|All Quiet on the Western Front|
|Written by||Paul Monash|
|Directed by||Delbert Mann|
|Starring||Richard Thomas |
|Music by||Allyn Ferguson|
|Country of origin||United States/United Kingdom|
|Editor(s)||Alan Pattillo |
|Running time||150 minutes / 129 minutes (theatrical release)|
|Production||Norman Rosemont Productions|
Marble Arch Productions
|Original release||November 14, 1979|
All Quiet on the Western Front is a television film produced by ITC Entertainment, released on November 14, 1979, starring Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine. It is based on the book of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque.
The 1979 film was directed by Delbert Mann. It has its share of tension and death, and in the spirit of the novel, manages to convey a sense of desolation, hardship and waste. Late in the film, the turmoil and wretchedness of the main character, Paul Baumer, is manifested in his extreme disassociation while home on furlough.
Most of the filming took place in Czechoslovakia.
During World War I, 18-year-old Paul Bäumer enlists in the German army with five of his high school friends (Behm, Kropp, Muller, Kemmerich and Leer), after being indoctrinated by Kantorek, their teacher, as to the glory and superiority of German culture. After surviving training camp under the brutal Corporal Himmelstoss, the young men board a troop train bound for the front lines. Ominously, at the same moment, they notice another train arriving in town loaded with returning wounded soldiers, who are carried off on stretchers.
Once at the front lines, they are placed in a squad, along with soldiers Tjaden, Westhus, Detering and others, under the supervision of Stanislaus "Kat" Katzinsky. Kat teaches them how to best take cover, how to find extra food, and other survival skills.
When Paul and his squad return to a French town for a rest week, they see the new recruits have grown younger and younger. To their delight, the leader of these new recruits is their recently demoted training officer, Himmelstoss. When Himmelstoss tries to make them obey him, they stand up to him. Later in the trenches, while the Germans are launching an offensive attack, Paul sees another squad cowering in a crater, which includes Himmelstoss. Paul pushes Himmelstoss to force him to keep on the offensive.
The French and German armies are shown attacking each other repeatedly over a few hundred yards of torn, corpse-strewn land. Kemmerich is wounded, and later dies in an overcrowded army hospital. Paul returns to the trenches with his squad, distraught over his Kemmerich's death.
When a French soldier falls into a trench Paul is hiding in, Paul stabs the man in the stomach with his bayonet. Forced to spend the night with him, Paul tries to bandage the dying soldier's wounds, but he dies anyway. Paul escapes the trench, stricken with guilt. An inexperienced new recruit, after falling into a pit of poison gas, is carried off by the medics to a slow, painful death; the medics had appeared before Kat could put him out of his misery.
Although Paul, Kropp and Leer have their first sexual experience with a trio of accommodating French peasant girls, the vast majority of the young men's experiences are horrific. One by one, practically all of Paul's schoolmate friends die. A haughty, stiff Kaiser Wilhelm II visits their camp to ceremoniously pin medals on heroic soldiers, which includes Himmelstoss.
When Paul's squad is bombed in a French town close to the front, Behm dies while Kropp loses a leg and Paul is seriously wounded. When Paul improves, he is granted two weeks leave. Returning home, Paul is told by his sister that their mother is dying of cancer. In visits to a beer garden and to his former teacher, Paul realises that his town's older men, in their enthusiasm for war, have no sense of the horrors they have sent their youth to. He also visits Kemmerich's mother and lies to her that he did not suffer.
When Paul returns to duty, Kat is wounded in the leg by an artillery burst and Paul carries him many miles to a field hospital. Only at the hospital does Paul discover that Kat has died, shot at some point during the journey.
Paul writes a letter to Kropp, the sole survivor of their class, who is now an amputee. After finishing the letter, Paul walks through the trench checking on the younger soldiers, having taken up Kat's position as a mentor. He spots a bird and begins to sketch it, and when the bird starts to fly away and Paul stands up to see where it went, a lone sniper's shot rings out, killing him. A field communique from the German High Command flashes over Paul's lifeless body, falsely declaring "All Quiet on the Western Front", despite the date on the communique showing that the German army was collapsing, just days from complete surrender.
The original 150 minute US TV version was edited and received a limited worldwide theatrical release. The resulting 129 minute version was the one subsequently released on open matte (4:3 aspect ratio) VHS videos and DVDs. Commencing with the 2009 UK Blu-ray, all DVDs and Blu-rays feature the original, unedited version. All of these, bar the 4:3 UK (ITV) and Australian (Beyond Home Entertainment) Blu-rays, are also in the film's original widescreen aspect ratio.