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By the time of "Fear and Desire", Stanley Kubrick had already logged a certain amount of filmmaking practice directing shorts. Still, he could never quite get over his own perception of the movie, which he made at age 24 fresh from his job as a photographer at Look magazine. He considered the film "a bumbling amateur film exercise" and "completely inept oddity." He later, having burned the negative, sought to prevent its screening and distribution whenever possible. Yet it had its high-profile appreciators even at the time of release: "Its overall effect is entirely worthy of the sincere effort put into it," said the New York Times; "Worth watching for those who want to discover high talent at the moment it appears," said critic-scholar Mark Van Doren.

Though far rougher than every film Kubrick would go on to make, Fear and Desire offers several moments that reveal him as the director we now know he would go on to become.