Journey's End (1930) Poster


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One of James Whale's best films
pitcairn8929 September 2006
As all of the other reviewers have stated, this is an excellent film. It really captures the fear, claustrophobia, camaraderie, and occasional boredom of life in the trenches of World War I. As everyone knows, both R.C. Sheriff and James Whale had served in the trenches, and they brought their experiences to the play, and then the film. It is a product of its time, 1929-1930, so there are technical and other limitations, but it is still a great film. Full of pathos and a sense of desperation.

The actors work well together, and many of them give what I feel are their best career performances. Much has been written about the superb acting of Colin Clive, as Stanhope, and it is true. He is great. You really feel the anguish of this man, who has been at the front for three years. He has been pushed beyond his limit, and reacts as any normal person would-- exhibiting signs of battle fatigue, never-ending fear, and occasional hopelessness. What is amazing is that he continues to endure, and to do what he considers to be his duty. He finds solace in the bottle, and in the company of his mates.

Clive was a brilliant actor, and gave his all to whatever part he played. Many of them were variations on the Stanhope theme. His role as Henry Frankenstein, in the two films directed by Whale, are similar in tone to this part. It's a shame that he didn't have more movie roles with real meat in them, but perhaps there were only so many such parts in Hollywood, and not always available. He was good in all of his other films, such as "One More River," 1934, as a sadistic husband; "The Key," very good as a sympathetic British Intelligence officer in Ireland during the "Black and Tan" period; "Jane Eyre," 1934, as Rochester; "The Right to Live," 1935, as a husband paralyzed in a plane crash; "The Girl From Tenth Avenue," 1935, as a very funny drunk, etc. He acts with Bette Davis in that latter film, and they play well together. You hear a lot about his real-life demons, and alcoholism, but he seems to have been a good guy, and many people regretted his early death.

David Manners, as Raleigh, is also excellent. He plays the school boy well-- innocent, eager to please, ready to do his part, and admiring of Stanhope. He captures the essence of this character. I think it is Manners' best role. He was very good in "The Miracle Woman," 1931, as the blind man involved with Barbara Stanwyck, and in a slightly similar role in "The Last Flight," also 1931. But I think he is best here. I also like him in all the horror films like "Dracula," "The Mummy," and "The Black Cat," but he doesn't have much to do in those films, except stand around, be romantic, and be kind of ineffectual. He had a good career, though, acting with some of the biggest stars of the day. He was good with Loretta Young, Katherine Hepburn, and Kay Francis, and, reportedly, was liked by them.

Of the other supporting actors, I think Ian MacLaren is the best. He is quite moving as Osborne (also known as "Uncle"). He supports and encourages Stanhope, and offers real friendship to Raleigh. It is a warm and sensitive performance, and integral to the film. I think it is the biggest film role of his career. You see him in some other 1930s films, but usually in small, unobtrusive parts. On the evidence of this film, he was an excellent actor.

Billy Bevan, a former silent-film comedian, is very good, too. His Trotter is full of good cheer, optimism, and kindness. He would play similar types in many more films. Anthony Bushell is good as Hibbert, the coward. He is continually trying to shirk his duty, and he manages to bring out the worst in Stanhope. Charles Gerrard, as Mason the cook, is kind of amusing, and acts as a sort of comedy relief. Gerrard showed up the next year in "Dracula," as Martin, the sanitarium guard who takes away Renfield's spiders and flies. Interesting in that Manners is also in that film. Gerrard played a more serious military type in John Ford's "Men Without Women," and was hilarious as Lord Ambrose Plumtree, husband of Thelma Todd, in Laurel and Hardy's "Another Fine Mess."

It's surprising that this film hasn't been picked up by Kino or Criterion or someone, and given a full restoration. I have always wondered why it is not more widely seen or revived. The only copies available are grainy ones on eBay or somewhere. It never seems to show up on PBS, or in film retrospectives. It is so good, that it shouldn't be relegated to obscurity. I would place it in the select group of James Whale's best films, alongside "Waterloo Bridge," "Showboat," and the quartet of horror films. Let's hope that it shows up soon in a pristine, restored print, with perhaps a commentary by someone like Whale biographer James Curtis. That would be a nice treat.
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plato-115 January 2005
This is one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen. It is an early talkie, so the camera is static and the copy I have is grainy, but the performances transcend all that and make you forget the problems. Colin Clive is perfect as the brusque, alcoholic (but ultimately sympathetic) Captain Stanhope. His intensity is mesmerizing. It's sad that he didn't get a chance to make more films before he died. David Manners, who I never cared much for in his romantic lead roles, does a surprisingly good job as Raleigh. Ian Mclaren also does a good job as the older, gentle Osborne. This is one movie that is just begging for release on video. It needs to be discovered by modern viewers. I give this movie 10/10 simply because of the power of the performances.
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Powerful and heartfelt anti-war film succeeds despite technical limitations.
David Atfield31 January 2002
James Whale had served in World War 1, and this powerful anti-war film has a strong feeling of authenticity as a result. Whale obviously understood the feeling of being in the trenches of World War 1, and manages to convey this feeling strongly to his audience. In a way the terrible technical restrictions of early sound recording help to convey the claustrophobia of trench warfare - the lack of camera and actor movement make the audience feel like they too are stuck in the trenches. Of course it would have been great if the rare action sequences were less confusing and better filmed, but in the end the film is still quite overwhelmingly emotional. This is due in no small part to the excellent performances. Colin Clive and David Manners are particularly memorable.

Whale does not have the opportunity, in this early talkie, to display the great visual flare that he would later become renowned for, but it is, nonetheless, an auspicious start to a great career. 8/10.
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James Whale Tells It Like It Was
Theo Robertson24 June 2013
In 1918 after four tears of unimaginable attritional warfare and with more and more reinforcements arriving from America Germany was on the brink of collapse . People were starving on the streets and another winter would have probably seen Germany descend in to revolution as seen in Russia the previous year . Mindful of this German military leaders launched a Spring of offensive with the aim of knocking out the British , capturing Paris and ending the war before American reinforcements became a major factor . After initial tactical success the Germans failed to capture the major communication centre at Amiens . The allies rallied their forces and counterattacked in the one hundred days offensive that saw the Germans unconditionally sign an armistice . The cost of victory wasn't cheap with the British army in 1918 suffering more dead than it did during the entire second world war

History is a very strange thing . We tend to look back on things with a mind set that only exists in the present time . Revisionists tend to paint a picture that the First World War was bad and the Second World War was good but in reality there's little difference between Imperial Germany invading Belgium in 1914 and Nazi Germany invading Poland in 1939 . Certainly there wouldn't be much difference in a British Tommy's way of thinking in the fields of France in 1918 to that of 1944 . The anti-warsentiment given to the First World War , of bungling butchers such as General Haig sending thousands of young men to their death wasn't untrue but certainly wasn't a uniquely British trait and in the one hundred days offensive the British army killed , wounded and captured more Germans than the French , American and Belgian armies combined

A former veteran of the First World War director James Whale brings the 1928 stageplay by RC Sheriff to the big screen and does it very well . Certainly it can't be described as " pro-war " but neither does it descend in to revisionist anti-war cliché . Public school boy officers actually had a lower life expectancy than working class men and if you don't believe me take a look at your local war memorial where the ranks of the fallen are given that confirm that the carnage brought upon a generation of men was an egalitarian horror wrought upon all classes . There's an honesty to JOURNEY'S END that is rarely seen in media that has 1914-18 as its theme

At this point it's needed to point out the homosexual subtext of the film - there is none . Yes Whale was homosexual and because of this critics will scrutinise every single line and scene . The closeness of the characters and the paternalism of the Uncle figure mirrors the real life camaraderie of soldiers in combat and is not to be read as any type of comment on the love that dare not speak its name . The characters will also surprise a 21st Century anti-war audience as they get hung up on seemingly frivolous subjects but as a great many contemporary accounts from the conflict agree the worst thing about the war wasn't dealt out by shells , bullets and bayonet from the enemy but the food from their own side

From a technical point of view the film is sometimes limited and for long segments it is rather obvious that its genesis was in theatre but Whale does manage to make the battle scenes appear cinematic . It's also impossible to not mention that this the movie that caused the director to move to America use the superior sound facilities of Hollywood and decided to stay in the country where he made FRANKENSTEIN , THE OLD DARK HOUSE and THE INVISIBLE MAN all classic genre films fondly remembered today and all of which are down to James Whale working on this film . It's such a pity JOURNEY'S END remains such an obscure film which has only had seven comments so far and is never shown on network television . It should be essential viewing in history classes dealing with the Great War
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delbruk22 August 2003
This is the film that started it all (in more ways than one). This was the play and subsequent film which gave rise to the career of James Whale - acclaimed director of such hits as Waterloo Bridge, Showboat, The Man in the Iron Mask, as well as being the father of horror with Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and The Bride of Frankenstein. Without his directing this play, whose meteoric rise in England paved his way to Hollywood, we might never have been given the same treatment of Shelley's opus and the key to modern horror films.

The film itself is also a first in that it was the first major film to deal with World War I in such a way that brought it's own brand of horror to the masses. As with other filmmakers whose actual wartime experiences have brought us closer to the realities of war (Oliver Stone, Samuel Fuller, to name a couple) the material was emotional and close to Whale.

Although the first film of this type and a box office hit, Journey's End would yield to All Quiet On the Western Front as the definitive WWI film. Truthfully, All Quiet... is a much better film, however, they are two distinct films dealing with the "reality" of war from wholly different perspectives. All Quiet... gives stirring battle sequences which still stand up but also attempts to represent the common soldier's experience. Journey's End, a play written by RC Sheriff tells the story from the perspective of English officers, of which Sheriff and Whale had both been apart. In this regard, the material can be appear dated and seem more melodramatic than intended.

The film suffers more from the simplistic camera settings than from its significance as an early talkie. Whale's direction is handled perfunctorily as if recreating the stage play. There are a few scenes which go beyond this limitation but they are few in 120 minutes of film. The true success is the first film performance of Colin Clive who handled the material for Whale on stage as Captain Stanhope (after Laurence Olivier left the play after its initial run). Clive is cast perfectly as the tormented Captain (a mood he would later immortalize in Frankenstein). Ian McLaren also deserves recognition as the intelligently human face of Lt. Osbourne.

There are many reasons to seek out this rare historical film. From its place in cinematic lore and significance in the War genre to the fine performances. Either way, its a treat.
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The terror and the tedium
bkoganbing26 December 2013
The United Kingdom's answer to What Price Glory as a World War I play is Journey's End. And this film version which came out after the play opened in London in 1928 had the advantage of sound which What Price Glory did not. And it also had the director of the original cast James Whale doing the film version and in the process making his screen debut as a director.

Also from the London cast was Colin Clive playing the lead as Captain Stanhope who took the place of young Laurence Olivier who was the original Stanhope when the play opened. Olivier left for another engagement and Clive took the role and made it his own.

As on stage the entire play is mostly taking place in the makeshift mess the officers have dug out for themselves on their portion of the trench line on the British front. Clive as Stanhope is in command and under him are Ian McLaren, Billy Bevan, Anthony Bushell, and new man David Manners. Back in civilian life Manners was at school where Clive was a schoolmaster. In addition Clive is also seeing Manners's sister. Their ties in civilian life present difficulties for him, a lot of it in his own mind.

Just like What Price Glory, Journey's End gives us a look at the terror and the tedium of the routine of life in the trenches on the western front. Clive who knows he has to keep up appearances in the best British stiff upper lip tradition is a tired man. No one is lightening his burden, his one confidante is McLaren whom the others call 'Uncle'.

Whale did a wonderful creating the day to day existence of trench warfare British style. The use of some battle newsreels is expertly woven into the fabric of the film. And he got uniformly good performances by his ensemble cast. I've no doubt Whale pushed Universal Pictures to cast Colin Clive as the Baron in the original Frankenstein movie given their association.

Journey's End holds up well today, as good as All Quiet On The Western Front which came out around the same time. And it's a play frequently revived showing the timelessness of the subject.

If you liked All Quiet On The Western Front and What Price Glory definitely catch Journey's End.
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Not an anti-war film!
morrowmmm15 January 2005
Understandably many people have called Journey's End an Anti-War film and it seems so because it reflects the terrible plight in the trenches. However R.C.Sheriff did not write this as an indictment of the Great War. It was of the brotherly love felt between two people in a time of stress. Sheriff, who served in the trenches before being wounded at Ypres never felt the great anger that appeared in All Quiet on the Western Front, Goodbye to all that etc. In fact a majority of serving personnel felt anger towards the pacifist nature of Sassoon and fellow anti-war writers.(read A subaltern's War by Charles Edmonds or some of the Ira Jones Books) One must remember that many had spent four years of hell in the trenches and to be all told that it was wasted time was pure anathema. In today's world, where we have been educated on the 'Oh, what a lovely war", Barkers trilogy and BirdSong it is more clear, in hindsight, as to the failure of Generals and the pointlessness of it all. By the way, one of the first actors to read for the London production was an unknown young actor called Lawrence Olivier
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JOURNEY'S END (James Whale, 1930) ***
MARIO GAUCI24 February 2011
Whale's debut came via this filmization of a classic war-themed play by R.C. Sheriff (for its 1976 remake ACES HIGH, the milieu of grimy trenches was changed to accommodate the aerial dog-fights!), which he and leading man Colin Clive had actually originated on Broadway (with Laurence Olivier taking the lead in its run at London's West End!). I purchased the book during a local book fair in the mistaken belief I would never get to watch the film in view of its rarity – which I then acquired via an old but serviceable Channel 4 TV broadcast complete with intermittent publicity spots! A British production, it was however shot in Hollywood and, following its success, director and star stayed on, re-teaming not long after for FRANKENSTEIN (1931) – which obviously cemented their reputation.

For the record, the same year as this one saw the release of two other major anti-war films i.e. Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and G.W. Pabst's WESTFRONT 1918. Whale's effort, albeit rather thin for a 2-hour movie, compares quite favorably in spite of its necessarily talky nature (oddly enough, what the various characters seem mainly concerned with is nourishment!) and staginess (not to mention the fact that it was made by a debutante). Though rarely straying outside its central underground setting (Whale's background as a set designer invariably came in handy here), with resultant static camera-work, its one battle sequence is magnificently staged (in this respect, at least, it is clearly superior to Whale's subsequent and generally more fluid war effort THE ROAD BACK [1937]).

Being an early Talkie, I was afraid that the all-important dialogue would suffer from the primitive Sound technique; however, this came off reasonably clearly most of the time. Equally pivotal was the casting: interestingly, this would incorporate numerous actors who would come to be associated with the horror genre – not just Clive but David Manners (DRACULA [1931], THE MUMMY [1932] and THE BLACK CAT [1934]), Anthony Bushell (THE GHOUL [1933]) and Billy Bevan (DRACULA'S Daughter [1936])! All gave solid performances: that said, Manners' rookie hero-worshipping Clive – interestingly, their relationship parallels that of Richard Cromwell and John King in THE ROAD BACK – is not really any deeper than his romantic leads in the horror pictures. Bevan has a sizeable part for once, while Bushell plays a cowardly officer who arouses Clive's contempt and ire – even if the latter, still a young man himself despite the weathered look (augmented by mellifluous voice and a perennially tortured demeanor), admits to submerging his own fears in drink. Tragically, this form of solace was undertaken by the actor himself (following Whale's own advice!) which would turn into a chronic vice soon enough and claim his life seven years later at just 37!
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Hometown Heroes and Trench Cuisine
Brandin Lindsey4 September 2017
Journey's End is a 1930 war film. The story focuses on a company of British troops during the Great War. The leader of the company, Captain Denis Stanhope, has been hardened by the horrors of war into a tough commander with a drinking problem. Conflict arises when a hometown friend of Stanhope, Raleigh, joins the company. Raleigh happens to also be the brother of Stanhope's fiancé back home, and worries that she will find out what he has become on the front line.

This film has quite a few funny moments in the dialogue and does a good job of giving a different perspective on World War I than what is shown in most U.S. films. Journey's End features very few actual battle scenes and instead focuses more on the relationships between the characters. This helps to focus and accentuate the otherwise petty conflict.

Unfortunately, there are a few bits of bad acting. This includes dead deliveries and over-the-top performances on several occasions. The film also drags on for quite a bit. By the time you get to the underwhelming conclusion of the story, you're more than ready for the movie to end.

Overall, Journey's End is a decent film. The writing is good and the comedy still holds up today. The British personalities in the movie are also fun for American audiences. Seeing those soldiers in trenches fret over soup and porridge is hilarious and I'm not completely sure it is meant to be funny, which only enhances the experience.
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One set provides a ton of tension and inside that lies an incredible story of the determination to survive.
mark.waltz6 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Films about World War I, especially those made in the early sound era, are often difficult to get through. For some reason, other than the sinking of the Lieusetania, the assassination of the arch Duke Ferdinand and the failure of the League of Nations as a result of this war, it's difficult to remember many of the details surrounding it. A few memorable films on that war won the Oscar, but most of them are creaky, hard to get into and are thus mostly forgotten. This one set drama, based upon a successful play, is one that really deserves legendary status.

Shot with minimal camera movement and static in some very tinny sound, this is still very much worth seeing, both as a historical reference and quite simply for being one of the very best early talkie. It's set in the covered trenches of a British troop where the soldiers and their officers do their best to keep up their courage as German bombs explode outside. The men share their concerns, their own fears and their own dreams, sharing also laughs as they face an unknown outcome. The direction of James Whale is brilliant, and every detail of the set, the photography, the editing are all brilliant, really making you care about each of these characters. The standout actors are Colin Clive and David Manners who put great depth into bringing these characters to life.

So yes, the camera really never takes the troop out of the trenches, and I am very much surprised at how easily it was to get into this "slice of war life" drama. I half expected to be genuinely bored, but even if a good deal of the film is all talk, it's the type of talk that is literary, intelligent, profound and soul revealing. With all that, it's the tension of how their stories will wrap up, not knowing that at any minute, any one of these men will meet their fate thanks to a German bullet or bomb. The version of this which I saw was half an hour at least short of the running time, and I hope one day to see the entire restored film, that's if it exists. But one thing that is very clear is the anti-war stance that the writer takes, made very potent in a conclusion that might leave you breathless.
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