Years after directing the classic Marty (1955), Delbert Mann became a creator of prestige TV movie projects, none more daunting than his adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front (1979). Richard Thomas stars as Paul Baumer, a teen who, at the urging of zealously patriotic teacher Kantorek (Donald Pleasence) enthusiastically enlists to fight for Germany in WWI, accompanied by several school chums. After training at the hands of the sadistic Corporal Himmelstoss (Ian Holm), Paul and his friends head for the front. There, they discover that war is a bloody, deadly business, although they are heartened by the presence of their commander, wily veteran Stanislaus Katczinsky (Ernest Borgnine). When a French soldier jumps into the bomb crater where Paul has taken refuge one night, he is forced to stab the enemy, then must watch the man die in agony. This incident and the violent deaths of his friends convince Paul that war is a senseless exercise. One of the most respected anti-war novels ever written, the book resulted in the German citizenship of author Erich Maria Remarque being revoked by the Nazi Party. Though a 1930 film adaptation by Lewis Milestone was widely beloved by fans of cinema and the source material, Mann's TV movie was well received, earning a Golden Globe and Emmys for Borgnine and Patricia Neal, who played Paul's mother.
by Karl Williams synopsis