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DAY OF THE FIGHT (director: Stanley Kubrick; screenwriter: Robert Rein; cinematographers: Stanley Kubrick/ Alexander Singer; editors: Julian Bergman/Stanley Kubrick; music: Gerald Fried; cast: Douglas Edwards (Narrator), Walter Cartier, Vincent Cartier, Nat Fleischer, Bobby James; Runtime: 16; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jay Bonafield/Stanley Kubrick; RKO Radio Pictures; 1951)
“A finely crafted film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Stanley Kubrick’s (“Killer’s Kiss”/”Barry Lyndon”/”Lolita”) first film was this 16-minute short, shot on a handheld camera. It’s about the pre-fight ritual on the day of the fight for a 24-year-old clean-cut handsome Irish-American boxer named Walter Cartier, whose twin brother Vincent is a lawyer and his manager who shares his anxiety. Walter will fight Bobby James in Laurel Gardens in Newark, New Jersey on April 17, 1950. We follow Walter on the day fight, as he gets up early in the morning, spends the day relaxing with his dog, attends mass at Saint Xavier Church on Sixteenth Street and Sixth Avenue, eats lunch at his favorite Greenwich Village restaurant called The Steak Joint, and attends the weigh-in at the office of the New Jersey Athletic Commissioner as he anxiously awaits the main event bout in the evening. By the time of the fight, nice guy Walter transforms into a fierce fighting machine and knocks out his opponent in the first round.

Kubrick, the former photographer for Look magazine, shoots it in the style of a newsreel with newsman Douglas Edwards providing the narration. It was based on Kubrick’s photo essay for Look, “Prizefighter,” which profiled middleweight boxer Walter Cartier in the January 18th issue of 1949. It was shot for $1,500, and the results show a finely crafted film that bodes well for the future legendary filmmaker.

Day of the Fight opened in 1951 as part of RKO-Path√©’s “This Is America” series.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”