When filmmaker Stanley Kubrick died in March 1999 a giant had passed from this mortal coil. Kubrick left behind an incredible body of work, and the majority of his films are regarded as classic, groundbreaking works of cinema. Nearly all of his filmography is available on DVD and Blu-ray, with one glaring exception: Fear and Desire, Kubrick’s 1953 directorial debut.
The movie tells the tale of a squad of soldiers who must make their way through enemy territory to rejoin their unit. Along the way they capture a young peasant girl (Virginia Leith) and tie her to a tree. She is subsequently tormented by a mentally unbalanced soldier played by future filmmaker Paul Mazursky. The squad soon determines the location of an enemy base and embark on a dangerous mission to kill its commanding officer.
One of the Holy Grails of hard-to-find films, Fear and Desire, has never been made available in any home viewing format, including VHS and laserdisc. The reason for that oversight is quite surprising: Kubrick, who was only 24 at the time he made it, isn’t very fond of the film. Despite some positive notices from critics at the time of Fear‘s release the movie vanished from theaters almost as soon as it debuted. “The ideas we wanted to put across were good… but we didn’t have the experience to embody them dramatically,” Kubrick said in a 1971 interview with writer Alexander Walker. The young filmmaker was encouraged by many of his peers, including film critic an author James Agee, to continue developing his career as a director, which would officially launch in the later half of the decade with the pulp thrillers Killer’s Kiss and The Killing and the harrowing war drama Paths of Glory. Paths star Kirk Douglas handpicked Kubrick to take over the director’s chair on his historical epic Spartacus and on the back of that film’s sterling success Stanley Kubrick would rise to prominence over the course of the next four decades to become one of cinema history’s greatest filmmakers.
For the rest of his life Kubrick would dismiss his debut feature as “a bumbling amateur film exercise”. He even attempted to buy up as many of the original prints of Fear and Desire as he could in order to destroy them. Over the years the only way Fear could be seen by curious film buffs was through poor quality bootleg releases. The Library of Congress has long possessed a print of the film and it is that print which recently underwent an extensive restoration for its long-awaited released on DVD and Blu-ray this October, courtesy of Kino Lorber.
You can check out the Blu-ray cover art here below.
“Kino Lorber is immensely grateful to the talented team at the Library of Congress for brilliantly restoring such a key work in the history of American cinema,” said Richard Lorber, CEO of Kino Lorber. “We’re honored to participate in the process of making sure this seminal film of a 24-year-old Stanley Kubrick will now be widely available-an inspiration for film students and a thrill for film lovers everywhere.”
Extra features on the releases have yet to be determined, but this is sure to be a definite buy for cinéastes and Kubrick fans everywhere this year.
Fear and Desire premieres on DVD and Blu-ray on October 23, 2012.
In case you’re curious, here’s a crappy-looking bootleg video of Fear and Desire presented in full for your viewing pleasure.