If you are looking for an excellent copy of this film on VHS or DVD just email me.
| News | Notes | Quotes | My Summary | My Review  


Character Actor
Sgt. Mac Frank Silvera
Lt. Corby/Enemy general Kenneth Harp
Pvt. Sidney Paul Mazursky
Pvt. Fletcher Steve Coit
Girl Virginia Leith
Narrator David Allen

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick and Howard Sackler


November 3, 2006 8:00 pm
Paul Mazursky will be with us in person to discuss his collaboration with Kubrick and the making of this rarely screened, existential drama at the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman house, Rochester NY.



"The wolves are breathless about Virginia Leith" - Walter Winchell
Life calls her "a big find"

"He was absolutely and totally involved in the making of this movie. He knew nothing about acting...I probably didn't know much more. He was not a Bohemian. He was not an avant garde left bank figure. He was a kid from the Bronx who was smart. I don't think he had too much education. He was a very good chess player. The intensity impressed me. I thought he had a vision of someplace he was going." - Paul Mazursky 2001

From Gene D. Phillips's book Stanley Kubrick: A Film Odyssey:
"Other friends helped out during the location shooting in the [San Gabriel] mountains, assisting Kubrick in setting up and putting away
the equipment each day; and three Mexican laborers were engaged to transport the boxes to and from the location site. Kubrick's first
wife Toba served as dialogue director. But it was Kubrick himself who filled all of the jobs associated with shooting a film: he was
director, cinematographer, prop man, and general factotum. Since he had saved money by shooting his short subjects without sound
and adding the sound track to the film afterward, Kubrick tried the same method with Fear and Desire. However, because post-synchronizing a sound track for a feature film is more complex than dubbing sound for a short, Kubrick ran into problems that added $20,000 to the $9,000 which had already been spent on shooting the picture. As a result, Fear and Desire never earned back its initial investment, even though independent distributor Joseph Burstyn was able to book the film on the art house circuit, where it garnered some good reviews.

From Vincent LoBrutto's book Kubrick:
Over the years Kubrick has not looked back on Fear and Desire with much fondness, but he characterized it as a learning experience and
stated succinctly to Joanne Stang of the New York Times, 'Pain is a good teacher.' He told Alexander Walker, 'The ideas we wanted to put across were good, but we didn't have the experience to embody them dramatically. It was little more than a thirty-five-millimeter version of what a class would do in sixteen millimeter. Particularly in those days, before the advent of the film schools, Nagra 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 [1971], 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 my concern again about the technical or logistical aspects of filmmaking.'

My Summary

    The film in set during war time, but it is specifically not set during any known war and is total fiction. The characters wear WWII style outfits though. Lt. Corby was flying a plane that crashed about seven miles behind enemy lines. There are three other survivors, a sergeant and two privates. They quickly leave their plane behind in case they were spotted and plan their escape. Only the Lt. has a sidearm, so they cannot do much fighting.
    The Lt. knows there is a river to the east that goes right back to friendly territory. His plan  is to make a raft and float down the river in the middle of the night to get back to their camp. Sgt. Mac isn't crazy about the idea, but has none of his own.
    The group makes their way toward the river and ducks for cover upon hearing the sounds of something approaching. It turns out only to be a lost dog. Sidney likes the dog and wants to keep him, but the Lt. explains it is not a good idea and sends it on it's way.
    The group walks along and we hear each persons individual thoughts. Then they encounter a road and have to dive for cover when an enemy truck passes by. Mac scouts ahead and sees no more vehicles and beckons them forth. They get to the river and use their lone pair of binoculars to scan about and find a house near a runway a couple miles down river where a general is staying. They quickly get to work and have most of the raft built when an enemy plane flies overhead and lands where the general is.
    Corby decides not to chance it that they were spotted and orders the group to go off and hide. Up river the find a small house with only two officers inside eating. Since the group hasn't had anything to eat they decide it is worth the risk to take them on. They rush in and they each go two to a man and fight hand to hand because they don't want the gunshots to alert any other enemy soldiers. He punches and stabs him and the man breaks a table and knocks the food over. No mater, they are hungry and the food is good. Soon after a third soldier returns with some firewood and he is shot by a newly confiscated rifle. Fearing their cover might be blown they leave and sleep out in the woods.
    The next morning three young women are washing their clothes in the river. One of them is finishes before the others and goes to walk home through the woods. The group of soldiers hide, but one snaps a twig and she comes over to investigate. Mac jumps her and covers her mouth so she can't give them away. They take her down river and tie her to a tree with two belts. Sidney is getting a bit freaked out and is left behind to guard her and the others go to see if the enemy has found their raft.
    Sidney tries to get the girl to talk, but she doesn't understand his language. He then tries to make her laugh by doing an imitation of the enemy general. He gets more and more upset when she doesn't laugh or acknowledge him. He tells her he just wants her to like him and puts his head on her and sniffs her. He decides that she'll like him if he unties her and she'll want to hold him. Instead she tries to run off and he shoots her in the back.
    The others find the raft and are surprised that there is no trap set for them and no indication that the raft has been spotted. They finish up building the raft and camouflage it so they can come back and set sail that night. Corby starts to worry about Sidney's instability and sends Mac ahead to go check on him. When Mac gets there he finds the girl is dead and Sidney is on the ground muttering. When he confronts him about what happened Sidney runs off and disappears. When Corby and Fletcher return Mac explains there was no helping him. They dig in and wait for night fall.
    When night arrives they head back to the raft and Mac spots the enemy general again in the house down the river. They also see the plane that landed the day before is still there. Mac starts to get obsessed about taking out the general. Corby says it is suicide taking on 20 men and there's no point in doing it. Mac says it could be done, they could sneak and kill him and then escape in the plane. Fletcher tells him to give it up and just work on getting the raft ready. Corby tells him there is no way for all of them to escape because the plane is only a two-seater. Mac tells him that he is 36 years old and has led an uneventful and forgettable life. If he is able to take out the enemy general then he will have found meaning in his life. He could take the raft and provide a distraction from the river bank and the others could sneak in by land. Corby thinks he'll never survive, but Mac tells him he is known for that kind of move and he's willing to take the chance.
    Corby starts thinking about it. He feels it isn't right for him to stand in the way of Mac finding meaning in his life. After all it is his choice. He decides that the plan could be done and agrees to it. He tells Mac they'll give him fifteen minutes to get into position and start shooting.
    Mac sets sail and Corby and Fletcher get into position. Mac sails up as close as he can to the house and starts screaming and shooting at the house. All but two of the guards head off to stop him and Corby and Flecther are able to take out the two final guards left behind. Mac is finally shot a couple of times and goes down. Fletcher breaks a window and shots the general and his major. He comes back and tells Corby he hit the general, but didn't kill him. The general crawls his way to the door and opens it. He tells Corby, "I surrender", but Corby shots him anyway.
    The run toward the plane and take off. Soon after they land back at their base and explain what happened. They request permission to go down by the river and wait for Mac because they aren't sure if he made it of not. The officer understands and lets them go.
    Mac has survived and is floating down the river back toward friendly lines. He isn't in good shape though. As the sun is coming up a silhouetted figure stand in the middle of the river blocking the way. As the raft gets closer we do not know what the enemy is planning. It turns out that the man is Private Sidney looking for a ride. Mac lets him on and they sail together. When the raft reaches home, Mac is dead. The End

My Review

    Forget everything. What the hell was up with the tagline on this film!? Half animal girl!? Talk about bad exploitation marketing. This is what killed this film. Anyone who was lured to see it from the that or the poster is guaranteed to be disappointed with it. They would've never recommended it to their friends, that is for sure. Then the reviews on the poster carry on about how hot Virginia was! Who cares!? She had a minimal role and no lines. It was a total farce to market her as the reason to see the picture and to suggest something very sexy went on. Sure she was tied to a tree, but it certainly wasn't kinky. The scene with the girls was so out of place that it could've only been inserted for exploitation purposes to get a female in the film. Life does go on during a war, but to just be so casually washing your clothes in a river close to enemy lines seems almost suicidal. The title is also misleading. It conjures up images of some of a fast cars, fast women, teen angst type picture. I can't help but wonder what would've happened if it had been marketed properly. If it was released as "Behind Enemy Lines" - the story of four soldiers and their quest to return to safety and find meaning in their lives while doing it...it could've meant some box office. After all, the Korean War was raging at the time of release and war movies should've been a safe market bet. I think this is the biggest failure of the film. In it's attempt at being timeless by not declaring it part of any specific war, it isolated the film from a specific audience. If it was an allegory on the Korean War it so well hidden that you couldn't find it, except for traveling by the river there is nothing to convince you. The foreign army and the friendly troops were all regular white guys, no Asians among the bunch. This would've helped sell the film even if it was just an unknown Asian army. If it was titled something like "Behind the 38th Parallel" they could've properly cashed in somewhat.
    This is easily one of the most famous unseen films of all-time. It is also the movie Kubrick never wanted you to see. He made it when he was only 23 and felt it was amateurish and not worth mentioning. He also distanced himself from "Killer's Kiss" because of his inexperience and "Spartacus" because he was essentially a hired hand. The problem here is that they are all good films. Anyone watching "Fear and Desire" expects the worst since Kubrick suppressed it. With your expectations so low you just can't help but enjoy it. Sure it was simple, the dialog isn't always moving and it struggles to reveal itself, but in the end it is a nice solid little film.
    I kept waiting for the something painful, but there wasn't anything. The scene when the good guys are walking and their frenzied thoughts come out of nowhere and hit you all at once at first is startling, but then it grows on you. If that was what Kubrick wanted he succeeded. The camerawork is solid, the acting is fine and the photography is good. The angles during the attack at the cabin and the mysterious shadowy figure in the river are the genesis of Kubrick's brilliant cinematic eye. There really isn't anything you can point to that screams, "Oh, yeah. That was awful. No wonder why he hid the film."
    I think "Paths of Glory" owes a lot to this film. Kubrick was obviously fascinated with war films and Paths might've been his way of returning to the genre to get it right because of his dissatisfaction with "Fear and Desire". If this film was such a success right out of the gate then we would've never had all the truly brilliant films that came later. In the end I am glad the film failed since it forced him to try even harder to do better and he never failed in that aspect. He should've been proud of this little film. He could've called it a student film and everyone would understand. Even today over 50 years later almost all of us couldn't make such a solid little film knowing all the things we know now.

Rating: 7/10

This page 2003-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net