Wednesday, May 25, 2016



PLOT:  “All Quiet…” is a faithful rendering of the most famous war novel.  This makes the plot outstanding.  For those of you who are reading this from another planet, the movie is the story of Paul Baumer and his mates as they try to survive on the Western Front.  Paul goes from naïve schoolboy to cynical veteran.  The men go through boot camp and then it’s off to the front to experience what the war is really like.  Under the tutelage of a wizened old vet, Paul and the boys learn the ropes.  Along the way they find out that war sucks and few survive.  It’s heart-felt and heart-breaking.  It has several iconic combat scenes.  GRADE  -  A+

“Private Peaceful” is based on a young adult novel.  It is the tale of two brothers and the girl they both love.  She chooses the older Charlie which breaks Tommo’s heart.  The war separates the couple, but reunites the brothers.  Tommo and Charlie are lower class lads who go off to the Western Front where they are harassed by evil sergeant Hanley. He is a stock villain who does everything but twirl his mustache.  The plot builds to the execution of one of the boys for disobeying orders.  It concludes with a trite twist ending.  GRADE  -  C+

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  All Quiet  -  10    Peaceful  -  7

ACTING:  The only real flaw in “All Quiet” is in the acting.  The cast is not special.  Lew Ayres was not a big star and did not get top billing.  His performance is much too overwrought.  Top billing went to Louis Wolheim who played Kat.  He and Slim Summerville (Tjaden) are the only main actors who don’t chew scenery.  There are several moments in the film where the acting causes giggles.  Although a talkie, the film is distinctly silent in its acting.  Even Ayres, who became a star from his role as Paul, is cringe-inducing at times.  GRADE  -  C

“Private Peaceful” stars the up and coming Jack O’Connell as Charlie and he brings a lot of charisma to the role.  The rest of the cast is not well known, but they are fine.  John Lynch foams at the mouth as the despicable Hanley, but the role was written for that.  GRADE  -  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  All Quiet  -  16     Peaceful  -  13

COMBAT:  It may surprise many that “All Quiet” has only 11 minutes of combat. The quality is high, however.  The big set piece trench warfare scene is a classic.  It is the best at showing the back and forth of trench assaults.  The French evict them in spite of their machine guns and rifle fire, they retreat to their reserve trench, a barrage forces the French back, the Germans counterattack and take the French trench, but they withdraw and everyone is back where they started from!  The scene features some vicious hand-to-hand fighting and one indelible shot of severed hands on the barbed wire.  Combat is secondary to the hardships and rare moments of humanity that Paul and the others undergo.  GRADE  -  B

“Private Peaceful” has only 5 minutes of combat and what there is is small scale.  It is also unrealistically staged.  The no man’s land is merely a field.  No shell craters.  No reason to scare the kiddies.  Besides, it’s a tale of two brothers and their girl friend.  The only part combat plays is to set up the court-martial.  You would think it was a play.  GRADE  -  D

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  All Quiet  -  24    Peaceful  -  18

ANTI-WAR:  “All Quiet” is based on the most famous antiwar novel ever written.  And the movie surely brings the vibe to the silver screen.  This theme that the war was a terrible mistake kicks in from the very first scene and is consistently permeating the film throughout even the home front scene.  The movie includes Paul’s stay in the hospital which is another form of horror.  The body count is reflective of an anti-war movie.  The anti-command sub-theme is exemplified by the Himmelstoss character.  By the way, Lew Ayres became a conscientious objector in WWII due to his involvement in the movie.  GRADE  -  A+

“Private Peaceful” is meant to be anti-war in a lecturing sort of way.  Being aimed at a young audience, the theme is simplified and unsubtle.  The movie does not really show the horrors of trench warfare.  The big tear-jerking moment is the result of villainy that could have been found in civilian life.  If anything, the movie is more anti-upper class.  The Peaceful family is trod upon by their local landlord.  GRADE  -  C

FINAL SCORE:  All Quiet  -  34
Private Peaceful  -  24

MATCH ANALYSIS:  Hey, I had to go through the motions, okay?  This was truly a mismatch.  It was a lightweight up against a heavyweight and it got pummeled.  “All Quiet” is a classic that is arguably still the best WWI movie ever made.  “Private Peaceful” will be forgotten soon.  Not that it was the 16th best movie in the tournament.  There were definitely worse contenders.  

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