Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory

Streaming Video - 1958
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This powerful, fact-based absurdity-of-war film stars Kirk Douglas as a commanding officer who defends three scapegoats on trial for a failed offensive that occurred within the French Army in 1916.


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This shattering film about war's inhumanity is absolutely a masterpiece. Kirk Douglas's best performance, with a great cast. The bizarre Timothy Carey, as the soldier who breaks down completely at his execution, is a standout. In black and white, which suits the grimness of the subject matter, only an hour and a half long. You won't be fast forwarding!

Aug 29, 2017

I recently borrowed the DVD Gallipoli (excellent film with Mel Gibson and Mark Lee directed by Australian Peter Weir about - basically the slaughter of ANZAC troops at Gallipoli during WWI). In the bonus material Peter Weir said he was influenced by The Paths of Glory (starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Stanley Kubric) I had never seen the film or heard of it, so I decided to borrow it from the library. Like Gallipoli it involves officers making bad decisions and passing the blame onto the enlisted men. In Paths of Glory – the troops are ordered to advance directly into the German firing line. The men start to retreat (they can’t advance) and their own officer gives an order to shell his own troops for retreating. The officers then decide to kill some of their own men for cowardice – they finally narrow it down to three men who have had bad interaction with their commander and thus get chosen. Kirk Douglas (did you know he is still alive – 100 years old now!) plays a Colonel who was a criminal lawyer pre-War years and he represents the men during their court-marshal. Through out the film you are wondering, did they ever prosecute the officers who made this bad decision? The three go through the court marshal and Douglas represents them, but cannot save them from the corrupt officer staff who act like they are doing justice by making someone pay for their bad decisions. Kubrick does an excellent job through his imagery and Douglas always plays the hero, the last scene he is ordered back to the front. Basically, war is hell. WWI seemed to be particularly hellish and both Gallipoli and Paths of Glory portray it very well.

plotline Apr 08, 2017

Brutal Irony In The Trenches

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," - Samuel Johnson, 1775

Here, Kubrick establishes an important thematic component that is present in many of his great films. The idea of entrenched authority answerable only to itself and running amok with cruel insensitivity would seem like the fearful concerns of a paranoiac except that Kubrick is informed by reality.

The film is named after and based on Humphrey Cobb's 1935 novel which was based on actual events, making Kubrick's depiction of the sadistic generals unassailable. Their ill-advised forays into the battlefield are horrifying. When their folly turns into unimaginable tragedy we enter the realm of the demented.
Willing to maintain their status and power at a terrible human cost the depraved military leaders persecute brave men who are guilty only of following orders. From a moral stance, the viewer is poised to watch hopefully as one man steps forward to begin the search for truth and the fight for justice.

Maintaining status and power despite the human toll; Kubrick gives this subject a thorough and unflinching examination in PATHS OF GLORY and it would be a topic he would scrutinize more than once with fierce intensity. In SPARTACUS (1960) the cruelty of Roman might seeks to strangle human freedom. In DR. STRANGELOVE (1964), a deranged general (again the military) strives for purity of essence by driving mankind to the brink of doom. And perhaps most chillingly, in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), a nearly "human", all- controlling computer, evolves into a homicidal entity determined to preserve the integrity of a space mission by eliminating "human error".

The validity and impact of PATHS OF GLORY is underscored by its twenty year ban by the French government. The film is a seamless melding of technique (the dolly shots of Kirk Douglas in the trenches are remarkable for their power), storytelling (the script is highly charged but not hysterical), and beautifully nuanced performances (McCready and Menjou are utterly dynamic; Douglas gives his outrage a perfectly modulated naturalism).
Kubrick's emotional passion is unalloyed by his intellectual cool in this film. And that fact makes PATHS OF GLORY my favorite of all the director's work.
Recommended: Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930).

Mar 21, 2017

Agree with all those fine write ups by other fans of Thompson, Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick. A fine movie that depicts the ruthlessness in the sacrifice of life in battles drawn up by those far behind the front line commanders (generals and politicians.) Plenty of biting quotes in IMDb:

Feb 26, 2016

From two pompously bedecked generals buttering croissants while callously discussing how many men will die the following day to a cowardly booze-soaked lieutenant saving his own reputation at the sake of another man’s life this is perhaps Stanley Kubrick’s most scathing damnation of war’s many inanities. Lacking both the nihilistic cheekiness of "Doctor Strangelove" and the vulgar sarcasm of "Full Metal Jacket", Kubrick’s straightforward approach involved transforming a farmer’s field into a pitted smoking vision of Hell with apocalyptic explosions raining dirt upon the frightened faces of men huddled in foxholes and trenches while their superiors exchange pleasantries in a richly appointed chateau turned headquarters. Unrelentingly angry and far too bitter for mere satire it’s little wonder that France and its allies banned the film for years in order to save face. Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker and Adolphe Menjou round out a sterling cast and Kubrick’s flair for tracking shots and intrusive lighting adds a touch of the surreal.

fipper Sep 03, 2015

A definite must see for cinephiles. You will see why Kubrick and Douglas are known as greats.

Jun 09, 2015

This is a 1957 American anti-war film directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb.
During World War I, the French soldiers refuse to continue a suicidal attack.
Three soldiers are picked up for a court-martial.
Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of those soldiers, attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in the court-martial.
It shows that some generals are undeniably and profoundly selfish.

Apr 22, 2015

This will sound contradictory, but this is a good film with some dreadful acting performances. Kubrick shows early brilliance in detail - the lighting, photography, all the set ups. The history is reasonably accurate, given that it's presented as fiction based on a true story. Some of the main players, particularly Adolph Menjou, are terrific. Some of the others, however, are very one-dimensional and give the impression of being asked unexpectely to improvise. Kirk Douglas is ... Kirk Douglas. Well worth watching to round out your Kubrick experience, otherwise maybe not so much.

Chaos1214 Dec 15, 2014

"You know what Thomas Paine said about patriotism... It's the last refuge of a scoundrel." :|

aaa5756 Jul 12, 2014

One of the best films I have seen in this year. It was entertaining and interesting. Great performances a must see for all. Truly a really great movie worth the long library wait or the price to rent from a Red Box. Well worth the price of admission to any theater.

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aaa5756 Jul 12, 2014

“One person can make a difference and every person should try.” –John F Kennedy

aaa5756 Jul 12, 2014

“Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither.”-Ben Franklin

Feb 16, 2014

Title taken from Thomas Gray's 'Elegy written in a country churchyard': "The paths of glory lead but to the grave".


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