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“Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)-{Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Sony
Genre:
Comedy
Release Date:
6/16/09
Special Features:

Cold War PIP Track, Inside Dr. Strangelove, No Fighting in the War Room, Robert McNamara interview, Best Sellers, The Art of Stanley Kubrick, split-screen interviews ---

Review:

Dr. Strangelove is directed by Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey.) The film stars Peter Sellers (The Pink Panther), Sterling Hayden (The Godfather), James Earl Jones (Star Wars), George C. Scott (Patton), Peter Bull, and Slim Pickens. The film is based \on Red Alert, a novel by Peter George. ***

In a time when the Cold War is at its height, a reckless American military commander orders a bomber strike over Russia. Foreign relations officials representing both countries attempt to negotiate peace, with the Russians revealing that if the American bomber strike hits Russia, it will activate a doomsday device that will annihilate all life on Earth. For help in dealing with a potential nuclear holocaust, the American and Russian diplomats turn to the brilliant ex-Nazi German scientist – Dr. Strangelove. ***

Let me start by saying if you’re coming into this movie looking for a laugh-out-loud comedy, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Dr. Strangelove was never meant to be that kind of movie. That said though, if you’re a fan of satire, and intelligent comedies that actually require some knowledge and brain power from their viewers, you won’t be able to stop laughing. If you fall into those categories, you may very well have found your all-time favorite movie. ***

The star of Dr. Strangelove, and the man who makes the film so damn brilliant, is Peter Sellers. Sellers plays THREE roles here – a military captain, the American president, and the now-iconic title character. He plays each of these roles surprisingly well, and a first-time viewer who didn’t know better likely wouldn’t think that all of these roles were being filled by a single actor! This was not Kubrick’s first time working with Sellers, he previously appeared in the director’s adaptation of Lolita – with one o f the disguises his characters assumed in that film employing a German accent almost identical to the one he uses as the title character here. ***

The true strength of Dr. Strangelove (and what makes it so comically brilliant) is that, despite the ridiculously over-the-tip premise, all of the actors play it straight. No one seems aware of the sheer comical nature of what is going on, and they take their parts seriously – which just makes the end result all the more laughable. In addition to Peter Sellers and his three roles, the film features a pre-P atton George C. Scott as an Air Force general, Sterling Hayden (who Kubrick worked with earlier in The Killing) as the man who orders the bomber strike that sets the film’s events into motion, James Earl Jones in an early role as a bomber crew member, and Slim Pickens as an ill-fated bombardier aboard that same bomber. ***

Stanley Kubrick was a brilliant filmmaker and rarely attempted the same genre more than once. War films are one of the few genres in which he created more than one entry. Dr. Strangelove is a whole different kind of war film th an the brilliant Paths of Glory or the later Full Metal Jacket, but it is nothing less in the quality department. This is an absolutely brilliant satire, and hands down, one of the greatest films ever made. Not everyone is going to “get it”, but if you sit down to watch it and you have at least some intelligence to your name, you’ll be witnessing a cinematic work of comic brilliance. ***

Before moving on, however, I need to point out that this disc is in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio throughout. The original theatrical film alternated between 1.66:1 and 1.33:1 aspect ratios, meaning that the 1.33:1 scenes were cropped slightly for home video releases. That means the same thing for this Blu-Ray release, however associates of Kubrick have insisted that, if he were still alive in this day and age of widescreen televisions, this is most likely the way he would have preferred the film to be shown. Hard to argue with that for the most part, though there are a few minor scenes here and there that may make you question the decision. ---

Image and Sound:

While Dr. Strangelove isn’t a revelation on Blu-Ray, it is still the best the film has ever looked, and it’s hard to argue with that. The grain level is never a distraction, and the picture is clearer and sharper than any earlier home video version of the movie. There is some minor print damage in a few places (mostly noticeable in stock footage-type scenes such as bomber flights), but as a whole it looks pretty good. It isn’t going to dethrone Casablanca for the coveted title of “best looking black and white film on Blu-Ray”, but it’s a more than acceptable transfer. I can’t imagine the film looking any better than it does here. ***

For audio, a new TrueHD lossless audio track has been created. This sounds far better than I expected it to, given the age of the film, but it gets the j ob done and then some. And purists fear not! The original mono track appears on the disc. However, both tracks do tend to suffer slightly based on the condition of the original sound elements. Fortunately, it isn’t a big deal, and the flaws are rarely distracting. The movie sounds as good as it looks, and that’s an enormous compliment. ---

Special Features:

The Blu-Ray port of Dr. Strangelove gets quite a few bonus features,=2 0including all the major ones from earlier DVD releases. The book-style packaging itself contains some very interesting notes on the film, which are an essential read for any fan. By far the Cold War PIP track is the most interesting feature on here, providing enlightening feedback throughout the course of the film. Several documentaries appear as well, including behind-the-scenes stuff, and even one that looks at Kubrick’s films up to Strangelove. Another interesting feature comes in the form of an interview with Robert McNamara, who was a secretary of defense in the days of the Vietnam War. Topping off the package are a featurette on Sellers himself, and some split-screen interviews. All in all, a solid package.

Final Words:

Dr. Strangelove is an ingenious satirical comedy that won’t fail to please anyone who at least has SOME intelligence. It’s great to see the movie finally hit the Blu-Ray format after a nearly six-month delay, and it was worth the wait. No fan should be without this disc. Needless to say, it gets my highest recommendation.

 

 
 
 
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