Clare's Criterion Collection

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Review # 19 – Paths of Glory


Spine # 538

Available on Blu-ray & DVD

  • New high definition digital transfer made from 35 mm film elements restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with MGM Studios, with funding provided by the Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New audio commentary featuring critic Gary Giddins
  • Excerpt from a 1966 audio interview with director Stanley Kubrick
  • Television interview from 1979 with star Kirk Douglas
  • New video interviews with Kubrick’s longtime executive producer Jan Harlan, Paths of Glory producer James B. Harris, and actress Christiane Kubrick
  • French television piece about a real-life World War I execution that partly inspired the film
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar James Naremore

    New cover by F. Ron Miller

2014 has marked the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of The Great War. A 4 year bloody mess across the landscape of Europe that would claim the lives of over 16 million people and cause a further 21 million to be wounded. After watching Paths of Glory I can understand how those horrific figures were achieved 😦

Right from the start the complete disregard for life was there for all to see and continued all the way through the film. The contemptuous attitude of the Generals, safe in their opulent mansions miles from enemy lines made me mad, raging mad.

An impossible attack is launched after the promise of promotion, 8000 men sent into the trenches to flatter the ego of an arrogant man, a man who would later kill 3 of his own. I do hope you are now asking yourself why someone, a man in charge of thousands of lives would have his own men killed and not just but anyone, no, killed by their comrades, their Brothers in Arms!

According to our General there was no such condition as shellshock, later referred to as combat stress reaction and more commonly known today as post-traumatic stress disorder. Those showing signs were told to “snap out of it”. Orders were to be obeyed at all times and sadly for our 3, when faced with the impossible attack they were made to pay the ultimate price for the Company. The charge was “cowardice in the face of the enemy”

There is a famous scene, one you may have already seen even without having watched the whole film, where Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) vents his frustration

“I apologize… for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!”

If only he has been able to protect his men more from the bureaucrats and BS 😦 The final scene of the film featured the future wife of Director Stanley Kubrick. It is a little hard to put into words what happens during those minutes but the affect on everyone in that bar is there for all to see.

As I said at the start, this film made me mad and still does as I write this review. Mistakes were made during WWI but when you look around the world today it seems that those who pull the strings have chosen to ignore the harsh lessons of 1914-1918. Whilst men may no longer be sent “over the top” they are still fighting pointless wars on behalf of those safely away from the battlefields. A 100 years later corporate HQ’s have replaced the mansions!

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