#1 Favorite Movie of 1930
All Quiet On the Western Front - Magnificent anti-war film from Universal and director Lewis Milestone. A group of young Germans, including Paul (Lew Ayres), eagerly join the army to fight in World War One. But life in the trenches turns out not to be the glorious revelry that they expected, but instead a place of hunger, filth, misery and death. The men learn to fight for each other under the rough-edged guidance of grizzled veteran Kat (Louis Wolheim). Also featuring John Wray, Slim Summerville, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Owen Davis Jr., Walter Rogers, and Beryl Mercer.
This is truly a towering achievement, one of the greatest war and anti-war films ever made. The relationships between the soldiers are expertly drawn, and all of the war-time archetypes are represented, from the blustering coward, to the shell-shocked mental case. Ayres is perfectly cast as the naive Paul whose entire worldview is torn asunder by his experiences, and Wolheim gives the definitive performance of his too-short career. The battle scenes are thunderous and suspenseful, and often shocking. One startling moment shows a soldier approaching a wire barricade only to be hit by a mortar shell, and when the smoke clears the only things left are his dismembered hands still clutching the wire. The ending ranks as one of the most poetically devastating in film history. This earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Ayres) and Best Writing (George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews), and it won for Best Director (Milestone) and Best Picture. 10/10
Source: Universal Blu Ray, a remarkable edition featuring the finest picture quality I've ever seen from a movie this old. The DVD of the film is also included, as is a very nice booklet detailing the film's production, with biographical sketches of the actors involved, and reproductions of lobby cards and Universal office memos discussing the film's making. Included on the Blu Ray is the rarely seen silent version of the film, featuring a unique score, and an introduction by Robert Osborne.