Paths of Glory on Blu-ray

Sunday, 18 September 2016 23:00 Written by 

Paths of Glory - out no on Blu-ray“Paths of Glory” is a searing critique on the futility of war, directed by Stanley Kubrick (“The Shining”, “A Clockwork Orange”) and starring Kirk Douglas (“Spartacus”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”). Douglas plays Colonel Dax, a World War I French officer coerced into sending his troops on an impossible assault on a German fortified position, primarily to appease the media and public opinion back home.

The inevitable happens and the attack fails disastrously; countless soldiers are killed and the rest either retreat or refuse to go over the top in the first place. The top brass is incensed and orders the selection of three men to be court martialled as an example to the rest, with death by firing squad a near certainty. Dax, a lawyer by trade, demands to be their defending counsel, clinging on to the slender hope of saving them.

This is a very lean and mean war film with something for everyone. There is a tremendous (if horrific and very realistic) battle scene, tense courtroom drama and ample political wrangling. Throughout, Douglas shines like a beacon of anger, despair and determination.

The film starkly highlights the massive disparity between the luxurious, safe and distant lifestyle of the commanding officers with the gritty, dark and depressing lives of the troops on the front line. The order to send up to 8,000 men to their deaths is given dispassionately, the offer of promotion dangled tantalisingly to cancel out any guilt that might be felt. Adolphe Menjou (“A Star is Born”) and George Macready (“Gilda”) are superb as the smarmy, superior generals giving the orders.

The audience is constantly challenged to think about the issues raised, be they the covering up of an accidental friendly-fire incident, the lengths one should or could go to force frightened or reluctant soldiers to enter the fray, and the relevance and weighting of man’s deeds before a transgression.

The film may be presented in superbly crisp black and white, but there is plenty of grey ground within these debates. Similarly, there are no rivers of red blood but the huge human toll of the war is unmistakable.

As one of the interviewees in the bonus content remarks, we do not see the enemy, a directorial decision that seems to emphasise the sense that the French army is waging a war against or within itself. The ending also highlights the fact that the opposing forces and nations are made up of ordinary, vulnerable people just like the men focused on in the story.

“Paths of Glory” may be one of Kubrik’s earlier and less well-known films but it is a stunning piece of work that deserves full recognition.

Special features on the disc include:

  • High-definition digital presentation
  • New video interview with Kubrick scholar Peter Kramer
  • New video interview with filmmaker Richard Ayoade
  • New video interview with film historian Richard Combs
  • New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Isolated music & effects track
  • Booklet featuring the words of Kubrick, and more!

“Paths of Glory” (1957) is out now, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment Ltd. The main feature has a running time of 88 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Monday, 19 September 2016 08:10

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