Fear and Desire Blu-ray/DVD

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 00:00
Posted in Blu-Ray
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Fear and Desire - Lost Kubrick on Blu-ray and DVDCopyrighted 1952, Independently financed with contributions from Stanley Kubrick's family and friends in an era when an ‘independent cinema’ was still far from the norm, “Fear and Desire” got its release in 1953 at the Guild Theater in New York, thanks to the enterprising distributor Joseph Burstyn. Now, with a new restoration carried out in 2012 by The Library of Congress, a film that for decades has remained nearly impossible to see has a proper release in the United Kingdom.

This Kubrick tale tells the story of an unspecified war waged between two forces. It is timeless, not specifying whether this is the past, present of future. In the midst of the conflict, a plane carrying four soldiers crashes six miles behind enemy lines. From here on in, it is kill or be killed. Kubrick once described it as “an ambitious allegory”.

They are almost befriended by a doberman dog, Proteus, but they don’t need a mascot. Rifles are not claimed from the plane crash. An enemy General and his aide are discovered during a scouting mission. The soldiers gain respite in a cabin in the woods. They claim food and rifles at the expense of enemy soldiers.

A female hostage is taken capture, on account of being a potential informer, all a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sidney, the youth of the party, is left to guard her, trying to entertain her with an impression of a bombastic General, as she is tied helpless to a tree. Rather than make her smile, the performance makes both the girl, and us in the audience, more and more anxious. You can tell it’s not going to end well, as Sidney almost a prototype for Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance in “The Shining”.

What lies in store for this ragtag group of killers, between their perilous landing in the forest, and the final raft-float downstream into their home territory? We discover that Proteus is actually the enemy General’s Doberman, to add insult to injury. The party splits up to have the best chance of making it home.

All this combines to tell the tale of Kubrick's struggle into feature film-making.

Bringing into focus for the first time the same thematic concerns that would obsess the director in such later works as “Paths of Glory”, “Doctor Strangelove”, and “Full Metal Jacket”, “Fear and Desire” sets the precedent for near-complete artistic freedom, which to this day remains unparalleled in the annals of Hollywood history.

Special features on the Blu-ray edition include:

  • New HD restoration of the film by The Library of Congress, presented in 1080p on the Blu - ray.
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard - of - hearing.
  • While the American release saw only “The Seafarers” (1953) as a special HD restoration feature, the UK release also gets “Day of the Fight” (1951 – his first film, sold to RKO) and “Flying Padre” (1951 – his second movie).
  • 15 minute interview with film critic and Kubrick scholar Bill Krohn, filmed in Los Angeles on 2 November 2012.
  • Booklet containing writing on the film, vintage excerpts, and rare archival imagery.


Kubrick said of Fear and Desire: “The entire crew... consisted of myself as director, lighting cameraman, operator, administrator, make-up man, wardrobe, hairdresser, prop man, unit chauffeur, et cetera. The rest of the crew consisted of a friend of mine, Steve Hahn, who was an executive at Union Carbide and who took his holidays with us and knew something about electricity; another friend, Bob Dierks, who was the studio assistant at LOOK Magazine, helped me set up the equipment and put it away, and did a thousand other jobs; my first wife, Toba, who tried to cope with all the paperwork and minor administration; and three Mexican labourers who carried the cases around.

“Particularly in those days, before the advent of film schools, Nagra (sound recorders), and lightweight portable equipment, it was very important to have this experience and to see with what little facilities and personnel one could actually make a film. Today, I think that if someone stood around watching even a smallish film unit, he would get the impression of vast technical and logistical magnitude. He would probably be intimidated by this and assume that something close to this was necessary in order to achieve more or less professional results.

“This experience and the one that followed with “Killer’s Kiss”, which was on a slightly more cushy basis, freed me from any concern again about the technical or logistical aspects of filmmaking.”

The film is deliberately outside history, only existing if we choose to make it so. In essence, the soldiers have no other country but that of the mind. Actors take dual roles, perhaps pointing to the allegory that the enemy is oneself – something that would later be explored by Patrick McGoohan with the TV series The Prisoner.

The maximum possible frame size has been used in this restoration, meaning that you occasionally see triangles appearing in the corner borders of the picture. The filming was done without sound due to the technical limitations of technology of the time. This explains the tortuously long post-production time, as Kubrick had to take two other jobs to pay for all the ‘looping’ (marrying studio recorded overlaid sound to vision) – this included dialogue, music, sound effects, everything!

The mystery remains as to whether Kubrick tried to destroy all the prints of this movie, which begs the question as to why? The film delivers way beyond its budget on-screen, and for those familiar with Kubrick’s work, there are nebulous explorations of what would be Kubrick obsessions in future movies, for instance the ideas of what happens when the human brain malfunctions. For movie buffs, this package is an essential purchase.

“Fear and Desire” is out now from Eureka Entertainment Ltd. The main feature has a running tome of 62 minutes approx, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £19.99 for the Blu-ray, or £17.99 for the DVD, or get either for less at www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Sunday, 24 March 2013 09:08

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