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The Stanley Kubrick Collection on DVD

A Special Odyssey

  Eyes Wide Shut *  
The Killing Paths of Glory Lolita *
Dr. Strangelove * 2001: a space odyssey * A Clockwork Orange *
Barry Lyndon * The Shining * Full Metal Jacket *

* Editor's Note: These highlighted reviews are updated as of the June 2001 boxed set featuring remastered audio and video. That set includes Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut, and a separate disc documentary "Stanley Kubrick, A Life in Pictures."

by Jim Bray

The Kubrick Collection

The Stanley Kubrick Collection...

After the rush to bring the Kubrick Collection to market in order to cash in on "Eyes Wide Shut" and Kubrick's death, Warner Home Video took some flack for having re-released what was basically the laserdisc versions of Kubrick's films (except for "Eyes Wide Shut," which wasn't part of the original boxed set). With Kubrick's legendary creative control over all aspects of his films, there apparently wasn't time to give the films the whole HDTV transfer for DVD release.

The result was a boxed set that, while far, far better than nothing, didn't exploit DVD technology to its best - and which therefore didn't do Kubrick's films the justice they deserved.

That was then. The re-issuing of the boxed set not only brings "Eyes Wide Shut" into the collection (though "Paths of Glory" and "The Killing" are still missing), but a fabulous, 2.5 hour documentary on the genius filmmaker himself, his career, and the outstanding library he has left behind.

Each film has now been digitally remastered, though only 2001 is anamorphic, and the audio tracks have also been beefed up wherever possible. The result is a Kubrick collection that's probably as good as it'll get until the next video technology leap comes along.

On the whole, the black and white films look fine (DVD can do black and white without breaking a sweat) but not much different from the first DVD release, but the color films look really good.

Why didn't they include "The Killing" and "Paths of Glory" in the set this time? Both are legitimate Kubrick classics; in fact, I'd venture to say that "Paths of Glory" is a better movie overall than "Full Metal Jacket" (I'm not dumping on "Jacket" - a legitimate masterpiece. I'm building up "Paths.") Both of these early Kubrick films are also available on DVD - and their packaging includes better liner notes than you get with the boxed set.

So the re-issued boxed set still has warts, but in all it's a far more satisfying version than the original boxed set..

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

It was awfully thoughtful of Mr. Kubrick to leave us with one last, and delicious, mind game.

With "Eyes Wide Shut," the legendary director goes out not with a whimper, but with a bang. The movie is a strange blend of psychology, fantasy, sexuality, and morality - and a visual and aural experience that shouldn't be missed - even if you can't make head nor tail of the plot.

"Eyes Wide Shut" isn't what you expect, and it definitely isn't the movie the media said it is. It's also one of Kubrick's most positive films, as it deals with a couple going through some marital strife, yet working it out for the good of them both and their family.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star as a married couple whose love is tested and - ultimately - found true.

Kidman, as Alice Harford, is great, especially in the opening party scene where she's had too much champagne, but it's really Cruise's film - and he also turns in a creditable performance as Doctor Bill Harford, a successful and decent Manhattan GP.

"Eyes Wide Shut" opens with the couple going to a Christmas party hosted by one of Bill's well-heeled customers. It's quite the bash and while schmoozing Bill and Alice are both come onto by strangers - and both notice the other's supposed flirting, which plants a seed of suspicion into their minds that will, in Bill's case, flower into a fully-blown crisis of conscience and trust.

The scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie, as well as providing more than a bit of foreshadowing of lurid events to come: when Bill is called by his host (Sydney Pollack) to minister to an attractive and very naked guest who suffered a drug overdose, it's actually the beginning of a nocturnal journey that will cause him to question who and what he is, as well as putting him into legitimate danger.

The next night, while relaxing at home over a shared joint, Bill and Alice have a minor, drug-induced tiff during which Alice confesses that she had fantasized about dumping everything in her life for a cheap and tawdry affair with a mysterious naval officer. This devastates Bill, whose confidence in his wife's utter fidelity has been completely rattled, and when he's summoned into the night to attend a patient, you can see his mental wheels turning the whole time.

Rather than coming home, Bill wanders and thinks. He very nearly has a sexual encounter with a prostitute - and probably would have if not for a timely call on his cell phone from his wife. Guilty and chastened, but still angry and more confused than ever, he heads back out into the night and, eventually, an encounter (the "famous orgy sequence") that will challenge his beliefs, his love, and possibly his life and those of his family.

"Eyes Wide Shut" is actually a very moral tale that uses its setting (which includes strange, cult-like "psychosexual" behavior) to push the benefits of a loving, monogamous relationship. Kubrick doesn't beat you over the head with this, of course. Bill comes to his epiphany almost by osmosis, as his journey into darkness makes him realize he's not only over his head and being drawn along a course he hadn't really intended to follow, but that the things that were ultimately important to him were right back at home where he started - and are now in danger of being lost to him.

Kubrick's fingerprints, not surprisingly, are all over "Eyes Wide Shut." The movie is lush, with gorgeous sets, colors, and images that use all of Kubrick's trademarks. The film looks like a Kubrick movie in every way, fortunately, and it acts like one too as it delights your senses while messing with your head.

Likewise, the film's soundtrack is detailed and layered - and I was thrilled to see Kubrick making great use of digital stereo surround sound technology. "Eyes Wide Shut" has what's easily the best Kubrick audio track ever. I've always been disappointed that Kubrick appears to have ignored the audio quality in some of his films, except for "2001: a space odyssey," and "Eyes Wide Shut" shows that "the master" had it within him to be as creative with his sound (not just his music) as he was with his visuals.

The film also shows that Kubrick never lost his master touch of choosing just the right music for the right effect. While Chris Isaak's "Baby Done a Bad, Bad Thing" was featured in the film's promo material (and used effectively, though it gave a false impression of what was in the movie and what the movie is about), that song only appears once, and very briefly.

Rather more importantly, there's the use of a beautiful digital recording of Gyorgi Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata II" and piano work that sends shivers up and down your spine - as the same shivers are going up and down Cruise's character's spine as well (though is aren't caused by the music!). Kubrick has used Ligeti's eerily strange music many times, and while it isn't stuff to which I'd sit down and listen on my stereo, Kubrick uses it to brilliant effect.

The whole of these visual and aural parts is much greater than their sum, and I sat through the closing credits thinking that, while that was definitely one of the stranger films I've seen in a while, it was a daring and incandescent final effort on the part of a great director. So I sat down and watched it again the next day.

For the DVD, Warners has chosen to release "Eyes Wide Shut" in a full screen aspect ratio of the original camera negative. This supposedly complies with Kubrick's intent, and that's as it should be. As a confirmed widescreen movie fan, however, I was a little sorry to see this - but about five minutes into the film I forgot all about it and never gave it a moment's thought. The movie is definitely not pan and scan; rather, it's shot more like movies of old and there's never the sense that you aren't getting the full picture, that something has been sliced off the sides as happens with Pan&Scan videos.

The video - and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio - quality are superb. Since it's "full screen," the DVD is not presented in anamorphic format, so widescreen TV owners will have to content themselves with bars on the sides - or stretch the picture to fill. Colors are vivid and rich, as are the sounds and the music. "Eyes Wide Shut" literally leaps out of the screen, not so much because of incredibly sharp picture quality but because the whole package was so masterfully crafted. The DVD's capabilities only make this better, and I feel sorry for those who only watch the film on VHS.

Extras include interviews with stars Cruise and Kidman, as well as director/friend of Kubrick Steven Spielberg. You also get some production notes, the trailer, and TV commercials.

Thanks, Stanley, for astonishing me again. May you rest in peace.

Eyes Wide Shut from Warner Home Video
159 min, full screen, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Thomas Gibson, Leelee Sobieski, Alan Cumming, Todd Field, Rade Serbedzija, Tres Hanley, Vinessa Shaw, Madison Eginton
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael, inspired by "Tramnovelle" by Arthur Schnitzler
Produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick

You Odyssey this one, though...

2001: a Space Odyssey has benefited the most from the remastering. The picture is presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) and the Dolby Digital audio sounds spectacular. Colors are bright and true, and the music positively fills the home theater.

This groundbreaking movie triumph looks (and almost sounds) as if it were shot yesterday.

On its release in 1968, 2001 rewrote the special effects book, pushing the outside of the technology envelope. It was my introduction to Kubrick and still occupies a special place in my consciousness.

What story there is (as with most of Kubrick's films, the movie is more of an experience than a straightforward tale) follows mankind's search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The intelligence in this case has been busy messing with humanity's heads - back in the days before Man was really Man - and monitoring the progress of its experiment via a strategically-placed beacon on the lunar surface.

2001 also features Kubrick's masterful use of classical music to enhance his beautiful visuals. Examples include Strauss' "Blue Danube" to illustrate the graceful astro ballet of spaceships in motion, while the tedium of long space voyages is given the perfect mood by a sequence from Khatchaturian's "Gayaneh Ballet."

Originally released in stereo, the movie is now in Dolby Digital 5.1 and though there isn't a whole lot of surround in it, the digital treatment is welcome. The DVD is in the widescreen aspect ratio of the original "super Panavision" release.


2001: a space odyssey, from Warner Home Video
148 min, widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke
Produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange

Kubrick's follow up to "2001" was the masterpiece "A Clockwork Orange," in my opinion one of the best movies ever made.

This social satire is disturbing, violent, funny, and thought provoking at the same time - and every time I've watched it since its 1971 release I get more out of it. Not only that, but the older I get, the more levels I discover there are upon which this film works - and the more it has to say.

In "Orange," protagonist Alex (the perfectly cast Malcolm McDowell) tells his story. A pampered teenager in a future world that looks more likely every year, Alex and his "droogs" spend their evenings getting high and terrorizing the countryside and those in it.

An amoral and vicious thug, reality finally catches up with Alex and he's imprisoned for murder. While biding his time incarcerated, he is accepted for a controversial treatment that ultimately "cures" him of his sociopathic bent through a brainwashing technique that makes him physically incapable of doing harm - or even of defending himself.

This raises the question of whether the dehumanizing cure is worse than the social disease, and whether what's basically an artificially created human automaton can really be considered a truly human being.

Then, of course, there are all those innocent and not-so-innocent people Alex wronged in the past, who have their own axes to grind...

Kubrick once again uses classical music, synthesized on the Moog for the most part, so masterfully you'd think John Williams had written the score - except that Williams never composed the selections from Beethoven, Rossini etc. used in this movie.

The camera work, design, indeed the entire package is superbly executed. "A Clockwork Orange" is definitely in my "top five" films of all time.

This DVD release finally does the film justice. The audio has been remixed into multichannel Dolby Digital, which particularly benefits the wonderful music. Sound quality is very good, and the video quality is bright and colorful. Alas, the film isn't anamorphic, due to the original aspect ratio, but it "stretches" very well.

Also on the "Clockwork" disc are the theatrical trailer, and a list of awards the film won.

A Clockwork Orange, from Warner Home Video
137 minutes, widescreen, Dolby Digital
Starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Miriam Karlin
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Anthony Burgess
Produced and Directed by Stanley Kubrick


The oldest film in the Kubrick boxed set is "Lolita," the racy story of a middle-aged man who becomes obsessed with the teenage daughter of his landlady.

Starring James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, and Peter Sellers, this film's outright sexuality and "February - September romance" must have been pretty controversial in 1961.

Humbert Humbert (Mason) arrives in a New Hampshire town to spend his summer before taking up a gig at an Ohio college in the fall. He rents a room from Charlotte Haze (Winters), his decision to rent being made by the sight of the very young Lolita sunning in the backyard in a bikini.

Unable to stop thinking about Lolita, Humbert ends up marrying Charlotte so he could remain close to the young girl. And close he gets, indeed...

For her part, Lolita is a little tramp who has learned early how to manipulate men - and has it down to a fine art. While in the 1990's, Humbert would be considered a sexual predator, Kubrick's movie paints Lolita as someone who knows exactly what she's doing and doesn't really get anything she either hasn't asked for or doesn't deserve.

Kubrick's "Lolita" is funny and sexy and full of terrific performances. Mason is first rate as the obsessed man under the spell of a witch, who risks losing everything to satisfy his addiction. Sue Lyon has great screen presence and her Lolita is exasperatingly believable. Peter Sellers is his usual chameleon-like self and Shelley Winters is perfectly cast as the unlucky woman who happens to be Lolita's mother.

The DVD's black and white picture is in widescreen, though not anamorphic, and it looks very good. Audio is Dolby Digital mono - directed, as it should be, to the center channel.

Lolita, from Warner Home Video
153 minutes, B&W widescreen, Dolby Digital Mono
starring James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers
Screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov, based on his novel
Produced by James B. Harris, Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Doctor Strangelove

The boxed set contains the same "special edition" version of this film as released by Columbia Tristar in early 2001.

Subtitled "or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb," Kubrick's "black comedy" came out at the height of the Cold War and details the frightening scenario of a whacko American general who sends his wing of B-52 nuclear bombers to attack their Soviet targets.

Once news of General Jack Ripper's unauthorized action gets out, all hell breaks loose as US President Muffley (Peter Sellers) tries to prevent the inevitable nuclear holocaust from unfolding.

Most of the action takes place in "The War Room," where the president and his top advisors meet strategically, Burpelson Air Force Base - General Ripper's command - and aboard one of the B-52 bombers on its way deep into Russia.

"Dr. Strangelove" has an outstanding cast. Sterling Hayden is chilling as General Ripper, George C. Scott plays a flaky General "Buck" Turgidson, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Peter Sellers plays three completely different-looking-and-sounding characters in a real performance tour de force. The supporting cast includes Slim Pickens as Major "King" Kong, pilot of the B-52, Keenan Wynn in a brief appearance as Major "Bat" Guano - a tough as nails officer whose troops storm Ripper's Burpelson Base. There's even a very young James Earl Jones as one of the B-52's crew.

There are lots of laughs in this film - though quite often you're laughing in spite of the disturbing events unfolding. The movie lampoons the cold war mentality and technology very well and if the subject matter weren't so serious this movie would be a lot funnier than it is already.

The DVD is in the original black and white, and with "multiple aspect ratios" (they change periodically during the film) and it looks good, though not nearly as sharp as some black and white DVD's I've seen. Audio is Dolby Digital, but the mono signal is directed to the front left and right stereo speakers, meaning that depending upon where you sit in your viewing room, sounds can seem to emanate from almost anywhere. This disc is actually a Columbia Pictures release, which may explain the difference in audio strategies. I prefer Warners' approach of using true mono to the center channel.

The audio and video don't really jump out at you as being better than the earlier Warners' DVD release, but they're fine nonetheless.

Extras on the new version include a fascinating documentary "The Art of Stanley Kubrick from Short Films to Dr. Strangelove," which is an excellent look at the early career of the groundbreaking filmmaker. There's also another featurette specifically on the making of Dr. Strangelove, a split screen interview with actors Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, a gallery of original advertising art, theatrical trailers, talent files, and production notes.

Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
93 minutes, B&W widescreen, Dolby Digital
Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Peter George & Terry Southern, based on the book "Red Alert" by Peter George
Produced and Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Barry Lyndon

One of the most beautiful movies, visually, Barry Lyndon's production design was inspired by painters of the 18th century era in which the film is set. The movie was also shot using lenses that allowed the use of natural light - and it shows. Every shot in Barry Lyndon looks like it could be hung on a gallery wall - and the film also has a documentary feel that adds to the realism. Kudos to John Alcott, the cinematographer, and Ken Adam, the production designer - and to Kubrick's vision of course.

Redmond Barry is a poor Irish lad with dreams of grandeur. The movie follows his methods and his machinations aimed at getting him the brass ring, through enlistment in - and desertion from - the British and Prussian armies, his time as a professional gambler, and his marriage of convenience to the lovely lady Lyndon, from whence his title came.

Redmond Barry has his share of ups and downs in his life, many of which are self inflicted in one way or another, but on the whole, he has a decent ride.

Redmond, as played by Ryan O'Neal, doesn't really come off as an unlikeable person, though he certainly has a way of rubbing people the wrong way.

The story is probably the Barry Lyndon's weakest component, and it unfolds very slowly over the film's three hour and five minute running time. Not that the film is boring; it isn't. Perhaps "leisurely" is a more fitting description of its unfolding. The music, adapted and conducted by Leonard Rosenman, is from the time and it works well - though the Barry Lyndon soundtrack pales next to those from "A Clockwork Orange" and "2001," which are among the all time great scores.

The DVD is widescreen, though not anamorphic unfortunately, with Dolby Digital audio, and the visuals benefit especially from the remastering: colors are bright and rich, which makes this glorious eye spectacle even more glorious.

Barry Lyndon, from Warner Home Video
185 minutes, widescreen, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Diana Koerner, Leon Vitali
Written for the screen, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Shining

When Kubrick's version of the Stephen King novel came out it seemed to many that the director looked at the book and said "Nah, too easy" - then went off an retooled the book for his cinematic vision.

I know that's how I felt - but now, some two decades after its release, memories of the novel are less fresh in my mind and the movie can be judged better on its own merits. And as such, it's a much better movie than it first appeared.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a writer who gets a winter gig as caretaker of the beautiful, old, isolated (and haunted) Overlook Hotel - a classy resort hotel nestled in the peaks of the Rockies. The Overlook has had some strange and unhappy happenings in the past - and Jack brings his family there (including his prescient son Danny, who can see things others can't - he "shines") to spend the winter cut off from the rest of the world but for TV broadcasts and a two way radio.

Jack intends to write a book while taking advantage of the Overlook's isolated solitude, but since all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, he finds some extracurricular activity to occupy himself: hanging out with the spirits of those who've met their untimely end at the Overlook over the years.

Nicholson is Nicholson and doesn't bring anything new to his portrayal. Shelley Duvall, however - in her role as Jack's suffering wife Wendy - is terrific. The only other cast member with more than a cameo is Danny Lloyd as their son, Danny, and he puts in a good performance as the kid with the gift - or is it a curse?

Kubrick's fingerprints, not surprisingly, are all over this movie, as they should be! His typical long, tracking shots took advantage of the advent of the steadicam for the first time in "The Shining" and it shows. The film's look and its feel owe as much to Kubrick's vision as King's.

The book was probably still better (most books are better than their movie counterparts - with the possible exceptions of "A Clockwork Orange" and "Contact"), but Kubrick's "Shining" is a worthy addition to the director's body of work.

A really nice bonus on the DVD is the inclusion of Vivian Kubrick's "home movie" behind the scenes look at the making of the film - and there's also a running commentary track this time around. Both give insight into the great director and how he worked - including his working relationships with cast and crew. Shelley Duvall appears to have had a rough time with the director at times during the production, though she's all praise afterward - and the end result shows that, whatever one might think, Kubrick knew what he was doing.

The DVD benefits from the remastering, though it still isn't in anamorphic widescreen. Still, the color picture quality is very good, which is a nice bonus from the earlier DVD release - and the audio is now in multi-channel Dolby Digital, which improves the sound quite a bit.

"The Shining" isn't really that scary but, thanks to Kubrick's sure directorial touch, it's foreboding and moody. It's also visually stunning, which probably doesn't come as much of a surprise.

The Shining, from Warner Home Video
144 minutes, color, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, with Scatman Crothers
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson, based on the novel by Stephen King
Produced and Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Full Metal Jacket

Kubrick waited until all those lightweights (like Francis Ford Coppola!) had had their say on Vietnam before tossing his 'nam movie into the mix.

Full Metal Jacket follows a group of Marine recruits from the day they report for service through the Tet offensive and guerilla action in Hue City.

The first half of the film follows the recruits through basic training, and it's here that Kubrick's touch really shows. His trademarked shots and angles are all over the place as we watch this group of diverse young and irreverent individuals become molded into a cohesive crew of fighting men. This shoot must have been extremely demanding on the young actors; they not only have to go through basic training on camera, but knowing Kubrick's reputation for retakes, they probably had to do it over and over and over and over again.

Glad it wasn't me!

Once in Vietnam, "Full Metal Jacket" isn't as riveting or as powerful as the basic training sequences - though "Stanley Kubrick Light" still packs a pretty powerful punch. It's almost as if Kubrick were bored with the battle scenes (which he'd done before in earlier works) and wanted to get the movie done. Perhaps this is also why "Jacket" comes in at under two hours, whereas every other film in the boxed set (save Dr. Strangelove) runs well over two hours.

Once again Kubrick's casting is inspired, especially Vincent D'Onofrio as the dull recruit terrorized and humiliated by a system he doesn't really understand and in which he isn't really suited to function. D'Onofrio's characterization is outstanding until his final scene, when he appears to be imitating Jack Nicholson's possessed character in "The Shining."

Unfortunately, D'Onofrio is only around for the first half of the movie - as is Lee Ermey, who turns in a terrific performance as the tough as nails Drill Instructor whose task it is to take a bunch of 1960's kids and turn them into US Marines.

The rest of the cast is made up of Matthew Modine as Joker, who the story follows, Arliss Howard as Cowboy, Dorian Harewood as Eightball and Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother. All turn in terrific performances that are, unfortunately for them, overshadowed by the power of D'Onofrio and Ermey.

The remastered DVD looks and sounds really good now, but it's still shackled by its non anamorphic picture. Again, however, a flawed Kubrick DVD is better than the best VHS, but this movie deserves more.

Full Metal Jacket, from Warner Home Video
116 minutes, color, Full Screen, Dolby Digital
Starring Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Arliss Howard
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, Gustav Hasford, based on the novel "The Short Timers" by Gustav Hasford
Produced and Directed by Stanley Kubrick

The KillingThe Killing

Kubrick's first major film is a heist movie, not a murder flick. Starring Sterling Hayden as a small time hood fresh from prison, the storyline's threads follow a group of men involved in knocking over a racetrack, showing us their lives, their motivations, and their all-too-human flaws.

Most of the gang aren't really bad guys, but they've gotten themselves into trouble and need the cash - or are in life situations in which a quick infusion of a lot of money would supposedly solve their problems in one fell swoop.

Naturally, things don't work out exactly as planned and the mettle of all the major characters is tested by fire before the final credits roll.

Besides Hayden, Kubrick has cast with his typical brilliance. Coleen Gray and Vince Edwards are a sneaky pair of sleazy and greedy lovers, while Kubrick "regulars" Joseph Turkel and Timothy Carey are on hand in smaller roles. The cast is rounded out by Elisha Cook as a mousy gang member, Jay Adler, Joe Sawyer, Ted DeCosia, Jay C. Flippen and Marie Windsor.

While "The Killing" is obviously early Kubrick, it still shows the unconventional nature of the director in his use of "non-linear" story telling by which the film jumps back and forth in time to follow each gang member's thread individually. While it's unconventional and was apparently quite controversial, it works well.

The black and white DVD looks fine. The picture is Full Screen (as opposed to Pan and Scan, full screen movies were originally shot in the TV's 4:3 aspect ratio and so you don't lose anything by not issuing it in anamorphic - or non-anamorphic - widescreen) and the sound is Dolby Digital mono. Unfortunately, the sound emanates from the front left and right speakers, so the mono "ghost image" can appear anywhere between the speakers (depending upon where you sit) instead of being localized at the center.

The DVD includes a good set of liner notes (a four page booklet) as well as the theatrical trailer and chapter stops.

While "The Killing" is a lighter-weight Kubrick effort, fans of the director should seek it out. It's a neat yarn told only as Kubrick could tell it.

The Killing, from MGM Home Video
89 minutes, B&W, Full Screen, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook, Coleen Gray, Jay C. Flippen, Vince Edwards
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick with additional dialogue by Jim Thompson, based on the book "Clean Break" by Lionel White
Produced by James B. Harris, Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Paths of GloryPaths of Glory

Kubrick's first masterpiece, this brilliant WWI drama was billed as an "anti-war" movie. It's really an "anti-stupidity" and "anti-hypocrisy" movie, however.

Kirk Douglas is Colonel Dax of the French army, whose regiment is embroiled in that conflict's trench warfare. He receives orders from on high that his men are to take the "Ant Hill," an impossible task and effectively a death sentence for many of his brave soldiers.

The attack fails and, in order to cover his own nasty and incompetent butt, Dax' Commanding Officer General Mireau (George Macready) orders that three of Dax' men be court martialed for cowardice in what amounts to a show trial that's designed to cover the General's own crimes, while sending a message to the ordinary soldiers that they'd be better off dying than failing.

"Paths of Glory" is outstanding. The cast is great (especially Joe Turkel, Ralph Meeker, and Timothy Carey as the unlucky three, along with Douglas, Macready and Adolphe Menjou as General Broulard). Richard Anderson deserves a special mention, too, especially for his performance during the trial scene where he's so smug you just want to reach into the screen and slap his face.

The film covers the futility of trench warfare and the idiocy of a leadership driven by politics as much as it's about tactics, heroism, cowardice, and human dignity. It also has a great battle scene that could have served as the inspiration for the D-Day attack in "Saving Private Ryan."

This is one powerful, disturbing, and moving film and one of the best war movies ever made.

The black and white, fullscreen DVD picture looks great. The audio is Dolby Digital mono, but - alas - comes from the stereo speakers instead of the center channel.

Extras include a decent, four page "book" of liner notes, chapter stops, and the theatrical trailer.

If you can only see one Stanley Kubrick war movie, choose "Paths of Glory" over "Full Metal Jacket," though of course you really should see them both.

Paths of Glory, from MGM Home Video
87 minutes, Black and White, Full Screen, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Kirk Douglas, George McCready, Adolphe Menjou, Ralph Meeker, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb
Produced by James B. Harris, Directed by Stanley Kubrick

When all is said and done, the 2001 release (no pun intended, unfortunately) of the boxed set is still flawed, but is much better than the original release in the fact that the eight titles in the set have all been remastered, and it shows. Add to that a wonderful full length documentary, on its own DVD, that gives fascinating insight into the legendary filmmaker through footage and interviews with a wide variety of those whose careers he touched, and you have a boxed set classic, even with its flaws. Besides, a flawed Kubrick Collection is still worth having around. I'd like to have seen all of these films (and, by the way, where's Spartacus?) included in the boxed set, especially Paths of Glory, but what can you do?

Maybe Warners is planning yet another boxed set down the road? If so, I hope they give Spartacus the remastering treatment as well, since Universal's release is NOT in anamorphic widescreen and that's unforgivable in such a widescreen epic.


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Updated December 3, 2007