The pity of war has been a much-favoured film topic; the treachery of war much less so, though never more persuasively than in Paths of Glory
, Stanley Kubrick's breakthrough feature from 1957. Kirk Douglas gives one of his finest screen performances as Colonel Dax, the idealistic First World War soldier appalled by the arbitrary court-marshal meted out to three of his men after an impossible attempt to storm German lines goes disastrously wrong. George Macready is an utterly believable Gerneral Mireau, obsessed with his own honour and standing, whom Adolphe Majou complements tellingly as the urbane and cynical General Bruler. Those who know Kubrick from his later sprawling epics will be surprised at the tautness and concision shown here, even though the screenplay--which he co-wrote--has a certain theatrical stiffness.
On the DVD: Paths of Glory on disc reproduces well in full-screen format, and Gerald Fried's bitingly ironic score comes through powerfully. There are five dubbed and six subtitled languages. The original trailer is a masterpiece of gritty reportage, well worth reviving. Along with Dr Strangelove and 2001, this is Kubrick's most focussed and durable film. --Richard Whitehouse