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Paths of Glory(1957)
Safe in their picturesque chateau behind the front lines, the French General Staff passes down a direct order to Colonel Dax: take the Ant Hill at any cost. A blatant suicide mission, the attack is doomed to failure. Covering up their fatal blunder, the Generals order the arrest of three innocent soldiers, charging them with cowardice and mutiny. Dax, a lawyer in civilian life, rises to the men's defense but soon realizes that, unless he can prove that the Generals were to blame, nothing less than a miracle will save his clients from the firing squad.
For more about Paths of Glory and the Paths of Glory Blu-ray release, see Paths of Glory Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 7, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson
» See full cast & crew
Paths of Glory Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 7, 2010
Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory" (1957) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an exclusive new audio commentary with critic Gary Giddins; audio interview with director Stanley Kubrick conducted by author Jeremy Bernstein; archival interview with Kirk Douglas; new video interview with producer James B. Harris; new video interview with artist and actress Christiane Kubrick; interview with director Stanley Kubrick's longtime executive producer, Jan Harlan; segment from the French news program JT Basse Normandie; and the film's original theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 20-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory is a war film with strong anti-war sentiments. It is based on Humphrey Cobb's popular novel, which tells the story of five French soldiers charged with mutiny and executed during World War I. Director Kubrick bought the rights to the novel from Cobb's widow for $10,000, and shot Paths of Glory for under $1 million. The film was released in the United States in 1957, but it was banned in France and Spain (the French government eventually allowed the film to be screened in 1975, while in Spain the film remained banned until 1986).
France 1916. Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas, The Bad and the Beautiful, The Arrangement) a respected division leader, is ordered to attack Anthill, a strategic German stronghold. It is a suicide mission and everyone knows it – except General Paul Mireau (George Macready, Gilda), who dreams of capturing Anthill and earning himself a promotion.
Colonel Dax leads his men during the attack of Anthill but most of them are annihilated by heavy machine gun fire before they could reach the German positions. Upon witnessing the massacre, an entire company, which should provided support to Colonel Dax's men, remains in the trenches. Angered by the news that the attack isn't producing the result he had hoped for, General Mireau orders the artillery to shell the men in the trenches. But a brave officer (John Stein) refuses to obey the order and the attack of Anthill fails. and a court-martial gathered.
General George Broulard (Adolphe Menjou, The Front Page), a close friend of General Mireau, suggests that a dozen soldiers are tried by court-martial to set an example. Colonel Dax sarcastically offers that the entire division is punished, or at least its leader, which would be him. Realizing the absurdity of the situation, General Broulard asks that only three soldiers are selected to appear before the court-martial. A former lawyer, Colonel Dax volunteers to defend them.
The trial is a disgrace. Despite Colonel Dax's attempts to convince the court that the soldiers are innocent and therefore should not be punished, they are quickly found guilty and sentenced to death.
Great anti-war films typically emphasize the fact that during war there are no victors. Director Kubrick's Paths of Glory takes a slightly different approach, exposing the hypocrisy and arrogance of military leaders.
In one of the film's most powerful scenes, Colonel Dax is seen contemplating General Mireau's order to attack Anthill. He quietly attempts to explain that the attack won't produce anything, other than guarantee that his men will be killed in vain. Almost immediately, Colonel Dax's patriotism and loyalty to France are questioned in a manner that strangely does not feel dated at all, prompting him to quote the great Samuel Johnson: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
The film is characterized by director Kubrick's favored long continuous shots and extreme close-ups, his camera following men and objects with equal devotion. Additionally, the tension throughout the film is unbearable but never marred by melodrama. Naturally, even the most passionate speeches the main characters deliver feel somewhat restrained.
Douglas is fantastic as the disillusioned Colonel Dax. He fights a battle which he cannot possibly win, but his determination to confront a corrupt regime is what makes Paths of Glory such a fascinating film to behold. Menjou and especially Macready are also very convincing as the coldhearted French generals.
Paths of Glory Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Stanley Kubrick's technical assistant Leon Vitali supervised this new high-definition digital transfer, which was created on an HD Spirit 2K from a 35mm fine-grain master positive from UCLA film archivist Robert Gitt's collection. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system.
Telecine supervisor: Leon Vitali.
Telecine colorist: Jeff Chavez/Point 360, Los Angeles."
This is a very strong high-definition transfer, one that represents a dramatic upgrade over the SDVD release of Paths of Glory MGM released back in 1999. Fine object detail is very good, particularly during the daylight footage; clarity notably improved; and contrast levels carefully balanced, producing terrific results during the nighttime footage. The color-scheme is also impressive - there are a variety of rich blacks and gentle, natural looking grays and whites. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are not a serious issue of concern. Some mild noise corrections have been applied, but the film's grain structure is very much intact. There are no serious stability issues either. I also did not see any serious compression artifacts. Lastly, Criterion have performed a thorough cleanup, and as a result there are no annoying large scratches, cuts, debris, or stains. To sum it all up, this is yet another solid presentation of an important classic film, which certainly wasn't treated with the proper care when it appeared on SDVD. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Paths of Glory Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0 (Mono). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from Robert Gitt's 35mm monaural magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation."
The English LPCM 1.0 track is solid. Naturally, its dynamic amplitude is limited, but the sound conveys pleasing depth and fluidity. The dialog is clean, crisp, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. Gerald Fried's prominent music score has has certainly benefited from the loseless treatment, particularly as far as the low frequencies are concerned (the brass section sounds fuller and better balanced; there are no sound distortions either). Lastly, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hiss, or dropouts to report in this review.
Paths of Glory Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary - an audio commentary with critic Gary Giddins (Warning Shadows: Home Alone with Classic Cinema recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2010. This is a very strong commentary with an abundance of factual information pertaining to the film's production history, the true story that inspired it, the colorful cast (with very interesting comments by Mr. Giddins about the extreme political views some of the actors had), the film's reception (and banning) in France, director Stanley Kubrick's legacy, etc. In English, not subtitled.
Stanley Kubrick - an illustrated audio interview with director Stanley Kubrick conducted by author Jeremy Bernstein in 1966. In this very short interview director Stanley Kubrick addresses the different obstacles the cast and crew had to overcome, the film's critical reception, etc. In English, not subtitled. (3 min, 1080p).
Kirk Douglas - an interview with the legendary actor, from February 3, 1979, in which he discusses his career and work on Paths of Glory. At the end of the interview, Kirk Douglas also sings an old song he once performed with Burt Lancaster. In English, not subtitled. (30 min, 1080i).
James B. Harris - a new video interview with the producer of Paths of Glory, James B. Harris, in which he discusses the production history of the film and his work with director Stanley Kubrick. In English, not subtitled. (22 min, 1080p).
Christiane Kubrick - in this interview, painter, singer, and actress Christiane Kubrick recalls her encounter with Stanley Kubrick and work on Paths of Glory. Christiane Kubrick was Stanley Kubrick's wife from 1958 until his death in 1999. In English, not subtitled. (7 min, 1080p).
Jan Harlan - an interview with director Stanley Kubrick's longtime executive producer, Jan Harlan (Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut) in which he discusses the filmmaker's legacy. In English, not subtitled. (10 min, 1080p).
Theophile Maupas - a segment from the French news program JT Basse Normandie focusing on the tragedy involving corporal Theophile Maupas, which was used as a foundation for director Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory. Researcher Jacqueline Laisne addresses the tragic story. In French, with optional English subtitles. (4 min, 1080i).
Trailer - the original theatrical trailer for Paths of Glory. In English, not subtitled. (3 min, 1080p).
Booklet - a 20-page illustrated booklet containing James Naremore's essay "We Have Met the Enemy..." (Mr. Naremore is the author of On Kubrick . Among his other books are Acting in the Cinema , More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts , and the BFI monograph Sweet Smell of Success ).
Paths of Glory Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As expected, Criterion have given Stanley Kubrick's once very controversial Paths of Glory top-notch treatment. The film look and sounds the best it ever has. Criterion's Blu-ray disc also contains some very good new supplemental features. This is definitely the type of treatment The Killing needs. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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