifice to the State. In contrast, the youths are ages apart as they've experienced first hand the horror and desolation of modern warfare which their elders cannot possibly understand (e.g. machine guns, planes, mustard gas, etc.)
This is an excellent film that has great direction, cinematography, and acting that is far above the standards of a made-for-tv film. The filming in the Czech Republic is always a good place for German/Austrian related films (i.e. Amadeus.) The script was well done to bring out the poignant themes in the book. There are some inaccuracies and limitations in its depiction of the military and equipment during that time but a lot of it is budget related as opposed to being signs of incompetence (i.e. no artillery is shown, few aircraft, no tanks, etc.) With the way the soldiers are constantly placing their rifles muzzle first into the mud in every scene, it makes you wonder whether it was the script's soldiers or the actors who received such incompetent training in handling a firearm in battle. There's also a scene where a corporal badmouths a sergeant and everyone seems to think it's normal. Anyway, these are simply minor defects that have no major impact on the film. I strongly recommend it as the only other version, although a classic film, is black and white and over 70 years old. Good companions to this film would be 'The Lost Batallion', 'Gallipoli', and 'The Blue Max' which all deal with WWI. In terms of theme, a good counterpoint to this film is 'Cross of Iron' which is also a great film in exploring the futility/absurdity of war except that it is set in WWII from the German perspective. Unlike this film, 'Cross of Iron' is grounded in a nihilistic theme that rejects the notion of idealism having any use either in warfare or life in general: making the theme perhaps even bleaker than this one. "
Very well made, well acted, important message.
C. B Collins Jr. | Atlanta, GA United States | 03/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is really excellent, with a great cast, and a thoughtful and frightening message. We see the story of a group of high school boys graduating and then immediately joining the German army to fight in World War I. The story revolves around Paul Baumer, a thoughtful and sensitive young man who gradually sees so many horrors of war, and loses so many of his friends, that he is transformed into a different person, a war-weary pessimist with no illusions, no dreams, no purpose, and no homeland. Richard Thomas does a masterful job of playing Paul Baumer. He is supported with a fantanstic cast of actors. Ernest Borgnine plays the peasant shoe maker who leads their platoon. He is an earthy fatherly survival focused man who does his best to ensure his men have food, rest, shelter, and take no outrageous risks of glory. Paul learns much from this man, who becomes a surrogate father and mentor. Ian Holm plays a military school drill instructor who is a sadist. Eventually his sadism goes too far and he is sent to the front lines where he exhibits cowardly actions that ironically result in his receiving a medal from the Kaiser. Patricia Neal plays Paul's dying mother. Paul has seen so much death that he is only able to show dispassionate empathy with his mother and tells her lies about the front lines so that she does not die of cancer worrying about her son. Donald Pleasance plays a high school instructor who fills the heads of young men on concepts of national glory, heroism, manhood, and other nonsense to which 18 year old boys fall victim.
The oddessey of pain is carefully told as Paul experiences one loss and disillusionment after another. The tired eyes of the German infantry speak volumes as the Kaiser urges them on to give their lives for the fatherland. Paul's return home is a wonderful turn in the film as he finds that his father and the older fellows have no idea of the reality and horror of the war. They make simplistic overgeneralized comments such as 'the war will be won if we surround them' and other such nonsense. Paul's eyes glaze over as they discuss these abstractions while his young friends die in the muddy trenches. Paul's best friend, a gymnast and forrester, dies after a leg amputation. Paul tells his mother a story that her son died immediately and painlessless, which is far from the truth. She makes Paul swear by everything he holds sacred that this is the truth. He does so. Then she makes him swear by his own safe return home that this story is the truth. Again, he does so. In this extremely painful scene we see that Paul has beent totally transformed by the war. He no longer believes in anything but his ability to periodically protect himself and others against random and senseless violence and pain. He also realizes that he is no longer able to feel comfortable in his past or in the land of the living away from the war. He returns to the front lines fully expecting that the random nature of war may soon take him.
Exceptionally well done, this is a film every family should see. It is only when peopel face the reality of war rather than the abstractions that war would ever end."
A Well endowed portray of the classic novel/movie
R. Malczynski | Los Angeles, CA | 01/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As the 70's came to a close, nobody exactly knew what was beyond the horizon of the 80's...much to say it's taste in TV movies. "All Quiet on the Western Front", a 1979 made-for-tv movie, said it all. You have your all-star cast of "The Waltons" Richard Thomas, academy award winner Ernest Borgnine, cult fave Donald Pleasence and British actor Ian Holm. Unlike it's 1930 counterpart, which places itself in the hall of fame of war epics, this update gives more and askes for little.Much like the book and the original movie, the story takes place in 1914 central Germany at the eve of World War I. Many schoolboys (and yes, just like the original film, they oddly speak English with American and British accents, yet its...Germany?) are destinted to join up with the Kaiser's army and fight for the "Fatherland". Paul Baummer (Thomas) is an eager young boy who doesn't exactly look like the fighting type (truth be said, Thomas is giving into too much of his John-Boy image from "Waltons", but nevermind that), in fact he gets distracted easily. But he and his school buddies join the resistance. After going through harsh training with anal Himmelstoss (Holm), they are sent to the frontlines of France. There, they meet Katczinsky (Bognine) AKA "Kat", a seamlessly old warhorse that takes the boys in and teaches them how to fight. And unless you haven't read the book or just know the story like everybody knows the Cinderella story, one-by-one the boys die horrible deaths in the trenches and it's to a point where even some lose their minds. Paul is sent back home because of injuries but returns because he feels like the trenches are his home. Only for his to find out that he's the only remaining of his group aside from Kat, who dies a long and painful death after being hit by shrapnel and being carried a mile or so by Paul to safety. Ouch. Once again, Paul is distracted by something and thus we have "All Quiet on the Western Front"The tv movie won a Golden Globe for Best Made-For-TV Movie and it definately deserved it. The production vaule was superb and you can tell. I merely wonder if the director intended the film to be released theatrically, because it's quite well shot and pretty high on special effects scale...that is for the 70's. One such thing that would bug a lot of history buffs is just how not a single word of German is spoken throughout the entire movie...and it takes place in Germany! It would be like an American movie were everybody speaks French, but it's Southern California! Right up along side "Enemy at the Gates" (Russians speak with British accents, Germans speak with American?) it's a well endowed movie and a perfect selection for a history class."