Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
Debut film for Stanley Kubrick as director, one which even he abandoned after declaring it the work of an amateur. A group of American soldiers (including a very young Paul Mazursky) are shot down in enemy territory and find themselves having to keep to the cover of the forest to avoid being seen, from time to time coming across a soldier or a local girl with dire results. As time progresses, and the pressure tightens, the reactions of each soldier progresses to a varying level of intensity (brutality, insanity, protective paranoia) and surprising (for its time) depictions of violence. It’s hard to disagree with the master’s assessment of his first work but impossible to hold against him what is obviously a stab in the dark at developing a new style: the giant, clear images we would come to associate with him are already here, as well as the bold close-ups of ugly realities (a German soldier’s direct faceplant into a floor after getting shot, for instance). Kubrick’s complex understanding of homosocial environments that encourage violence and cruelty would become a theme in his oeuvre; what is missing here, and would arrive very soon after in his work, is technique. The film is very obviously not shot in Europe (it looks like someone’s Californian backyard), and the bad looping and stilted performances are difficult to endure. It only takes just over an hour to get through, though, and it’s comforting to know that one of the giants of the artform was made and not born.