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Paths of Glory [VHS]

286 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris
  • Directors: Stanley Kubrick
  • Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Humphrey Cobb, Jim Thompson
  • Producers: Kirk Douglas, Stanley Kubrick, James B. Harris
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Original recording reissued, NTSC
  • Language: English, German
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
  • VHS Release Date: May 1, 2001
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6304508557
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,244 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Stanley Kubrick had already made his talent known with the outstanding racetrack heist thriller The Killing, but it was the 1957 antiwar masterpiece Paths of Glory that catapulted Kubrick to international acclaim. Based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, developed by Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas, it would become one of the most powerful films about the wasteful insanity of warfare. In one of his finest roles, Douglas plays Colonel Dax, commander of a battle-worn regiment of the French army along the western front during World War I. Held in their trenches under the threat of German artillery, the regiment is ordered on a suicidal mission to capture an enemy stronghold. When the mission inevitably fails, French generals order the selection of three soldiers to be tried and executed on the charge of cowardice. Dax is appointed as defense attorney for the chosen scapegoats, and what follows is a travesty of justice that has remained relevant and powerful for decades. In the wake of some of the most authentic and devastating battle sequences ever filmed, Kubrick brilliantly explores the political machinations and selfish personal ambitions that result in battlefield slaughter and senseless executions. The film is unflinching in its condemnation of war and the self-indulgence of military leaders who orchestrate the deaths of thousands from the comfort of their luxurious headquarters. For many years, Paths of Glory was banned in France as a slanderous attack on French honor, but it's clear that Kubrick's intense drama is aimed at all nations and all men. Though it touches on themes of courage and loyalty in the context of warfare, the film is specifically about the historical realities of World War I, but its impact and artistic achievement remain timeless and universal. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 2, 2004
Format: DVD
In 1916 France Commander Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) wants General Mireau (George Macready) to have his battered division take the "Ant Hill", an impregnable German fortress, promising Mireau a promotion and another story if he succeeds. Mireau orders Dax (Kirk Douglas) to lead the charge, which is a complete failure. When soldiers are pinned down by German artillery and machine gun fire Mireau orders his own artillery to fire on their own trenches, screaming, "If those sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll take French ones!"

"Paths of Glory" has a deserved reputation as a great anti-war film but I think that director Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Humphrey Cobb's 1935 semi-fictional novel is a rather specific indictment of both a particular military and a particular war. The suicidal attack in the first act of the film was loosely based upon the battle for Fort Douamont during the Battle of Verdun, where over 300,000 French soldiers lost their lives. The assault, doomed to fail before it began, is ordered by French generals more concerned with prestige and promotions than the lives of their troops or the actual prospects for success. In the wake of the disaster three men are selected to be tried and then executed for cowardice. They are defended in court by their commander, Colonel Dax, the lone voice of reason speaking out against the insanity of what has happened.

This film was banned for almost twenty years in France and it is an indictment of the French military on a par with those films that have touched on the infamous Dreyfus case.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 1, 2003
Format: DVD
It has been almost 50 years since this anti-war film appeared, one which was banned in France until 1970. It is based on Humphrey Cobb's novel. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas who also produced it, the film examines a fictional (but nonetheless wholly believable) situation during World War One when French troops are ordered to achieve an impossible military objective: Climb and secure the "Ant Hill," a heavily-fortified German position. Of course the troops are decimated. Whom to blame? General Broulard (Adolph Menjou) who gave the order? The troops' general, General Mireau (George MacReady), whose career ambitions overcame his doubts about the order? The officer (Colonel Dax) who led the attack? General Broulard gives a second order: Select three of the survivors, charge them with cowardice, give them a perfunctory military trial, and then execute them. Their commanding officer is Colonel Dax (Douglas) who had been an attorney in civilian life. He is ordered to be the defense counsel. After the inevitable verdict, the three representatives are executed by a firing squad.

Kubrick presents all this on film as if it were a documentary of actual events. Appropriately, he filmed it in black-and-white, in part to dramatize the obvious juxtapositions of right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice, etc. The battlefield carnage is extensive but not gratuitous. For me, the insensitivity, indeed inhumanity of the two generals -- far removed from combat in luxurious comfort -- is far more upsetting than the assault on the "Ant Hill." The men who followed orders and lost their lives or their limbs may have died in vain but at least died with honor, if not glory. Kubrick leaves absolutely no doubt about the generals who sent them into battle.
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97 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Dr Tathata on May 25, 2005
Format: DVD
When you are the one who gets to decide who lives and who dies, what are the criteria that the rest of us should buy into before giving our consent? If a general, or a CEO for that matter, asks the impossible, how far must men go in following their orders before disobedience is permissible? When is it ok for a cog in the machine to stop being a machine and start being a human being? This film suggests that the Ant Hill could only have been taken by live soldiers, and if all the soldiers were being slaughtered in the attempt to cross no mans land, the few survivors should naturally turn back, and live to fight another day. Under these circumstances, taking the Hill would have been impossible.

Ah, but that was an embarrasment for the general who ordered the attack. His judgement could not have been wrong, so, therefore, the men must be cowards. The role of Reason, the nature of absurdity, courage, and cowardice are all examined in this simple story, and the implication is clear that it is better to die bravely in front of a firing squad than to grow comfortable with mendacity and cower before the truth. The real cowards in the story were those who ordered these men to their deaths on the battlefield, because they were afraid to say no and risk their reputations for daring, and also those who ordered their deaths in front of a firing squad, and also those who concealed the truth out of fear of the consequences. Again, it is better to die bravely than live in cowardice. And the bravest of them all was the colonel played by Kirk Douglas, who fought for reason, justice, truth, and against the enemy on every side, even when the enemy was his superior officer. Yes, the enemy can be found in your own ranks, even among your commanding officers.
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Terrible Cover
What do you mean? This shot of Kirk Douglas coming back into the trench after trying to get his men to advance after the first wave is classic! It shows the deflated look on his face which surmises the entire futility and idiotic aspects of war and of the mission he was tasked to complete. ... Read More
Nov 18, 2010 by Amazon Customer |  See all 4 posts
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