A well-known obsessive when it came to the production of his own films, Stanley Kubrick is one of cinema’s greatest ever creatives, even if he had multiple love/hate relationships with his own films. Often, this hatred was pointed in the direction of Kubrick, with Stephen King famously disliking the directors take on his horror novel The Shining, as well as Shelley Duvall voicing her own troubles with the film behind the scenes. Though instead, it was the director’s first film that he really hated the most.
The anti-war movie Fear and Desire was Kubrick’s very first feature film project, after an early career in documentary filmmaking, following four soldiers trapped behind enemy lines who are forced to confront their own morality in order to escape to safety. The production team was small, made up of just fifteen people, including leading cast member Paul Mazursky who would later comment about Kubrick that, “I thought he was a crazy guy with black eyes”.
Though much of the film was shot according to schedule, Kubrick did experience an issue with budget, constantly needing a financial boost to the extent that he raised part of the budget by hustling chess games in Central Park. Much of the money, however, came from his pharmacist uncle who Kubrick surprised and demanded five thousand dollars with a dogged determination.
Eventually, Stanley Kubrick’s debut film was completed, much to the dismay of the director himself, who denounced his work as “a bumbling amateur film exercise” and a “completely inept oddity”. Kubrick even went to the extent that he compared Fear and Desire to “a child’s drawing on a fridge”, disowning the film soon after its release whilst trying to prevent any future re-releases. So hated was his own creation, that according to Paul Mazursky, “Stanley tried to have the negative burned. He hated the movie. Hated it”.
What Kubrick was unaware of, however, was that Kodak, who made prints for the film, had a policy of making an extra copy for their archives, meaning that no matter how hard he tried, he would never be able to erase the film. As a result of the Kodak prints’ existence, Fear and Desire can now be enjoyed with several bootleg copies across the internet, as well as on DVD and Blu-ray.
Only clocking in at just over an hour-long, Fear and Desire is likely the directors least watched film, taking on the existential problem of war much like Paths of Glory and Dr.Strangelove. As the film’s opening narration states: “There is war in this forest. Not a war that is fought, or one that will be, but any war and the enemies who struggle here do not exist, unless we call them into being”.
To watch Kubrick’s least-watched film, simply click the Youtube video below.