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Old September 25 2012, 12:02 PM   #1
Evil Headhunter
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Stanley Kubrick marathon

In response to both the current thread about Kubrick's use of one-point perspective and a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks back about Kubrick and films in general, I've decided I needed to rewatch his filmography. But not only that, I've managed to acquire his earliest movies including some short documentaries, all of which I've never seen before.

Today, I watched all three of his known short documentaries (it's believed by some historians that he did more): Day of the Fight, The Flying Padre, and The Seafarers.

Day of the Fight

I would say that this is the best of three because it delves into the world of boxing and manages to humanize it in a short period of 16 minutes. Additionally, I was very impressed by the variety of compositional shots Kubrick used which he clearly learned during his early years as a photographer.

One side note of trivia: Kubrick's assistant director and second cameraman for this production was high school friend, Alexander Singer, who I'm sure many people around here will recall is a noted director of many episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.


The Seafarers

This documentary focuses on the Seafarers International Union which is an organization of labor unions for mariners, fishermen and boatmen that was founded in 1938. This is Kubrick's first foray into color and shows the beginning of some of his classic touches such as shots from a dolly track. The documentary is mildly interesting but it's very much like the atypical documentaries during that time in regards to narration and music (I'm reminded of the old Merrie Melodies skits that often mocked such clichéd films).


The Flying Padre

This is the shortest of the three and focuses on a priest in New Mexico who regularly flew a private plane because his parish was so far spread apart. Kubrick later said he thought the film was silly and I'm inclined to agree.
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Old September 26 2012, 11:09 AM   #2
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

Wow, I figured there wasn't going to be much response for these little seen documentaries but I didn't expect no response at all.

The next entry in my marathon is Kubrick's first feature-length film, Fear and Desire. The film has only five actors and tells a rather simple story of four soldiers who crash landed behind enemy lines during a war between two unnamed countries (but the parallels to U.S/Germany are present). The dialogue is poorly written and the acting doesn't help any. The screenplay is written by Kubrick high school friend and future The Great White Hope scribe, Howard Sackler, and while I've heard nothing but great things about both the play and film adaptation (also written by Sackler), I found nothing interesting in this script. Unlike much of Kubrick's later work, this film was a bit heavy handed in the characters expressing how they feel with motivations that feel purely plot driven. Perhaps this is why Kubrick tried so hard to obtain all copies of the film to prevent anyone from screening the film later in his career (which was mostly successful until his death). That being said, it was fun to see Kubrick's earliest venture into film and it's interesting to note that this was the first time Kubrick cast actors in multiple roles.

Next up: Killer's Kiss which is co-written by Sackler and Kubrick and features Fear and Desire's Frank Silvera.
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Old September 26 2012, 11:44 AM   #3
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

Lurking here. No comment because I've never seen those documentaries.
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Old September 26 2012, 09:47 PM   #4
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

The earliest film of Kubrick's that I've seen is The Killing, which is quite good, but not great. The Blu-Ray also has Killer's Kiss on it, but I haven't watched it yet.

I have also seen Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket. I'd say all but one of those films is great, but I'll wait until you get that far.
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Old September 27 2012, 03:49 AM   #5
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

Harvey wrote: View Post
I have also seen Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket. I'd say all but one of those films is great, but I'll wait until you get that far.
Looking forward to seeing if it's the same film you won't call great, as the one of the bunch I wouldn't
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Old September 27 2012, 03:53 AM   #6
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

I've seen:
  • The Killing (1956)
  • Spartacus (1960)
  • Lolita (1962)
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
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Old September 27 2012, 09:05 PM   #7
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

Doctor Strangelove may be the greatest film about the Cold War ever made.
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Old September 28 2012, 12:23 AM   #8
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

Harvey wrote: View Post
I have also seen Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket. I'd say all but one of those films is great, but I'll wait until you get that far.
I think those are also the only 5 of his that I've seen, although I don't remember The Shining very well. (I've seen the Simpsons parody far more often.)

Dr. Strangelove is a great dark comedy.

Full Metal Jacket has lots of great scenes and R. Lee fucking Ermey! However, the extreme disconnect between the 1st & 2nd halves of the film doesn't help it any.

I'll be honest and say I hate 2001. The stuff with Dave & Hal is interesting but the rest of it is so damn slow and seems designed to only appeal to stoners.

A Clockwork Orange may be one of the most unique films I've ever seen. It's a scathing social satire and yet it's not really trying to be funny. I also think, for such a beloved movie, it's totally misinterpreted by most people. Most reviewers & commentators focus on the violence of the movie. And while the movie is, by necessity, violent, they miss the point of why the violence is there. To me, the point of the movie distills down to two things: (1) Alex deLarge commits heinous acts of violence because he has a sociopathic lack of empathy for the world around him. (2) He lacks empathy because he lives in a world that is not worth empathizing with.
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Old September 28 2012, 02:46 PM   #9
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

Killer's Kiss kicks off from Kubrick's experience from filming Day of the Fight by introducing Davey Gordon as a fading boxer. The openning of this film (after the introducing prologue with narration) plays of the same idea presented in Day of the Fight of a boxer waiting impatiently for the call to come to the arena to prepare for his fight. The viewer watches Davey pacing around his tiny apartment for several minutes in a single shot, finding mindless tasks to pass the time such as looking at himself in the mirror, feeding his goldfish and whimsically looking out his window to an adjacent window where a beautiful woman is going about her evening routine.

This introduction and the following straight-up boxing fight was a promising beginning for this film but it quickly delved into a typical "boy meets girl, girl is threatened by current cruel lover, boy vows to protect girl, both boy and girl magically fall in love in a day and decide to run off together to get married, cruel lover seeks revenge" storyline. Aside from some great filming to continues to show off Kubrick's expertise as a photographer, this film really didn't do much for me once I realized how predictable it was going to be. However, I did enjoy the clumsy yet realistic climatic fight between Davey and Vincent involving lots of mannequins and an axe, which is probably the highlight of the film.

Next up: The Killing.
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Old September 30 2012, 07:49 AM   #10
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

The Killing is an atypical heist film set at a horse racetrack involving a group of men, almost akin to Ocean's 11, to pull it off. It stars Sterling Hayden who would later portray Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove and is really the only interesting person in the whole film. The overall plot is fairly predictable but what really drags this film down for me is the inane bickering between one of the heist men, George, and his wife Sherry. Additionally I found the narration (which sounded like a sports announcer) in the film to be annoying and unnecessary. I couldn't help but wonder if this film is was one of the earliest examples of non-linear plotting and the inclusion of the narration was intended to guide the viewers through because it would be something they weren't accustomed to.

Ultimately, the highlight of this film occurs at the very end of the film when Hayden's character and his lover attempt to flee at the airport and the suitcase full of cash bursts open after the luggage cart driver swerves to avoid a dog frighten by an airplane's rotors. The cash, a total of $2 million in small bills, quickly and immediately disappears into the night.

Next up: Paths of Glory. Hopefully, with this film I will get more responses from people.
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Old September 30 2012, 06:36 PM   #11
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

I like The Killing. It isn't a great movie, to be sure, but it's a taught heist movie with terrific ending. According to IMDB the narration was a compromise between Kubrick and the studio; it's designed to guide the audience along, but it gets a few details wrong along the way. I don't really care for it, although it bothered me less upon second viewing.

After an initial test screening, Kubrick edited a linear version of the movie, but this proved more confusing so the original nonlinear version was eventually the one released. This was, it should be pointed out, the invention of the novel, not the filmmakers.

Jim Thompsen, a novelist who wrote (among other things) The Killer Inside Me essentially wrote the screenplay, but Kubrick only credited him with writing dialogue. This might have been over money, or over Kubrick establishing himself as an "auteur" (before Sarris used the term in the U.S., of course), but it was a dick move in either case.
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Old September 30 2012, 11:06 PM   #12
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

I quite like The Killing. The editing is terrific, the sequences taut and frequently riveting. The tone starts to skirt the edge of being humorous, which will become a Kubrick hallmark. A lot more going on than a standard heist flick. The wrestler/chess master lays it out: Should the visionary (gangster, artist) break from the pack and go for it, or is the smart move to play it safe and within the system? Because really, most people want the visionary to fail. Seeing the life go out of Sterling Hayden at the end is really memorable.

I'm not crazy about the narration either but figure it's a studio concession that's not far out of line with other movies of the same era. I actually like the scenes with Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor for the most part; it's like how much more rotten can they maker her, and then she's more rotten. It's definitely a sexual power/identity thing, which will also become a recurring theme in Kubrick's movies.

The decidedly odd Timothy Carey makes a good appearance too, I always find him fun to watch even if he goes a little overboard.

Harvey wrote: View Post
Jim Thompsen, a novelist who wrote (among other things) The Killer Inside Me essentially wrote the screenplay, but Kubrick only credited him with writing dialogue. This might have been over money, or over Kubrick establishing himself as an "auteur" (before Sarris used the term in the U.S., of course), but it was a dick move in either case.
I never knew that, thanks. I've really liked Thompson's books.

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Old October 1 2012, 12:34 AM   #13
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

26 miles chasing A Clockwork Orange
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Old October 1 2012, 01:02 AM   #14
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
I never knew that, thanks. I've really liked Thompson's books.
Kubrick also collaborated with Thompson on the screenplay to his next film, Paths of Glory, although I've neither seen that one nor know how much credit can be given to Thompson.

The Killer Inside Me is a terrific book, and probably the chief inspiration for Dexter, but the most recent film adaptation was terrible. I haven't seen the version from the 70s.
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Old October 1 2012, 01:42 AM   #15
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Re: Stanley Kubrick marathon

Harvey wrote: View Post
I like The Killing. It isn't a great movie, to be sure, but it's a taught heist movie with terrific ending.
I wanted to enjoy this because I normally enjoy heist films, but I had a hard time getting into, mostly because of the narration and the bickering between George and Sherry.

Harvey wrote: View Post
According to IMDB the narration was a compromise between Kubrick and the studio; it's designed to guide the audience along, but it gets a few details wrong along the way. I don't really care for it, although it bothered me less upon second viewing.
Yeah, I had a feeling the narration was forced onto Kubrick (hell, I couldn't help but think of Blade Runner while watching this).

Harvey wrote: View Post
Jim Thompsen, a novelist who wrote (among other things) The Killer Inside Me essentially wrote the screenplay, but Kubrick only credited him with writing dialogue. This might have been over money, or over Kubrick establishing himself as an "auteur" (before Sarris used the term in the U.S., of course), but it was a dick move in either case.
Interesting, I didn't know about that. I wish I could say I'm surprised by Kubrick had a long history of stuff like this. I guess this was the beginning.

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
I quite like The Killing. The editing is terrific, the sequences taut and frequently riveting. The tone starts to skirt the edge of being humorous, which will become a Kubrick hallmark. A lot more going on than a standard heist flick. The wrestler/chess master lays it out: Should the visionary (gangster, artist) break from the pack and go for it, or is the smart move to play it safe and within the system? Because really, most people want the visionary to fail. Seeing the life go out of Sterling Hayden at the end is really memorable.
I agree with all of this and the look on Hayden's face is priceless. Great bit of acting there.

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
I actually like the scenes with Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor for the most part; it's like how much more rotten can they maker her, and then she's more rotten. It's definitely a sexual power/identity thing, which will also become a recurring theme in Kubrick's movies.
Normally I like the whole "how rotten can she be?" take (Livia in I, Claudius being a fine example of this), but I found Windsor's performance to be very irritating.
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