Speaking of the MGM release, Criterion’s high def presentation improves upon it dramatically, breathing new life into every frame of the film. The kind of omnipresent murkiness that was present in the previous DVD has been replaced by images with an extraordinary amount of depth and detail, even in darker scenes. The black-and-white images show impressive consistency and range, with a wide array of shades of gray providing excellent detail. Damage previously seen on the print is almost nonexistent here.
The audio is presented in an uncompressed monaural soundtrack that obviously doesn’t have much range, but features a very clean and clear mix, with dialogue driving most of the track. Bursts of artillery shelling or gunfire are represented faithfully, free from any edgy moments.
Most of the supplements Criterion presents here are interviews. A visual essay on Kubrick’s burgeoning style would have been a nice inclusion, but what we get here is quite good. There are new interviews with producer James B. Harris, Kubrick’s widow Christiane, who also is the only woman who stars in the film, and longtime Kubrick executive producer Jan Harlan, who focuses more on Kubrick’s career as a whole.
Vintage extras include a brief audio-only interview with Kubrick from 1966 and a 1979 TV interview from the program Parkinson with Kirk Douglas. There’s also an excerpt from a French news program from 1997 that looks at a real World War I execution that partly served as inspiration for the film.
Giving a more academic look at the film are an audio commentary by critic Gary Giddins and an essay by scholar James Naremore in the included booklet.
The Bottom Line
Paths of Glory is one of Kubrick’s finest works, and with the underwhelming results of some Kubrick Blu-rays (A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket), it’s nice to see the film given the grade-A treatment.