Stephen M’s review published on Letterboxd:
I generally like the films of Frank Borzage, but just couldn't get into this one. It's based on a 1906 novel by Frederic Molnar and has a strong anti-war theme. It follows the "war" between two gangs of boys in Budapest to highlight how youth can be driven by militarism and nationalism as a way of feeling excitement and importance. And of course, it ends in tragedy.
The acting by the primarily young cast is good, with standouts being George Breakston as the young misfit desperate to be an "officer" but instead bullied and Frankie Darrow, one of the best known child actors of the period. But the outcome and the director's attitude were clearly telegraphed from the beginning. And although I myself am a staunch pacifist, I had a hard time feeling engaged. Because it's by Borsaze, the film is well-directed and photographed. And it is of historical interest in that the book was written before the horror that was WWI, and this film version is set in contemporary times (1934) as the Nazi Party was gaining control in Germany. But it just wasn't for me.
I saw this on the Criterion Channel as part of their recent collection of Frank Borzage films.