By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 11, 2010)
Paths of Glory – Criterion Collection Blu-ray
Stanley Kubrick really came into his own with his third film (fourth, if you include his never-officially-released “lost film”, Fear and Desire). Kirk Douglas is in top form as a WWI French regiment commander caught between the political machinations of his superiors and the empathy he feels for his battle-weary soldiers, who are little more than cannon-fodder to the paper-pushing top brass.
After an artillery unit serving under Douglas refuses to execute an insane directive from a glory-hungry field general to lay a barrage into their own forward positions, the commanding generals decide that the best way to ensure against any such future “mutiny” is to select three scapegoats from the rank and file to be court-martialed and shot. The insanity of conflict has rarely been parsed onscreen with such economy and clarity; it’s one of the top anti-war films.
Despite all the technical innovations in film making that have evolved in the 50+ years since this film was released, the battle sequences still make you scratch your head in wonder as to how Kubrick was able to render them with such verisimilitude. Criterion’s Blu-ray print has been transferred with an obvious attention to quality and detail that befits a Kubrick film.