Fear and Desire
In 1953, twenty-four-year-old Stanley Kubrick was still best known as a photographer for Look magazine. What he really wanted, however, was to be a filmmaker. With the financial assistance of his wealthy uncle Martin Perveler, the owner of a chain of drug stores, Kubrick amassed $10,000 to shoot Fear and Desire, from a script written by his friend Howard Sackler (later to win a Pulitzer Prize for his play The Great White Hope, made into a movie in 1970 starring James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander.) Filming took place in the San Gabriel Mountains with a production crew of just 15 people. Actors included Paul Mazurksy, at the time performing in an off-Broadway production of He Who Gets Slapped, and artist's model Virginia Leith. In the years to come, Mazursky would garner acclaim as a writer and director himself, with films such as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Harry and Tonto (1974) and An Unmarried Woman (1978). Virginia Leith would become best known for playing the doomed disembodied head in the notorious cult classic The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962). Despite a shoot plagued by mishaps, including Kubrick accidentally spraying the cast with pesticide while trying to create a fog effect, filming was completed in two to three weeks. The relative lack of budget meant Kubrick had to shoot silent, however, and the resulting addition of sync sound and music ate up an additional $53,000, which Kubrick only procured by agreeing to serve as assistant director on a five-part biography of Abraham Lincoln for the television series Omnibus. Upon its release, Fear and Desire drew praise for its dreamlike imagery and stunning cinematography from critics such as James Agee, Curtis Harrington, and Mark Van Doren, but Kubrick soon became ashamed of its low-budget nature, deeming it an amateurish effort. However, it is easy to see the first flowering of the amazing genius that would come to fruition in his unforgettable classics Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and The Shining (1980). To understand Kubrick, Fear and Desire is mandatory viewing.