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All Quiet on the Western Front, Sound and Silent


slaytonf
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I was going to just make a post on a previous thread about the different versions of this great movie.  But as I looked into it, it became apparent a separate thread was appropriate.  It might more properly be in the Films and Filmmakers forum, but the ones probably more interested in it would be more likely to see it here.  Discussion in that thread centered, in part, around how the two movies were shot, wether individually, or simultaneously, with the sound and silent cameras side-by-side.  For some reason, that question preoccupied me, and preoccupied me to the extent that I went to the considerable trouble of ripping the DVDs I had of the two films so I could closely compare and take screen shots of them.  Parenthetically, I might add it occurred to me that if the movies were shot together, it would be possible to combine them and make a 3-d version.  A horror, the contemplation of which, kept me awake for a few nights.

 

Welanyway.  Let's start with that wonderful crane shot at the beginning of the picture, where Lewis Milestone pulls the camera back from the street, where crowds are cheering new recruits as they march off to the war, into a classroom, where Paul and his cohorts are being exhorted to enlist by their martinet of an instructor:

 

if4j5v.png  All Quiet--sound

 

263em4y.png   All Quiet--silent

 

The picture quality is not great, but examination shows that while both movies show recruits marching, followed by a band, the scenes are different.  The silent version has tubas at the front of the band, while they are absent from the sound version.  There is also in the sound All Quiet a man in a light coat, arm raised, next to the left window about center.  In the silent, he is closer to the center of the picture.  The differences in the two movies is not due to parallax.  These are two separate shots.

 

Next we have a shot from when Paul and his fellow recruits arrive at their first billet during a rainstorm:

 

15qu2pv.png  All Quiet--sound

 

2vrsp69.png  All Quiet--silent

 

Notice how, although the camera angle is identical, the recruits are obscured by the rain in the sound version, and the interior wall is lit differently in the two movies.  This is not just a difference in the exposure of the same negative.  What looks like a lamp in front of a mirror has a highlight on it, with a dark wall in the silent picture, while the sound has a light wall and no highlight.  The soldiers in the silent version are also formed in neater ranks.

 

Next comes one of the bunker scenes:

 

5chh0p.png  All Quiet--sound

 

15q9kyt.png  All Quiet--silent

 

These two shots come at the same point in the dialog.  You can see differences in how the actors are posed, and even their clothing.  The two scenes are different also in content.  In the sound movie, Kat (Louis Wolheim) uses a photo as a prop for some dialog.  This is missing from the silent movie.  These are not only two separate shots of the same scene, but two differently written scenes.

 

I haven't looked carefully at all of the two movies, but it seems safe to conclude that a lot, if not most of the sound and silent pictures were shot separately.  This extends to shots that would seem, just from economy's sake, could have been used in both, as in the shot presumably looking out a train station window as the train carrying the new recruits arrives at the front (one of my favorites in the movie):

 

n65mox.png  All Quiet--sound

 

2qi4rvs.png  All Quiet--silent

 

In both movies there is a gentleman walking atop the train as it pulls in.  But the trucks parked before it are in different places, and the officer (presumably) on horseback behind the train, just to right of center is a little bit righter in the silent movie.

 

There are some times when the same action appears in both movies, but it is the same shot that is used, not two shots of the same action.  Here's one at the end, when Paul brings Kat to an aid station, not aware he's dead.  I'll only reproduce one pic, as they are identical in both movies:

 

dzcsww.png

 

I apologize for the length of this post, but I think the stature of a movie like All Quiet on the Western Front merits it.

 

 

 

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Please refer to my last post (2/18/2015) where I discuss my review of the differences between the two film versions.

 

http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/52022-all-quiet-really-is-quiet/?p=1065152

 

slaytonf reported:

 

...examination shows that while both movies show recruits marching, followed by a band, the scenes are different. The silent version has tubas at the front of the band, while they are absent from the sound version. There is also in the sound All Quiet a man in a light coat, arm raised, next to the left window about center. In the silent, he is closer to the center of the picture. The differences in the two movies is not due to parallax. These are two separate shots.

 

...although the camera angle is identical, the recruits are obscured by the rain in the sound version, and the interior wall is lit differently in the two movies. This is not just a difference in the exposure of the same negative. What looks like a lamp in front of a mirror has a highlight on it, with a dark wall in the silent picture, while the sound has a light wall and no highlight. The soldiers in the silent version are also formed in neater ranks.

 

You can see differences in how the actors are posed, and even their clothing. The two scenes are different also in content. In the sound movie, Kat (Louis Wolheim) uses a photo as a prop for some dialog. This is missing from the silent movie. These are not only two separate shots of the same scene, but two differently written scenes.

 

I haven't looked carefully at all of the two movies, but it seems safe to conclude that a lot, if not most of the sound and silent pictures were shot separately. This extends to shots that would seem, just from economy's sake, could have been used in both,

 

There are some times when the same action appears in both movies, but it is the same shot that is used, not two shots of the same action.

 

So what are your conclusions, based on the above?

 

Do you believe that these are two seperate films, with seperate staged shots, ruling out the use of two camera's used simultaneously scene for scene???

 

My deductions (based on my own, similar analysis), is that had I not read the report of two seperate "side-by-side" cameras used in each scene (one for the international sound "silent" hybrid version & one for the English speaking "talking" version) I likely would not have suspected it.

 

I have noticed many of the same things which you have discussed, as well as some very obvious differences (see link to my post in the other thread discussing the films)

 

In addition, to the differences and similarities of what we can see, there is another powerful contributing variable....

We are looking at a reconstruction by the LoC from existing severely edited film stock from the two versions that were originally presented in 1930.

From an original run time that may have been close to 180 minutes in two seperate, differently edited film versions. Down to 100 minutes, and "restored" by the LoC to the current 133-134 min versions which we are now examining.  

 

That is a lot of missing film footage, that has been cut, censored, edited and reedited since the original release.

 

Even the "experts" at the LoC are not sure how close they are in their restorations to the originals with possibly 47 min of "missing" footage presumed lost.  

 

Director Lewis Milestone wasn't alive to comment (one way or another) on the of the 1998 LoC restoration.

 

I contend that there is a possibility that both film versions originally may have been very close, scene for scene, but have been "redirected" over the decades (due to all this editing) and with what we have today, there is no way to be absolutely certain just how close or different the originals actually were to each other, in the director's original cut of the films.

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Very interesting information about both versions.

 

Speaking as a retired film cameraman, and based on the information and the still frames posted below, I think parts of this film were shot at least four different ways:

 

1) with two cameras shooting side by side at the same time,

 

2) with some sound scenes and some silent scenes of the same actors and the same sets filmed at different times and with the actors and props in slightly different positions,

 

3) with one camera used to shoot some of the sound scenes and then the silent scenes (one shot first and the other photographed right afterwards), using the same camera set-up, the same lens, the same tripod set-up, and with the camera in the same position and the same people and background used for both the sound and silent scenes,

 

and:

 

4) with some of the very same one-camera scenes copied twice and used in both films.

 

 

For example, notice in the top four still photos below, the sun shadows are different in the sound and silent scenes, meaning they were shot at different times and maybe even on different days.

 

In the artificial light indoor scenes, the light shadows are pretty much the same, but notice in the two indoor bunker scenes, the heads and bodies of the three men on the left are in slightly different right/left positions, relative to the background objects, so these scenes MIGHT have been shot with side by side cameras OR with one camera that was moved slightly right or left in-between the filming of the two different scenes.

 

(Note: I'm still studying the bunker shots to be sure.... I wish I had all the still frames for that shot.)

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Thank you for your response to my post.  I share with you your admiration of this movie.  It is truly a monument not only of filmmaking, but of human creativity.

 

You ask what my conclusions are, based on my observations.  You have your answer in my post you quoted.  I will repeat it:

 

t seems safe to conclude that a lot, if not most of the sound and silent pictures were shot separately.  This extends to shots that would seem, just from economy's sake, could have been used in both. . . .

 

 

I'll amend that to say it's safe to conclude the two movies were shot entirely separately.

 

Some of your comments have illuminated observations I made.  As I said, there are some identical shots in both movies.  They may have come to be through various of the restorations that have been made over the years, as restorers looked to one or other of the movies for material to flesh out their efforts, thus leading to the movies cross contaminating each other.  

 

None of the scenes I compared closely showed evidence of being shot by two cameras side-by-side.  I think it would be easy to identify such scenes, the objects in the foreground shifting side-to-side slightly against the background due to parallax. 

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As I said, there are some identical shots in both movies.  They may have come to be through various of the restorations that have been made over the years, as restorers looked to one or other of the movies for material to flesh out their efforts, thus leading to the movies cross contaminating each other.  

 

None of the scenes I compared closely showed evidence of being shot by two cameras side-by-side.  I think it would be easy to identify such scenes, the objects in the foreground shifting side-to-side slightly against the background due to parallax. 

 

Correct and correct. :)

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