Monday, June 6, 2016

#1 - ALL QUIET (1930) vs. #12 - ALL QUIET (1979)


EFFECTS, SOUNDS, MUSIC:  “All Quiet” (1930) has great effects for a movie released in 1930.  Like most WWI movies, the bombardment effects are impressive.  However, the effects director tends to have his bombardments appear as a perfect line of explosions.  No artillery barrage could have been that accurate.  There is certainly a lot of earth thrown around.  The sound effects tend toward noisy over quality.  Most of the shells whine.  There are some really cool staccato machine gun sounds.  As far as music, there is no soundtrack.  I believe it is better to have too little music than too much, but a little would have enhanced the film.  GRADE  -  B-

 “All Quiet” (1979) is a made-for-TV movie so you can’t expect spectacular effects.  The bombardment effects are fine.  The sounds are excellent.  When the men go through the barbed wire, you hear the tinkling.  Surprisingly for a modern war movie, there is not much of a soundtrack.  Alyn Ferguson was a well-respected composer for mostly TV productions.  He was not looking to win an Emmy for his work here.  The soundtrack does not tug at emotions or tell you how to feel.  Most scenes have no music.  GRADE  -  C

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  1930  -  7    1979  -  6

INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS:  “All Quiet” (1930) is weak on interiors.  The dugouts are too simple.  There are no bunk beds evident.  This is not accurate for depicting the elaborate underground structures the Germans constructed.  The billets are fine, but lack much mise en scene. The military hospital is too pristine and quiet.  No one is screaming in pain.  There was no chaos.  No man’s land is excellently recreated.  There are plenty of shell craters and barbed wire.  The trenches are fairly generic and there is little evidence of the zig-zag nature of the real trenches.  GRADE  -  B-

“All Quiet” (1979) has a bunker scene with bunks.  It is sturdily built.  Several billets are in bombed out buildings.  The hospital looks more realistic than in the 1930 version as it is crowded and busy, but still too quiet.  The classroom and Paul’s home appear to have verisimilitude    No man’s land is medium scale, but a crane shot shows it as appropriately pock-marked.  The trench is zig-zag in configuration and a later scene even has a fire-step.  The towns in France show the effects of bombardment (but that just might be the Czechoslovakian locales the movie was filmed in).  GRADE  -  A-

HALFTIME SCORE:  1930  -  14    1979  -  14

CINEMATOGRAPHY:  “All Quiet” (1930) was nominated for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards.  Arthur Edeson was one of the great Old School cinematographers.  He was fond of shots through doorways and windows.  As you watch the movie, you are aware of the movie’s composition.  It is one of the reasons the film is considered a masterpiece.  Although made in 1930, the big trench battle is a tour de force with tracking shots and the POV shots of the machine guns mowing down the fodder.  The movie is most famous for its shots of the French jumping into the trench.  GRADE  -  A

John Coquillon filmed the new version.  He also did “Cross of Iron” among many other movies.  His efforts are workmanlike and there are few bells or whistles.  I did not drop my jaw a single time.  It’s above average for a made-for-TV movie.  Some of the cinematography makes nods to the original, like the severed hands on the barbed wire and the hand-to-hand combat.  GRADE  -  C

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  1930  -  23    1979  -  20

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:  There are ten significant characters in both movies.  The 1930 version does a great job on three of them:  Paul, Kat, and Tjaden.  Himmelstoss is one note.  We know he is a postman who lets power go to his head.  The squadmates are hard to distinguish without a scorecard.  GRADE  -  C 

The 1979 version spends more time establishing the various personalities.  In particular, the new version is much better at Paul’s arc from naïve schoolboy to cynical veteran.  Almost every scene centering on Paul is an improvement over the original in developing his character. A subtle theme is Paul’s eventual smoking of cigarettes. The movie makes a point of identifying his comrades in an early voiceover.  GRADE  -  A

FINAL SCORE:  1930  -  29
                           1979  -  29

MATCH ANALYSIS:  Wow, another tie.  I think under the circumstances I am going to advance the original.  Using a boxing analogy, if you want to take the crown from the champ, you have to beat them decisively.  I do not feel the categories were the right ones for determining which is the better movie, but I have to stick to the format.  I am working on a future post that will determine which movie is the better version of the novel. 

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