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Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick's)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . B&W . 90 mins . PG . PAL


It's hard to know how to write about a Kubrick film. Every one I have seen so far can be discussed on so many levels, and conversations so easily ramble on to other films and the social framework of their era that doing any more than describing the plot is bound to lead to trouble, so I'm going to be really careful, lest I try and overreach and make a horrible mess of things.

Many people seem not to realise that Clockwork Orange is a satire, and while that film was darkly comic, Dr. Strangelove somehow manages to make the very real threat of the Cold War in the 1960's extremely funny, while still delivering a very succinct statement about the insanity of nuclear deterrents. It's regarded by critics and filmbuffs as one of the best films of all time.

Essentially, the film concerns a lunatic General (Sterling Hayden) who, in paranoid fear of Communist plots to destroy the US water supply and "sap and destroy our precious bodily fluids", commands his nuclear B-52 attack squadron to attack Russia. Peter Sellers has THREE standout roles (originally intended to be four), as the British attache trying to reason with the General and discover the abort codes for the mission, President Merkin Muffley (my God, that name!) who with his Chiefs of Staff try hopelessly to control the global situation, and as Dr. Strangelove, the sinister, crippled, neo-fascist strategic advisor who advises the President of the existence of a Russian Doomsday machine, which will automatically trigger in the event of nuclear attack. Unfortunately, it appears the Russians neglected to inform the US of this device, effectively rendering it useless...

The film is loaded with wonderful gags. The scene with the US President painfully trying to explain the situation to the drunken Soviet Premier by assuring him that, 'of course I like to speak with you, Dimitri, not just now, but any time.. but you see, we have a little problem with the bomb... the hydrogen bomb... one of our officers went a little funny... funny in the head' is fabulous, and even though the scene towards the end when Strangelove's bionic hand begins malfunctioning and attempts to strangle him is very out-of-kilter with the tone of the rest of the film, I still laughed helplessly at it.

There's too much in the film to do it justice in the space I have here, so I'll just say that you must watch it - there's far more meat to this film than the latest brain-dead reference transfer 5.1-channel disc from the Hollywood lowbrow machine.


This film is 36 years old and as far as I'm concerned, once a film is old enough to practically be my father I'm not going to harshly criticise the technical aspects. Yes, there are quite a few more film artifacts than you'll see on a recent release, but I fully expect that. Film is an incredibly vulnerable medium, and I feel lucky to be able to even see classic films that were made before I was born, let alone have them looking this good. I've seen prints of modern releases in cinemas that have shown more damage. I have read that this transfer, along with Criterion's earlier laserdisc special edition, were taken from Kubricks' personal print, so I doubt a better copy exists.

The disc is not anamorphically-enhanced, as a film must be in a ratio of 1.78:1 or wider to take advantage of this. Kubrick used multiple aspects on this film, but it's not nearly as extreme a difference as say, Brainstorm, which shifted from 1.33:1 to 2.35:1. Dr. Strangelove uses the ratios of 1.33:1 and 1.66:1 which are very close to each other indeed. As far as I noticed, the 1.66:1 ratio is used on interior shots, and the full frame is used for exterior shots and scenes inside the B-52.

Obviously colour quality is not a factor on this disc, as it's in black and white. Detail is reasonable without any obvious digital edge-enhancing. Shadow detail is as good as you could expect, and blacks are nice and deep. I noticed no MPEG artifacting, which is quite an achievement given that there is minor grain apparent in the film source. All in all, another fine transfer from Columbia.


Nothing wrong here either. A decent mono soundtrack, a small amount of hiss which is quite unobtrusive, virtually no distortion of any kind and it can be played at reference level with ease. Of course, the film is mostly dialogue, so it doesn't ask much from your system except that the centre speaker can present dialogue naturally. It would sound fine on a television, so my review system had no trouble with it.


There's not a lot here, which is to be expected given that Kubrick is unfortunately unable to give a commentary to any of his films anymore. I couldn't find out what extras the Criterion laserdisc had, but all we get here are the usual minimal extras, subtitles (which, due to the large amounts of dialogue, aren't very accurate), filmographies, a photo gallery, and the best extra, the trailer, which is typically Kubrickian and weird!


Dr. Strangelove is one of the most artistically-successful films from one of the greatest and most unique directors of all time. It's a shame there aren't more extras (I would have liked a documentary about the political situation at the time, with information about Communist terror running rampant in US during the 50s and 60s), however this disc is the best DVD version on the planet and an essential purchase for any filmbuff.

What? Are you still here? Run! Buy it!!

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