Fear and Desire [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (21st April 2024).
The Film

Stanley Kubrick’s “Fear and Desire” is often overshadowed by the director's later, more celebrated works. However, this early film offers a fascinating insight into the burgeoning talent of one of cinema’s greatest auteurs. While it may lack the polished finesse of Kubrick’s later masterpieces, it is a raw and ambitious piece that showcases his innovative storytelling and directorial prowess.

Set against the backdrop of an unspecified war, “Fear and Desire” delves into the psychological struggles of four soldiers stranded behind enemy lines. The narrative unfolds as they grapple with fear, morality, and the human condition in a hostile environment. Kubrick's exploration of these themes is both profound and thought-provoking, laying the groundwork for the philosophical undertones that would characterize much of his later work.

Visually, “Fear and Desire” exhibits Kubrick’s early experimentation with cinematography and mise-en-scène. While the film's low budget is evident in its production values, Kubrick’s inventive use of camera angles, lighting, and composition showcases his nascent talent for creating striking and memorable imagery. The film's stark black-and-white photography lends a haunting quality to its war-torn landscapes, effectively conveying the bleakness and despair of the soldiers’ predicament.

The performances in “Fear and Desire” are a mixed bag, reflecting the film's low-budget origins. While the actors occasionally struggle with the script's more philosophical and poetic dialogue, their raw and earnest portrayals add a layer of authenticity to the characters. It's worth noting that this film marks the beginning of Kubrick’s collaboration with actor Paul Mazursky, who would later achieve fame as a director in his own right.

One of the film’s major strengths lies in its ambitious narrative structure. Kubrick weaves together a complex tapestry of flashbacks, dream sequences, and philosophical musings, challenging the audience to actively engage with the film’s themes and ideas. While this experimental approach may alienate some viewers expecting a more conventional war film, it is a testament to Kubrick’s fearless creativity and willingness to push the boundaries of cinematic storytelling.

However, “Fear and Desire” is not without its flaws. The film's pacing is uneven at times, with certain scenes dragging on longer than necessary. Additionally, the dialogue can be overly verbose and melodramatic, detracting from the film's overall impact. While these shortcomings may be attributed to Kubrick’s inexperience as a filmmaker, they serve as a reminder that even great directors have their learning curves.

“Fear and Desire” may not rank among Kubrick’s greatest achievements, but it is an essential watch for cinephiles and fans of the director alike. It offers a captivating glimpse into the early creative mind of Stanley Kubrick, showcasing his innovative storytelling, visual flair, and philosophical depth. While the film has its flaws, its ambition and audacity make it a fascinating addition to Kubrick’s oeuvre and a testament to his enduring legacy in cinema.

Kino Lorber includes both the theatrical version (60:56) and the premiere version (70:19).


Both versions of the film are presented in 4K with 2160p 24/fps presentation with HDR10 and Dolby Vision enhancement using HEVC compression. The "theatrical version" is in 1.33:1 and the "premiere version" is in 1.37:1 (Note that on the Blu-ray disc both versions are presented in a ratio of 1.37:1). The film features a brand new mastering from the original 35mm camera negatives. The results are pretty striking considering the low budget nature of the film and its age. There is fine grain evident, sharpness is good but there are instances of softness, the black levels look solid, greys, and whites hold up too. There are flaws such as print damage, missing frames, and the occasional speck. Aside from this, this is easily the best presentation of the film to date.


A single English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is included, the mono track does a decent job of maintaining clear and consistent dialogue. There's limited range but the track does it's best with score and sound effects. The entire track does lack any dynamic range and it sounds like a track that was created in a studio rather than utilizing any of the on-set recorded material, which is pretty common for low budget studio pictures from this era. Optional subtitles are included in English only.


Kino has done a terrific job once again with providing a plethora of extras for this release. below is a closer look.


This disc features both version of the film, the shorter "Theatrical Version" (60:56) and the longer "Premiere Version" (70:19).

First up is an audio commentary by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani, recorded in 2024 and on the "Theatrical Version" of the film. This is a fairly decent track, while in some instances Gerani comments on the obvious and on the plot. He comments on Kubrick's early style and on the directors development, among other trivia about the making and distribution of the film.

A second audio commentary is included by film historian Eddy Von Mueller, also newly recorded in 2024 and on the longer "Premiere Version" of the film. This track seems a bit more robust than the previous, as Mueller takes a closer look at the formulaic nature of the film, the making of process, especially delving into the Kubrick's lack of experience being a large reason on why the film feels amatuerish among other things.

"Flying Padre" is a 1951 short film by Stanley Kubrick (4K restoration from the original 35mm print) (8:37) an early documentary short about a priest that flies around his parish in a prop plane.

"Day of the Fight" a 1951 short film by Stanley Kubrick (4K restoration from the original 35mm print) (16:17) is another documentary short about boxing.

"The Seafarers" a 1953 short filmt by Stanley Kubrick (4K restoration from the 16mm A/B camera negatives and a 16mm print) (28:42) a third documentary in color about the Seafarers International Union.


This disc features all of the same extras as on the 4K disc and also includes:

The 2023 Re-release theatrical trailer (1:18)

The 2018 theatrical trailer (1:26)

As well as a collection of bonus trailers for:

- Killer’s Kiss (1:48)
- The Killing (1:49)
- Paths of Glory (3:03)


Packaged in a keep case housed in cardboard slip-case.


While not his best film, it's nice to have another Kubrick film in 4K.

The Film: B- Video: B Audio: C+ Extras: A Overall: B-


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