Paths of Glory

Produced in Germany by Bryna and released by United Artists in the U. S. Dec. 25, 1957, budget $935,000, black and white 35mm negative, 1.66:1 screen ratio, mono sound, 87 mins., Laserdisc released 1985, DVD released June 29, 1999.


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This anti-war film was based on a 1935 novel with fictional characters and an attack on the fictional "Ant Hill." However, the historical setting was accurate, especially the reality of steadily increasing resistance of soldiers on the Western Front in the Great War to blindly follow the orders of aloof and brutal generals. In Kubrick's film, the attack scene led by Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) is followed by the failure of B Company to leave the trenches. Gen. Paul Mireau (George Macready) orders his own artillery to fire on the trenches, declaring "If those little sweethearts won't face German bullets, then they'll face French ones!" This action in fact took place in 1915 at the battle of Perthes-les-Hurlus in Champagne, when General Reveilhac ordered his artillery commander to fire on his troops and then later demanded a court martial for the supposed cowardice demonstrated by his troops. Another case involved a General Delatoile who, according to Richard Watt, "announced to his staff that it was his intention to shoot the whole company, the 45th Brigade, to set an example" after their attack against the Germans failed in April, 1915. Later, his subordinates persuaded him to reduce the number, finally getting him down to six men, who were chosen by lot. The end of the film is inconclusive, with Col. Dax appearing to get ready for another attack. In May 1917, the French army was shaken by a general mutiny affecting half its soldiers, and causing the new French commander Henri-Philippe Petain to adopt a more cautious strategy.

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revised 11/1/06 by Steven Schoenherr | clip | Filmnotes