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Blu-ray Review Fear and Desire Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Timothy E

Jul 20, 2007
Real Name
Timothy Ewanyshyn

Fear and Desire has the distinction of being the rarely seen first feature film directed by Stanley Kubrick. A squad of soldiers have crashed in the wilderness behind enemy lines. The soldiers’ nationalities are left ambiguous intentionally in an effort to make the issues and themes in Fear and Desire as universal as possible. Although Kubrick may have been self-conscious about his first feature, there are enough flashes of brilliance in this film to make it worth seeking out for fans of cinema.

Fear & Desire


Studio: Kino

Year: 1953

Rated: Not Rated

Film Length:1 hour, 2 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English LPCM 2.0

Release Date: October 23, 2012

The Movie

Fear and Desire describes the primal emotions of the squad of soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. Will they focus their efforts on returning to base or wreaking destruction on the opposing army’s forces?

Fear and Desire is an ambitious film by a young director destined to distinguish himself in later years. Stanley Kubrick persuaded his uncle, a pharmacist, to put up most of the financing for this film, which was filmed in the San Gabriel Mountains. Kubrick apparently disowned this film shortly after its release, and rumor has it that he attempted to destroy the negative and any extant prints.

The themes of fear, isolation, desire and madness addressed in this film would gain significance in later Kubrick films like Paths of Glory, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut. The cast even includes future director Paul Mazursky(Harry and Tonto) as Private Sidney, in a stand-out role as a young soldier who is driven mad by his fears or desires or both. A couple of actors play roles in the opposing army as well as in the squad attempting to make it back across enemy lines. Although the dual roles played by several actors may have been due to a shortage of participants, it seems likely that this may have been a deliberate decision to suggest that the men in the opposing army are just like them; it plays well that way, regardless of whether that was the intention.


Fear and Desire appears on Blu-Ray in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This edition was mastered in 1080p from a 35mm nitrate print from the Library of Congress. The film image seems processed with virtually no grain and some obvious edge enhancement. Black levels and shadow detail are excellent. Fine detail is very good as well. Most scratches and dirt have been removed, resulting in a virtually pristine image.


The English LPCM 2.0 audio track is excellent with a minimum of hiss for a 60 year old independent film. Dialogue is always appropriately audible over sound effects and music. The original score by Gerald Fried(Star Trek, Mission: Impossible) has a decent dynamic range and complements Kubrick’s efforts to establish mood and suspense.

Special Features

The special features are limited to The Seafarers, a 29 minute film produced and directed by Kubrick shortly after completion of Fear and Desire. The restoration on this color film was performed by the Museum of Modern Art. The Seafarers is a promotional film funded by the Seafarers’ International Union with narration by Don Hollenbeck. The video and audio are inferior to the presentation of the main feature, with scratches and splices evident on the film and some audible hiss and pop on the audio. In spite of its shortcomings, this film is a nice addition as a special feature, even if it lacks dramatic impact.


Fear and Desire may not be a great film, but it is a reasonably good film. A film that is the least worthy of Kubrick’s films is still worthy above the best films of most other directors. The video quality is very good in spite of appearing overly processed. The audio is also very good for an independent film from 1953. The inclusion of The Seafarers as a special feature is a welcome addition. It was rumored months ago that Kubrick’s other short films were to be included with this collection, and it is unfortunate that Flying Padre and Day of the Fight could not also be included on this disc. Fear and Desire on Blu-ray is recommended for fans of Stanley Kubrick who desire to see the development of the filmmaker from the inception of his career.


Russell G

Fake Shemp
Senior HTF Member
Sep 20, 2002
Real Name
Nice review. I'm looking forward to this one, but also waiting for the price to get back in line in Canada.


Supporting Actor
Jan 6, 2012
Costa Mesa CA
Real Name
After viewing this last night I found positive and negative things. On the plus side, it looks sharper and cleaner than we've ever seen it before. On the negative side there was a lot of white speckling noticeable. I guess they didn't want to use digital tools to remove them. It's not constant, but considering the price it would've been nice to see a bit more work on this. Still, it's great to have it on blu-ray because if Kubrick's estate had rights control of this title I doubt we would have ever seen it released at all.

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