Plot: What’s it about?
The cause of nuclear war could be bodily fluids, unless someone or something can prevent the almost impossible. In a strange turn of events, General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has snapped and sent a bomber unit to Russia, where they are ordered to demolish the lands below them. You see, he has come to believe that Russia plans to pollute the American people’s bodily fluids, so he had to take action and prevent that from happening. Soon enough, the U.S. president and his advisors are called to the summit room, where they learn that if the bombs strike Russian soil, a Doomsday Device will be set off, which will wipe everything off the face of the planet. So as time ticks away, the president (Peter Sellers) tries to keep the Soviet leader under control, Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) tries to reason with General Ripper, and former Nazi Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) confuses everyone with his meanderings. Can the disaster be averted in time to save humanity, or will General Ripper end up responsible for the end of mankind?
Whenever those lists of the greatest films are released, this one always seems to be present and with good reason. I consider this to be one of the finest examples of cinema there is, with Stanley Kubrick’s excellent direction, the riveting black & white photography, a superb cast, and of course, the tremendous sets done by Ken Adam. Adam, who also worked on other Kubrick films and some Bond movies, delivers an incredible production scheme here, peaking with the summit room. That room holds a lot of the film’s action, so the visually stunning set pieces ensure those sequences offer plenty of depth. This picture also sports some great performances from folks like George C. Scott and Slim Pickens, as well as a show stopping series of turns from Peter Sellers, who steals this one. This is a very dark motion picture that touches on some horrific subject matter, but Kubrick adds in some lethal doses of humor, which make the scary moments even more frightening. This disc is a welcome improvement over the previous release and with such a potent flick on board, this is an easy recommendation.
I like most of Stanley Kubrick’s pictures and while I don’t think this one ranks as his best work, I do think it falls into the second slot with ease. And in such a celebrated resume like Kubrick’s, second best is a real compliment indeed, especially with only Paths of Glory in front of you. In this film, Kubrick paints a dark realism, which enables this all to seem possible, even when it spirals out of control at times. We’re used to dark tones from Kubrick, but here that is explored in a different avenue, as this one is loaded with hilarious moments. I wouldn’t stretch to call this a normal comedic piece, but it packs some superb black humor in throughout, even as the bomb prepares to be dropped. I love his work and this is an example of his finest efforts, so I am pleased to see it given some attention on home video. Other films directed by Kubrick include Killer’s Kiss, Lolita, Barry Lyndon, Spartacus, Fear and Desire, and Eyes Wide Shut. The cast here includes Peter Sellers (The Return Of The Pink Panther, A Shot In The Dark), George C. Scott (Patton, The Changeling), Keenan Wynn (Black Moon Rising, The Last Unicorn), Sterling Hayden (The Godfather, Crime Wave), and Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles, Rancho Deluxe).
Video: How does it look?
Dr. Strangelove is presented in dual aspect ratios of full frame and 1.66:1, which is the intended form for the film be shown within. The size & placement of the bars seem a little odd at times, but this has been the case with all the versions I’ve seen, even back to the laserdisc from The Criterion Collection. The black & white image looks terrific though, very sharp and well defined at all times. In this transfer, the contrast is stark, but also allows for solid detail presence and that is important, as this is a very dark visual scheme. I did see some edge enhancement and print wear at times, but nothing serious in the end. This seems to be a fine transfer all the way around, no real complaints here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono track does as much as mono allows, which is adequate, but doesn’t go much beyond the basics. This is a very dialogue driven movie most of the time, so the mono track handles those portions just fine, but in the plane sequences, it seems a little limited at times. I suppose a surround sound track would perk up the atmosphere in those scenes, but I still think the original mono is the right choice here. The track is very clean though, with minimal hiss and the dialogue sounds good, so no real issues to complain about with this mix. This disc also houses mono options in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, as well as subtitles in those languages and English, Korean, Thai, and Chinese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The first release of this title was as bare as they come, but this new special edition more than makes up for that oversight. A fourteen minute featurette spotlights Kubrick’s start in film, which is welcome, but runs too short to offer much real insight. Another featurette is also included, which gives more of an overview of the production involved here, which runs about forty-five minutes. This is a much deeper look into things, filled with clips from the film, interviews, and various behind the scenes information. I found this to be very interesting and while most of this information has been released elsewhere, it was nice to see it all put together here. This disc also includes talent files, a selection of promotional materials, and the film’s theatrical trailer.