1930 saw two great anti-war films about WWI--"All Quiet On the Western Front" and the German-made "Westfront 1918". Both were unrelentingly grim and accurate in their portrayal of war as a never-ending hellish existence. These were certainly NOT the glorious depictions of war you usually see for WWII. This is for several reasons. First, WWI was unusual in its brutality and pointlessness for the average soldier--far,far worse than wars before or since. Second, the 1930s was an era when the reality of the past war had finally sunk in--that many millions had essentially died for nothing. As a result, the anti-war movement was exceptionally strong. Third, unlike the films made during WWII which were made to bolster the war effort, this WWI type of film was made to show how war sucks and should not be fought--or perhaps how not to fight it.
While "Wooden Crosses" is one of the great anti-war films of this era, it's not one of the very, very best (such as the two mentioned above). The biggest reason is that the characters are more ill-defined--and so one person looks pretty much like another. This makes for a less satisfying film--but also perhaps reiterates the anonymity of war. And, I must point out, it does a terrific job of showing what war is like--with gobs of explosions and death. But, because other films had come out before it that were just a bit better, this film somehow got lost in the process. A truly exceptional film--but try the other two first. And, if you'd like, also try "The Eagle and the Hawk" as well as "Ace of Aces"--two excellent American anti-war films that truly personalize the awfulness of war.
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