I have a relationship with 2001: a Space Odyssey. It was the first film I really booked on TV to see. As a kid I was going to my uncle and aunt's for a visit one Christmas and I must have been 8 or 9 and I still said I have to watch this: it's on TV, I'd circled it in the Christmas Radio Times and they left me alone in a room to see it one afternoon on BBC2. I'd already half seen it at home the year before, but somehow I hadn't seen it. Or at least not all of it. So I watched it again. But not all of it. And it was the first VHS I bought. I actually got up a collection (unsuccessfully) on the school bus so I could afford to buy but in the end I bought it at ASDA with mainly my own money. A terrible MGM classic pan and scan. And finally I watched it, but you know, the edges were cut off. But despite all of this the film stood as the height of cinema. This was the film that introduced me to taking cinema seriously and Kubrick in particular.
Dr Strangelove is damned near perfect. Hell it simply is perfect. From the title with its death wish Nazi sentiment matched with the breezy optimism of a self-help book - How to Win Friends and Influence People pops to mind - to the final evocation of annihilation over Vera Lynn's We'll Meet Again, the film makes courageous original fiendishly clever decisions again and again and again. It stands as the best artistic response to both the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war while at the same time managing to achieve that rarest of things: a genuinely funny Hollywood comedy.
Lolita is an odd film but is a first for Kubrick. His first non-genre film, the adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel, tells the story of a literature lecturer Humbert Humbert (James Mason), who falls in love with Dolores Haze AKA Lolita (Sue Lyons), a fourteen year old school girl who lives in the house where he lodges.
The difficulty of Spartacus is that for Kubrick it was definitely a promotion but at the same time also a demotion. The budget was bigger, the cast as well and this was by far the most ambitious film he had ever attempted - perhaps would ever attempt in terms of logistics - it literally had a cast of thousands. But at the same time, he was a hired director. He hadn't developed the work - it was the baby of the film's star Kirk Douglas - and some of the footage in the finished film wasn't even his. Director Anthony Mann had been feared early on and Kubrick brought in to replace him. So how was this really a Stanley Kubrick film at all?
Stanley Kubrick's fourth feature film Paths of Glory is his first to establish him as the complete product. This is the first of his movies where we stop spotting traces of the genius to come and see his first fully fledged Kubrickian masterpiece.
Okay, we can stop mucking about now. After a couple of shaky starts, Kubrick with The Killing finally makes a fantastic film. Released in 1956, Kubrick's film comes at the fag end of the film noir period - Touch of Evil would close the first phase in 1958 - and there is a sense of the walls closing in not only on the protagonists but also on the genre itself.
Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) is a 29-year-old welterweight New York boxer at the fag end of his career. Across from his apartment, he watches his beautiful neighbor, taxi dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane), but she is already the object of the obsessive interest of her violent employer Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera).
Having made two short films to some success, a 25 year old Look photographer decided to raise some money and make a feature film, because - after all - that's where the money is. The result was Fear and Desire, a pretentious allegorical war story with some dazzling photography and flashes of promises.