Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paths of Glory

To date I have only seen five Kirk Douglas films with the fifth one being Stanley Kubrick's 1957 masterpiece Paths of Glory. Kirk Douglas is an actor that I haven't really found time or opportunity to appreciate as much as I would really like. However, I would dare say that Paths of Glory could be his very best performance. Bold statement from me, but this is a bold movie without any frills. Stanley Kubrick undoubtedly worked his best magic with a huge canvas and with lavish colors, but thanks to a fantastic cast and Kubrick's own ingenious style of shooting Paths of Glory managed to become a formidable movie titan. 

I can easily say that is is one of the best war movies I've seen. I've seen a ton of them and most of them are insanely long, Paths of Glory somehow manages to leave a lasting impact in only 88 minutes. It's also in black and white. That shouldn't be odd, but it is for me. To really watch the beauty of a Kubrick film one needs to see his films made using color. It's just... Well, once you see them you know what I'm talking about. They are freaking amazing to look at. 

However, this movie is just as excellent without the use of color. (So is Dr. Strangelove, for that matter.)

Kirk Douglas, to me, symbolizes the man's man type of aura that guys like John Wayne and Robert Mitchum had about them. He doesn't seem like the type of actor that would really latch onto Kubrick's style. So it's surprising that he made one more movie with Kubrick. Good thing he did, though. 

Kubrick doesn't usually make movies that feature a man's man type of character without making them look foolish. At least, not from the ones I've seen. His outings with Kirk Douglas were a bit different, though. Douglas was the man's man each time. 

Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory is completely sympathetic and he is without a doubt the good guy in this chaos. Seeing him in this movie made me think about what would have happened if Kubrick had worked with a good guy type like John Wayne. Think about that for a minute. It almost seems like maybe it could have happened in another world. However, Douglas's character is held hostage by a corrupt system. Despite his uncompromising sense of values and leadership it appears that his soldiers will be put to death no matter what he does or says. I'm not sure the Duke could have taken on a movie such as this. If he had it's slipped by me. 

The attack on the Anthill was doomed from the start and it all was pushed because some snobby general was bucking for another star. Kirk Douglas's character is that of a helpless colonel that must lead men into a hopeless battle and then stand up to defend them when they are accused of cowardice in the aftermath. 

George Macready and Adolphe Menjou were excellent in their roles as the "true" villains of this film. Especially, Macready, the brilliant onscreen dick he was in this movie will make you want to shoot him. 

I'd say more but this is such a short film that I'm not sure I really can. The war scenes that featured the trenches were remarkable. Just looking at it was effective enough to make me claustrophobic. Just incredibly constructed. The transition from war to courtroom is handled extremely well, too. 

The short scenes in the general's quarters and during the court-martial... Those buildings must've looked fantastic in color, but as they are presented it still looks marvelous. 

This movie is fantastic. If I had to say I'd give it a 9/10 rating. I've got to see it a few more times before I feel comfortable ranking them anything else. 


  1. Kirk Douglas is a very interesting guy. He was a huge star in the 50s and early 60s but didn't always take the safe route. He has done many anti-mainstream roles and movies. He was also partly responsible for breaking the blacklist. The blacklisted writers had to use fake names to work and on Kirk's movie "Lonely Are The Brave," Kirk refused to use the fake name in the credits and put the real name in. It was the first crack in the blacklist and after he did that, the blacklisting was soon over.

  2. 2 other great Kirk Douglas movies I recommend are, "Lonely Are The Brave" and "Ace In The Hole."

    1. The other movies I've only seen are Spartacus, In Harm's Way, The War Wagon, and The Way West. So both those would be first time viewings for me. I'm also not too familiar with Michael Douglas movies, either. Think I've only seen Wall Street, Falling Down, and Fatal Attraction. Weird how I've never watched anything else by them.

  3. I found this on Michael Douglas' wiki page and thought it was interesting

    In 1975, Douglas received from his father, Kirk Douglas, the rights to the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Michael went on to produce the film of the same name with Saul Zaentz.[12] Kirk Douglas hoped to portray McMurphy himself, having starred in an earlier stage version, but was deemed too old for the part by his son Michael. Kirk relented, and the lead role went instead to Jack Nicholson, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Douglas won the Award for Best Picture for producing the film.

    My favorite Michael Douglas movies are

    The Wonder Boys
    War Of The Roses
    The Game