Fear and Desire is a literate, unhackneyed war drama, outstanding for its fresh camera treatment and poetic dialog.
Pic is work of Stanley Kubrick, who produced, directed, photographed and edited the film on a $100,000 shoestring budget. Film was written by 23-year-old poet Howard O. Sackler who has confected a blend of violence and philosophy, some of it half-baked, and some of it powerfully moving.
Story deals with four GIs stranded six miles behind enemy lines and what happens to their moral fibre as they try to escape. Kenneth Harp is a glib intellectual, grows weary with his own sophistication. Paul Mazursky, over-sensitive to violence, is a weakling who tries to befriend a captured enemy girl, Virginia Leith (a toothsome dish), shoots her, and then goes insane.
Steve Coit is a level-headed Southerner who also winds up confused about his values. Frank Silvera plays the one character who fulfills himself – a tough, brave primitive, who purposely draws the fire of the enemy on himself on a river raft, so that Harp and Coit can shoot an enemy general and escape in a captured plane.
Kubrick shot the entire film in the San Gabriel Mts and at a river at Bakersfield on the Coast, and he uses mists and tree leaves with telling effect.
Fear and Desire is definitely out of the potboiler class one would expect from a shoestring budget.