Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is set to make movie history this December when it presents the world television premiere of Fear and Desire (1953), the rarely seen debut film by legendary director Stanley Kubrick. Premiering Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. (ET), the allegorical war drama from the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968) and The Shining (1980) will be the centerpiece of an extraordinary 24-hour marathon honoring the preservation efforts of the Motion Picture Department at George Eastman House. TCM host Robert Osborne will be joined by Jared Case, Head of Cataloguing and Access at George Eastman House, to present 15 cinematic rarities from one of the country’s leading moving-image archives.
TCM’s Dec. 14 salute to the Motion Picture Collection at George Eastman House will begin at 6:15 a.m. (ET) with The Blue Bird (1918), a silent version of the beloved fairy tale that was shot in Fort Lee, N.J., where many early studios were based in the early days of the motion picture industry. Among other rarely seen gems in the day’s collection: a silent version of Huckleberry Finn (1920), the first film adaptation of Mark Twain’s quintessential American classic; Roaring Rails (1924), an action-packed western silent starring Harry Carey and shot on location at Oregon’s Klamath Falls; A Page of Madness(1926), a remarkable avant garde film from Japan that had been lost for half a century; and a rare pre-release version of the Spanish Civil War propaganda film The Spanish Earth (1937), narrated by Orson Welles.
TCM’s lineup also includes Ava Gardner and James Mason in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), a unique romantic drama that was screened at the 2010 TCM Classic Film Festival in a beautifully restored version; Paul Muni in the early talkie The Valiant (1929); Gloria Swanson in her talkie debut, The Trespasser (1929); Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in the sparkling Gershwin musical Delicious(1931); George Sanders in the W. Somerset Maugham story The Moon and Sixpence (1942), featuring sound-era sepia tone and Cinecolor sequences; Jeanette MacDonald, Zasu Pitts and Joe E. Brown in a longer version of the musical The Lottery Bride (1930), which includes a two-color Technicolor finale; Charles Laughton in the tragic drama Payment Deferred (1932); and Madeleine Carroll, Franchot Tone and Reginald Denny in John Ford’s multigenerational epic The World Moves On (1934), the first film ever certified by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Stanley Kubrick’s allegorical anti-war drama Fear and Desire, which opens the prime-time portion of TCM’s tribute to the George Eastman House, stars Frank Silvera, Paul Mazursky (who would later go on to become a noted filmmaker) and Kenneth Harp. The story centers on a platoon stranded behind enemy lines while fighting an unknown foe in an unidentified conflict. The existential drama comes to a climax when the soldiers’ perilous return home is interrupted by an encounter with a mysterious woman.
At the time Kubrick made Fear and Desire, he had established himself as a photographer for Look magazine. After directing two short documentaries that were released by RKO, Kubrick felt he was ready to tackle a major narrative. Working with a team of 15 people, including five actors and five crewmembers, Kubrick shot the low-budget film in and around California’s San Gabriel Mountains, using whatever he could to compensate for the lack of high-quality film equipment.
After a difficult shoot and several delays in post-production, Fear and Desire was eventually picked up for a very limited release by a distributor specializing in art house films. Despite Kubrick’s disappointment with the finished film, it received praise from the New York Times, as well as from film critic and screenwriter James Agee. Within the catalog of Kubrick’s works, Fear and Desire provides early glimpses at the unique visual style he would perfect in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), as well as anti-war themes he would explore further in movies like Paths of Glory (1957), and Full Metal Jacket (1987).
Following Fear and Desire’s short theatrical life, the film all but vanished from public view. Stories circulated that Kubrick, who considered the film “a bumbling amateur film exercise,” spent years gathering up prints of the film in order to prevent any future screenings. Fortunately, some prints survived in private collections (or in the case of one recently discovered print, in a film laboratory in Puerto Rico). Fear and Desire received its first retrospective screening at the 1993 Telluride Film Festival and has only been presented a few times since.
The following is the complete schedule for TCM’s Wednesday, Dec. 14, salute to the Motion Picture Collection at George Eastman House (all times Eastern; titles in bold are TCM premieres):
♦ 6:15 a.m. The Blue Bird (1918)
♦ 7:45 a.m. The Valiant (1929)
♦ 9 a.m. The Spanish Earth (1937)
♦ 10 a.m. The Trespasser (1929)
♦ 11:45 a.m. The Moon and Sixpence (1942)
♦ 1:30 p.m. The Lottery Bride (1930)
♦ 3 p.m. A Page of Madness (1926)
♦ 4:30 p.m. Delicious (1931)
♦ 6:30 p.m. Payment Deferred (1932)
♦ 8:00 p.m. Fear and Desire (1953)
♦ 9:15 p.m. Huckleberry Finn (1920)
♦ 11 p.m. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)
♦ 1:15 a.m. Roaring Rails (1924)
♦ 2:45 a.m. The World Moves On (1934)
♦ 4:45 a.m. Goldstein (1965)
Source: Turner Classic Movies - all rights reserved
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