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Combat -WWI, Drama - Historic

Paths of Glory (1957)


Duration 1h 28m Rating (UK) PG
Source of story A novel “Paths of Glory” by Humphrey Cobb
Director Stanley Kubrick
Writers/Script Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willmington, Jim Thompson
Starring Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris

Elevator Pitch: Two generals meet in the luxurious surrounding of a french palace during WWI one trying to persuade the other that a German position “The Anthill” should be attacked, despite the fact that it is virtually impregnable. General Mireau agrees on he basis that a success might result in his promotion. Despite vehement protests from the colonel of the regiment the general insists that the attack go ahead, so the colonel and some of his troops go over the top, but are pinned down by enemy fire, the rest refuse to leave the trench. A subsequent court martial results in a sample three soldiers to be sentenced to death by firing squad, as an example to the others. Can the colonel prevent this perversion of justice taking place.

Content: The generals dine and discuss in the lucxurious surrounfding of  French chateau. The troops stand about in the trench usually awaiting instructions. The colonel pleads with the general not to demand the attack. When it comes, the colonel and his men struggle across a bit of no-man’s land in the direction of the Anthill. The men are selected for execution and they wait gloomily in the semidarkness of a prison cell. The court martial takes place, with the expected outcome.

A View: This film was generally praised for its realistic view of trench warfare, although many of us will recollect the emotional moment when the guys go over the top in Blackadder Goes Forth. Kirk Douglas said it would not make any money and he was right, although it is rated as Number 60 on the IMDb List, and incidentally $300,000 of the $1 million production cost was Douglas’s salary. It is shot in an almost documentary style making it difficult to remember that it is a film of a novel. Probably important to be seen as part of the Stanley Kubrick filmography, but otherwise not an outing to get too excited about in my view.

Additional info: It was banned in a number of countries, not being shown in Spain until 1986 and in Switzerland until 1970, in France until 1975. Also banned in American military establishments.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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