Sunday, May 29, 2016

ALL QUIET (1979) (12) vs. SGT. YORK (4)


REALISM:  “Sergeant York” is as realistic as you can expect for a movie made in the Forties that was aimed at lauding a true American history.  The movie has verisimilitude in its interiors.  The country store and the York home are examples of the attention to detail put in by the set designer.  The hillbilly characters and life style is also real.  The movie is realistic in its portrayal of the ignorance of the backwoods to events in Europe and the pacifism that turned to patriotism upon U.S. entry.  The military scenes are less true to reality.  Boot camp is depicted as similar to a fantasy camp.  The movie is not interested in making the military look like a questionable occupation.  The combat is fine in showing the attack York participated in.  A lot of effort (and explosives) went into recreating no man’s land.  York’s individual exploit is fairly close to what actually happened with some Hollywood touches that war movie lovers will notice right away.  GRADE  -  B

“All Quiet…” is as realistic as Remarque’s book is.  The film takes all its scenes from the novel.  Although it was a made-for-TV movie, effort has gone into making the sets realistic.  The trenches, bunkers, and no man’s land are outstanding.  The arc of Paul and his classmates from naïve patriots looking forward to a great adventure to jaded veterans is appropriate.  The attitude of home front civilians also rings true.  No movie could better present the effect of the war on the German soldiers’ morale.  It is also outstanding in portraying the strong bonds between soldiers, especially those who go to war together.  GRADE  -  A

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  All Quiet  -  9     York  -  8

DIALOGUE:  “Sergeant York” is full of hillbilly talk.  It is truly quaint, but the actors pull it off and it adds to the feel of the film.  A typical line is “war is agin the book”.  It helps that the actors, led by Gary Cooper, manage to pull off the accent with aplomb.  Being a patriotic movie, the dialogue is not biting.  However, it does not make you shake your head much.  The worst it gets is the exchanges between York and the cliché Brooklynite.  GRADE  -  B

“All Quiet…” mirrors the dialogue of the book which is all you need to know.  Paul gets the lion-share of the lines and also does some narration.  The narration is appropriately somber and cynical.  “My knowledge of life is limited to death”.  The banter is natural.  The bond between the men is apparent from the way they talk to each other.  GRADE  -  A

HALFTIME SCORE:   All Quiet  -  18    York  -  16

SOLDIER BEHAVIOR:  “Sergeant York” does not have much on soldier behavior.  Heck, it does not even get to boot camp until the 1:15 mark of the film.  The movie is a biopic so it concentrates on one soldier.  And he is not a typical soldier.  He has to be convinced to fight.  GRADE  -  C

“All Quiet” tells the tale of a small unit of German soldiers from boot camp through the last days of the war.  Remarque was a soldier in the Great War and we can assume he put his personal experiences into his book.  The training camp scenes show that the German experience was similar to other armies.  Paul and his mates do not robotically shed their civilian attitudes toward authority which shows that German young men were not that different to other nationalities going through cinematic boot camp.  When they reach the front they are taken under the wing of the veteran Kat and learn the real deal.  The movie is best when it is in the dugout with the men.  They deal with the rats, lice, and other problems.  What they endure cement their bonds to where when Paul returns home, he realizes his real home is at the front.  GRADE  -  A

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  All Quiet  -  27    York  -  22

ENTERTAINMENT:  “Sergeant York” was perfect entertainment for its time and audience.  It is old fashioned, but pushes all the right buttons.  The main character is a hero who overcomes personality flaws by finding the Lord.  It is a classic redemption story.  There is a romance that is predictable, but heart-warming.  The movie is filled with interesting characters and anchored by Cooper’s spot-on portrayal of Hollywood’s version of a backwoods hero.  Along with the character study, we conclude with a thrilling combat scene.  What is not to like?  Especially if you are old.  GRADE  -  A

If you consider the novel to be entertaining, and I suppose some people find it too depressing to be entertaining, you have to like “All Quiet” (1979).  The movie takes many of the scenes from the book and commendably recreates them.  The cast is outstanding and Richard Thomas gives best performance of his career.  Keep in mind that this movie brought the novel to the small screen so it was free entertainment.  The flash back format gives the narrative some pizazz. The theme of lost innocence is clearly explored.  It is an anti-war movie for the Vietnam generation.  GRADE  -  A

FINAL SCORE:  All Quiet  -  36
                           Sgt. York  -  31

MATCH ANALYSIS:    I have made no secret that I feel the remake of the classic original is shamefully underrated.  I do not understand why people disrespect it.  It is possible to like the 1931 version and appreciate the updated version.  There is something to be said for modern war movies if the plot is good and the acting is satisfactory.  The technology gives them an advantage in translating the war experience to the screen.  In “Sergeant York” we have an example of a classic that holds up well over the years, but in this tournament it was hurt by its being predominately a biography more than a war movie.  It barely made the second round due to that fact.  It stood little chance against a competent rendering of the greatest war novel ever written.   


  1. in 1999, I visited Alvin C. York's home, which is a Tennessee State Park. The country store was still standing, looked like in the movie, but was boarded up. The movie recreated the terrain very well.

    Inside the York house, the park ranger on hand was York's youngest son. Another son happened to come by and I talked with both of them.

    Yes, rural Tennesseans really were (are) like that.

    The 1979 All Quiet is very good, about the best TV war film ever. Many people like it better than the earlier one due to it being in color, and with modern acting style.

  2. I wonder if any of his sons joined the military.

    Why wouldn't someone have that country store open? Seems like it would be a classic tourist trap.

  3. A grandson was a career army officer. He was interviewed on a A&E Biography of York.

  4. A grandson was a career army officer. He was interviewed on a A&E Biography of York.


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