Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1930. Universal Pictures. Screenplay by George Abbott, adaptation by Del Andrews, Maxwell Anderson, dialogue by Maxwell Anderson, supervising story chief C. Gardner Sullivan, based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Cinematography by Arthur Edeson. Produced by Carl Laemmle Jr.. Music by Sam Perry, Heinz Roemheld. Production Design by Charles D. Hall, William R. Schmidt. Film Editing by Edgar Adams, Milton Carruth. Academy Awards 1929/1930.
One of the most important war films ever made is this excellent adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s fine novel, directed by Lewis Milestone. A group of eager German students enlist for service in World War I, heedless of warnings from their professors and families. These guys are just itching to be heroes, and the army propaganda has promised them that they will be. The war scenes are unlike anything mainstream cinema had seen before, and the realism of battle is completely at odds with the candy-coloured beauty of propaganda films that would follow. To make sure World War II soldiers wouldn’t be deterred by the gruesome images seen here, this film was banned in America years after its release, not only for its pacifism but also because it presented German soldiers as sympathetic protagonists.