Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Fear and Desire (1953)


Starring: Frank Silvera, Kenneth Harp and Paul Mazursky
Eureka! Masters of Cinema
RRP: £18.37
Certificate: 12
Available 28 January 2013

There is a war in this forest. Not a war that has been fought, nor one that will be, but any war. And the enemies who struggle here do not exist unless we call them into being. This forest then and all that happens now is outside history. Only the unchanging shapes of fear and doubt and death are from our world. These soldiers that you see keep our language and our time, but have no other country but the mind...”

Fear and Desire (B&W - 1953 - 1 hr, 01 min, 10 sec) is the little seen first film by Stanley Kubrick (1928 - 1999), a director who needs no introduction, having made some of the most seminal films in a number of genres including, Paths of Glory (1957), Lolita (1962), Dr Strangelove (1964), 2001 (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980).

Unlike the previous list Kubrick was on record as not being particularly proud of his first foray into film making. It was made on a shoestring as an experimental indie flick and has rarely been seen. The film stars Paul Mazursky, Frank Silvera, Kenneth Harp, Steve Coit and Virginia Leith.

The film opens with four soldiers having been shot down six miles behind enemy lines. Needing to get back to their own lines they decide to make a raft to float past the enemy and reach safety. While they are building the raft a young woman strays upon them and they quickly tie her to a tree, when the others go off she tries to escape and the lone soldier remaining shoots and kills her.

The second soldier takes the raft and the remaining two set off to kill a nearby General. When they succeed in their mission they realise that the General and his aide look exactly like them.

As you may see, this is all very avant-garde experimental film making and more than a little heavy handed in its message. The people you kill are just like you, fair enough. Killing only hurts you, so true, and women are best tied to trees, I’ll have to check with my wife on that one.

It’s not a good film, even Kubrick agreed, but it is visually interesting. You can see Kubrick certainly had something to say and the visual flare to go with it, both would continue to develop through his career. The film has been restored, as much as it can, given both its age and the cheap equipment used, it remains eminently watchable.

The disc also contains three short documentary films based on Kubrick's work as a photo journalist.

Day of the Fight (B&W - 1951 - 12 min, 34 sec) tells the true story of a day in the life of prize fighter Walter Cartier. The final fight with Bobby James is shot live. Flying Padre (B&W - 1951 - 8 min, 36 sec) is Kubrick’s very first film about a priest who needs a plane to reach his parishioners.

The last short is The Seafarers (Colour - 1953 - 28 min, 54 sec) represents Kubrick’s first foray into colour. It’s basically a promo for the Seafarers Union and about as interesting as most promo films.

This disc also contains an interview with Bill Krohn (Colour - 15 min, 24 sec), film critic and Kubrick scholar, recorded in 2012. He places the film in its historical context and is worth watching before you watch the main feature.

I’m not sure how interested the casual viewer will be with this obscure material, for uber fans and scholars of film the material is valuable on many levels, but it’s not going to be something you’re going to want to watch on a Saturday night.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£13.49 (
£13.38 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.