Stanley Kubrick came to reject his first feature film, ‘Fear and Desire’ , as a youthful “mistake.” An examination of the work, however, offers insight into the beginnings of Kubrick’s vision and cinematic mastery, and provides evidence that Kubrick created a powerful allegory of war—presaging his later films and declaring his moral preoccupations and artistic ambitions. —Checkmating The General: Stanley Kubrick’s Fear And Desire
‘Fear and Desire’ was based on a screenplay written, at Kubrick’s suggestion, by Howard Sackler, a poet friend of his from Taft High School. Sackler would later win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for his acclaimed 1969 play, The Great White Hope and write an early draft of ‘Jaws’ (1975). Sackler also wrote Quint’s “Indianapolis” speech, about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II.
I owe three people a lot for this speech. You’ve heard all this, but you’ve probably never heard it from me. There’s a lot of apocryphal reporting about who did what on Jaws and I’ve heard it for the last three decades, but the fact is the speech was conceived by Howard Sackler, who was an uncredited writer, didn’t want a credit and didn’t arbitrate for one, but he’s the guy that broke the back of the script before we ever got to Martha’s Vineyard to shoot the movie. I hired later Carl Gottlieb to come onto the island, who was a friend of mine, to punch up the script, but Howard conceived of the Indianapolis speech. I had never heard of the Indianapolis before Howard, who wrote the script at the Bel Air Hotel and I was with him a couple times a week reading pages and discussing them. Howard one day said, “Quint needs some motivation to show all of us what made him the way he is and I think it’s this Indianapolis incident.” I said, “Howard, what’s that?” And he explained the whole incident of the Indianapolis and the Atomic Bomb being delivered and on its way back it was sunk by a submarine and sharks surrounded the helpless sailors who had been cast adrift and it was just a horrendous piece of World War II history. Howard didn’t write a long speech, he probably wrote about three-quarters of a page. But then, when I showed the script to my friend John Milius, John said “Can I take a crack at this speech?” and John wrote a 10 page monologue, that was absolutely brilliant, but out-sized for the Jaws I was making! (laughs) But it was brilliant and then Robert Shaw took the speech and Robert did the cut down. Robert himself was a fine writer, who had written the play The Man in the Glass Booth. Robert took a crack at the speech and he brought it down to five pages. So, that was sort of the evolution just of that speech. —Steven Spielberg