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Stanley Kubrick's long-lost first feature sees the light of day in high-def - classic film geeks, start your engines....
Kino / 61 Minutes / 1953 / Unrated / Street Date: October 23, 2012
Another movie that was never meant to see the light of day has been liberated by high-definition: Kubrick may be rolling in his grave, but his fans should be gleeful with the opportunity. Well, maybe not gleeful. For those of us clinically obsessed with the cinema of Stanley Kubrick, his early works - his shorts and the 1953 feature Fear and Desire - have been holy grails of sorts, films that the late director went out of his way to keep out of circulation.
Kubrick maintained in correspondence that the reason for this was simply that he didn't feel Fear and Desire had a valued place in the pantheon of his works (he liked to use the word "amateurish" to describe it), and he tried to keep it as isolated a picture as possible. But now, thanks to the awful resource of a streaming media world where every film that everyone ever made seems to be readily available, Kino has taken a new 35mm print of the film and popped it onto Blu-ray.
And, yeah, Kubrick was right: it does kinda suck. Cinema Studies lecturers could drone on and on about the seeds of the director's syntax and thematic vision that scatter across the surface of Fear and Desire, but this oblique little war movie starring Frank Silvera and Paul Mazursky makes Killer's Kiss look like Citizen Kane. But it made enough of an impression on its backers that Kubrick would be able to go on and make Killer's Kiss (and then The Killing, and then Paths of Glory...), so as the one that got the ball rolling for ol' Stanley, Fear and Desire isn't wholly without merit.
And compared to my rusty DVD bootleg, the movie is crisper and punchier than I ever imagined. I snort a little at this release for not housing all of Stanley's early materials - I, like many Kubrick devotees, was hoping for a Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Early Films set, not just a Fear and Desire edition - but even if Fear and Desire represents Stanley Kubrick's talents at their most myopic and cursory, to watch the master at work is truly fascinating.