I usually don’t review shorts; in fact, I don’t watch too many of them, either. But I talked myself into embarking upon a comprehensive retrospective of Kubrick’s filmography, so it somehow seems fitting to start with the very first thing he ever directed.
Released in 1951 as a part of a This Is America series, Day Of The Fight is a short single-reel documentary about boxing, though told from a rather interesting angle – it depicts a day in life of a prize fighter, which immediately removes any semblance of glamour and romance from the notion of fighting for a living. On the contrary, this little short is somehow meant to emphasize that for many people punching people in the face and getting punched in the face is a job and only a select few would be able to turn it into lucrative careers. This in itself is fascinating as a subject matter, even despite the fact the piece plays decidedly like a piece of newsreel journalism one would consider to be a filler material kept for a slow news day.
It makes me wonder if this piece would have survived if it hadn’t been for the simple fact its director, in his early twenties at the time, would go on to become one of the most important filmmakers in history. Something tells me this reel would have ended up either slowly deteriorating in an unlabeled box in a dingy cellar in some library or destroyed in a fire, which wasn’t that uncommon at the time. What counts, though, is the fact it has been painstakingly restored and preserved for posterity even if the subject matter alone wouldn’t warrant it at all. If anything, it may be an early signifier of Kubrick’s thematic interests, but because it was for all intents and purposes a paid gig, any symmetry with the themes Kubrick ended up exploring later in life may be completely coincidental.