1. This in one of Stanley Kubrick's early movies, and you can draw a straight line from this picture to "Full Metal Jacket" in its anti-war themes. More than that, this is an anti-authoritarian movie: A picture about how the elites sacrifice the lives of real people, how they dance in their palaces and feast on sumptuous foods while ordinary footsoldiers are quite literally forced to give their lives for the errors of those elites. There is no happy ending here, only the relentless logic of an awful story that ends up exactly where it must once the wheels are set in motion.
2. Kirk Douglas is one of he best movie stars we've ever had. He's beautiful — check him out shirtless in his opening scene, all 1950s Charles Atlas virility — and he's fierce. When he denounces a commanding general in the climactic scene — "And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!" — his hair flies askew and his eyes are filled with rage, and you want to stand up and cheer. They truly don't make them like this any more.
3. All these French soldiers sound like they're from Queens.
Bonus thought: If you like old or independent movies, the new Filmstruck service— which combines the forces of Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection — is the bomb. Totally worth it.