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New on Disc: 'Paths of Glory' and more …

1 Nov, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Paths of Glory

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, Ralph Meeker, George Macready.
This adaptation of Humphrey Cobb’s unforgiving World War I novel is now an all-time classic but did limited business in its day. It apparently did manage to turn a profit almost certainly due to the resourcefulness of a young cinematic comer named Stanley Kubrick and a frugal budget (a third of which went to star Kirk Douglas). What amazes about the limited production funds is the perfect casting of the actors. Cinematically, the film still dazzles as much as it ever has. Its occasional whiplash editing maintains its punch, and the exteriors (whether in French trenches or in a famed battle scene that was shot on someone’s farm) are no more arresting than the interiors, which are architecturally staged almost like a chess game with the actors as players.
Extras: The bonus materials are first rate. I don’t think I’ve ever been so taken with Kubrick’s fourth feature. Some of this enthrallment was picked up on my own, but a lot of my response was sparked by this release’s great Gary Giddins’ commentary (atop a good printed essay by Kubrick scholar James Naremore), which is a model of what this kind of voiceover should be.
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Summer and Smoke

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Una Merkel, Rita Moreno, Pamela Tiffin, Laurence Harvey, John McIntire, Geraldine Page.
A perfect example of a movie that’s not very good yet absolute eyewash in the most positive sense, this stilted but gorgeously mounted adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play was a handsome view in theaters, also on laserdisc (for its day) and now, way belatedly, on DVD. It’s one of the new Olive Films releases of vintage Paramount titles — and the best-looking one they’ve brought out to date.
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Nova: Crash of Flight 447

Street 11/2
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
This documentary explores the case of the AirFrance Airbus A330 that disappeared for no apparent reason over the Atlantic on June 1, 2009, with the loss of all 288 lives. For the same reason that fictional movies about threatened planes will always have an audience, documentaries such as this are inevitably compelling — even when they’re dealing with an extreme example of highly technical jargon. “Nova” assembled a team of veteran pilots, engineers and safety sleuths to make the most educated guess possible as to why the Rio de Janeiro-to-Paris flight “fell out of the sky” (which is how the disaster has been described) when no A330 had ever before been involved in a mishap. Obviously motivating the project was one of the eerier takes on that familiar statement about how, if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
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Pretty Maids All in a Row

Available via WBshop’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, ‘R.’
Stars Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, Roddy McDowall.
A high-school black comedy that couldn’t be released today without sparking reactive Op-Ed pyrotechnics, French director Roger Vadim’s first Hollywood movie is, momentarily putting aside its odder curiosities, the sexiest showcase Angie Dickinson ever got on screen. Of all people, the screenplay is by “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, and the title song is performed by The Osmonds.
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