All Quiet on the Western Front appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though it showed its age, the image held up much better than one might expect.
Overall sharpness looked appealing. Only slivers of softness materialized, and those usually related to the source photography.
I noticed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement seemed apparent. Print flaws occasionally manifested in terms of specks and vertical lines.
However, these appeared infrequently – usually in batches related to the weakest source reels – and they seemed minor given the film’s vintage.
Some light grain appeared, and it was clear the transfer needed to use a fair amount of noise reduction because of the lack of a first generation source. This didn’t lean toward oppressive de-graining, though, and the image retained a natural feel, without the clay-like impression that often stems from noise reduction.
Blacks looked dark and deep, while shadows mainly felt smooth. A few shots could seem a bit dense, but most looked appropriate. All in all, this became a surprisingly solid presentation for such an old flick.
The DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of All Quiet on the Western Front was seemed erratic but pleasing for its age. A fair amount of the dialogue seemed pretty clear and crisp, although the lines could be tinny and thin at times.
Intelligibility never became an issue. Effects usually appeared free from distortion. No, I wouldn’t call them clean and clear, but they were more than sufficient for recordings from this period, and the mix boasted some decent low-end at times.
Music appeared infrequently, as films of the era didn't have proper scores. Instead, we got a tune under the title cards, and we also found some music played as part of the action.
For example, one scene featured a marching band. Like the effects, these elements failed to present much punch, but they were reasonably concise.
Some hiss appeared at times, but not to a distracting degree. A few pops occurred as well, but again, these didn’t create problems. In the end, I felt that the disc represented the audio about as well as we might expect.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the last DVD from 2007? Audio seemed livelier and clearer, while visuals became tighter and cleaner, with deeper blacks. This turned into a notable upgrade.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. From the last DVD, in addition to a trailer for one of the film’s re-releases, we get an introduction from film historian Robert Osborne. In this two-minute, 40-second chat, Osborne discusses the casting of Lew Ayres and other elements of the actor’s career.
He also tells us a little about the film’s success. This is a perfectly decent little clip, but it doesn’t give us much.
The remaining extras come new to this Blu-ray, and of primary interest, we find a Silent Version of Front. This cut runs 2:12:54 versus the 2:13:25 Of the “talkie” edition.
Not that we get a truly “silent” Front, as this version still includes audio effects and score. This version recuts the film in some ways as well.
View the “silent” Front as a curiosity and nothing more. It doesn’t help that the movie looks fairly terrible, so I can’t imagine why anyone would prefer it to the “talkie” Front other than as an archival relic.
Also found on other releases, we get two 100 Years of Universal featurettes. “Restoring the Classics” goes for nine minutes, 13 seconds and offers statements from Universal Studios Vault Services VP of Image Assets/Preservation Bob O’Neil, Universal Studios Technical Services VP Peter Schade, Kodak Pro-Tek Media Preservation VP of Preservation Services Rick Utley, Universal Studios Digital Services engineer Henry Ball, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Phil Defibaugh, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Ken Tom, and Universal Studios Technical Services supervising sound editor John Edell.
“Restoring” covers all the procedures used to bring Front and other movies to Blu-ray. It’s a reasonably informative take on the subject.
“Academy Award Winners” runs nine minutes, 35 seconds and offers an overview of some of the studio’s movies that took home Oscars. It’s entirely self-serving and comes with next to zero informational value.
90 years after its debut, All Quiet On the Western Front holds up well. The film provides a powerful and relatively graphic portrayal of war that might give pause to even the most gung-ho hawk. The Blu-ray boasts appealing picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements beyond a mildly intriguing silent cut of the film. I’d like better bonus materials, but the disc presents a classic movie well.
To rate this film, visit the prior review of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT