French, Dutch, Arabic, English - Hearing Impaired, Hindi
3 Theatrical trailer
Dolby Digital trailer
Dr Strangelove - 40th Anniversary Edition
/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 91 mins .
PG . PAL
When Mein Führer….Uh….the editor in chief slipped me this disc to review I was about as giddy as a school girl at a blue light! Dr Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is without a doubt one of the finest & hilarious films to be released about the threat of thermonuclear war. That’s right hilarious! Now for the uninitiated this film by Stanley Kubrick was based on Peter George’s book ‘Red Alert’, itself a serious thriller about nuclear war. Stanley had intended the film to be a serious adaptation rather than a satire as such; it was only while working on the script that he thought of turning it into a comedy.
Have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?
The thought of these politicians and generals handling the Cold War and Nuclear Deterrence stirred something within Stanley and after too many late night sessions on the script he started thinking; wouldn’t it be funny if we did it this way instead? At Peter Sellers request Terry Southern was brought in to help give the script a comedic lift.
The story centre’s around a deranged General who is sure that the Communist infiltration is polluting America’s precious bodily fluids and decides that war is too important to be left to the politicians, thus taking matters in to his own hands. America has an airborne assault force of B-52 bombers around the clock carrying enough fire power to give everyone a bad suntan in Russia. General Jack D. Ripper (played brilliantly by Sterling Hayden) decides to Launch Plan R; giving the go-code to all the bombers airborne to proceed to their nominated targets within Russia.
Naturally things don’t look so good, and the race to prevent an all out nuclear war is on. General Ripper’s aide Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (one of Peter Sellers 3 roles in the film) senses that his superior has gone a little bit "Funny" in the head and urges him to issue the recall code.
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room"
Celebrity Poker just keeps getting bigger!
President Merkin Muffley (Sellers again) is notified and pulls together the military minds of the ‘War Room’. These scenes in the War Room contain the funniest lines in the film, especially the phone calls between the President & a drunken Russian Premiere that is brutally honest and probably not too far from the truth, given the behaviour of these super powers' leaders of recent. The President’s aides sit around a massive round table that if the film were to be in colour would give you the impression that they are sitting around a large Poker table. Kubrick had the table made with a green felt covering so the actors would feel like they were literally playing a game of Poker only that the stakes were the lives of millions.
General “Buck” Turgidson (played stupendously by George C. Scott) advises the president that there may be a way to prevent this disaster by launching a pre-emptive tactical strike against Russia crippling their response resulting in an acceptable amount of causalities, depending on which way the wind blows! Dr. Strangelove (Sellers again) advises the president that the Russians have a “Doomsday” device that will automatically retaliate should a threat to Russia be detected, ultimately wiping out humanity. However, Dr Strangelove has a plan that will see to the survival of the human race. It involves selecting a small group of individuals based on their importance to the species that will live in underground mines, comprising of a ratio of 10 women for every man, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race nonetheless!
Now this release could be construed as a little controversial in its presentation. Dr Strangelove up until now has only been available in the full screen format in the home video market. With the previous DVD containing a variable aspect ratio of 1.37:1 and 1.66:1, depending on your display device you may have noticed slight masking in certain scenes with bars on the top & bottom as well as the sides. This was how Stanley intended it for home viewing. The theatrical presentation differed from this and what was shown was a constant ratio of 1.66:1. The film was never presented theatrically at 1.37:1. So it is with great pleasure that we have the choice of viewing this feature as you would have seen it at the cinema in widescreen at 1.66:1 and with 16x9 Enhancement for the first time on our beloved format.
Is there a Doctor in the house?
The print used for this transfer comprises of 2 fine grain master positives, with some elements taken from second or third generation prints that were in circulation. Unfortunately the original negative has gone the way of the dodo due to Columbia’s methods of making release prints from the original elements wearing them out via overprinting. But it’s not all bad news. The resulting image has been made a little darker and has lost a lot of the washout from some of the overly bright scenes. Now obviously a film of this age and condition is going to suffer from some print damage but to a certain degree these have been cleaned up with barely noticeable blemishes that are inherit in the stock footage and film artefacts within the aerial shots only. Apparently the cold played havoc with the film in the cameras whilst shooting the background plates for the bomber sequences.
The overall level of detail rendered is quite high, with no noticeable edge enhancement. There are some minor instances of aliasing that caught my eye. Only because I was paying such close attention to the images which really showed up the shortcomings of the previous release. For the casual viewer these instances shouldn’t be an issue.
This is definitely the version of choice for this reviewer, and will probably be as good as it gets until the eventual High Definition release. Something to look forward to I guess.
Move it Pervert!
The original Soundtrack issued previously on DVD was presented in mono as recorded; the audio for this incarnation has been cleaned up and remixed in a discrete 5.1 mix. The three soundtracks that accompany the main feature are English Dolby Digital 5.1, English dts 5.1, & French Dolby Digital 5.1. Before we get carried away with the audio here it is wise to mention that Stanley Kubrick was not a big fan of surround sound as he felt it distracted the viewer from what was on screen. So it’s no surprise here that we find all the tracks very front centric in their delivery. Rather than a drastic reworking creating a vivid soundstage, the surround activity is limited to minor environmental noise such as the jet engine roar from within the bomber, and to a lesser extent the score. The subwoofer is used sparingly only adding some bottom end in the score.
Overall the audio is much more detailed when compared to the previously issued mono soundtrack, where the dialogue was often muddled competing with the rest of the information coming through the one channel. Every gut-busting line is as clear as a bell!
There is very little in comparison between the Dolby & dts, with the only exception being that the Dolby is probably a little bit warmer than the dts which at times came through as a little bright & tinny. Still credit is due to the restoration of these soundtracks, as they are now relatively free from clicks, pops and hiss that often plague a movie of this age.
One minor quibble is the lack of the original mono track for the purists that would balk at this 5.1 tomfoolery.
All of the extras from the previous version of the DVD issued in 2002 are included in this 2 disc set. To coincide with this reissue Columbia has put together some new extras, which are a welcome addition.
Featurette-No Fighting In the War Room Or: Dr Strangelove & Nuclear Threat (30:04)
This piece features interviews with critic Roger Ebert discussing the film’s importance at the time, and how it is still a relevant work to this day. A number of other guests make their appearance including film maker Spike Lee, Bob Woodward, former Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara who served during President Kennedy & Johnson administrations, and James Harris; long time Kubrick collaborator.
Featurette-Inside Dr. Strangelove (46:05)
The same doco issued on the previous disc featuring a plethora of interviews and interesting anecdotes about the genesis of the story and the production itself. This is one documentary that you will never tire of watching as it is genuinely engaging.
On a wing and prayer.....
Featurette-Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers Or Dr. Strangelove (18:28)
An all too brief biography on Peter Sellers, this new short details his rise to fame from his days in The Goon Show and leading onto his celebrated career in film. Unfortunately 18 minutes is not enough to do this man justice.
Featurette-The Art Of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films To Strangelove (13:51)
Again this short from the previous version suffers the same fate as the Sellers doco. Here you get a quick overview of Stanley’s Career from photographer to filmmaker. Those wishing to know more should seek out the documentary; Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures.
Featurette-An Interview With Robert McNamara (24:07)
This new interview features extra discussion around some of the grabs that were featured in the War Room documentary. He gives some chilling insight to the mentality of nuclear deterrence and how we are living in as dangerous a time today as in the films setting, if not more so with the nuclear proliferation of countries like North Korea and possibly Iran.
Interviews-Cast-Peter Sellers And George C. Scott (7:15)
Another hold over from the first release which is basically each actor featured in a split screen giving responses to pre-defined questions. Not really exciting as you can see from George’s body language, however Sellers is in fine form relishing the opportunity to play up.
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Static pages of info of some of the cast principles, and a partial bio of Stanley’s films
A collection of static pages featuring what look like the film’s lobby cards that would have been used in the advertising campaign in theatres
This is surely one of the more outlandish trailers for it’s time, perfectly capturing the film’s candid nature. Also included are the trailers for Big Fish and On The Waterfront.
Without a doubt, Dr Strangelove is an example of a filmmaker at the top of his game featuring a cast of absolute professionals that chew up the scenery around them.
Stanley Kubrick definitely succeeded in what he set out to do with this film; pointing out the absurdity of nuclear deterrence and the nuclear arms race in general.
This 2 disc DVD set deserves to be in everyone’s collection. Not only has the film been painstakingly restored to such a high standard but we have been given genuine quality extras making this a simple choice. If you’re a fan of Kubrick you’ll no doubt shell out the cash for this release again with glee. But if you are new to Stanley’s films this might be just the place to start. It’s that good!