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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"
- President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: March 03, 2001

Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott
Other Stars: Slim Pickens, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Tracy Reed
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:34m:39s
Release Date: February 27, 2001
UPC: 043396061873
Genre: black comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- AB+B+ A-

DVD Review

Stanley Kubrick's black comedy Dr. Strangelove is one of the more disturbing films about war ever made. The events leading to a possible nuclear war are ridiculous and silly, but they contain numerous elements of real life that still ring true today. The humor arises from the over-the-top dialogue, which concerns ideas sadly held by prominent members of our government at one time or another. These thoughts are absurd, but they're frightening because important people believe in them.

The story is based on the novel Red Alert by Peter George, which was a serious look at one possible scenario for nuclear war. During production, Kubrick realized that the events worked perfectly as a black comedy, and he changed the tone of the story. However, the force of the issue remains powerful and is actually increased by the insanity created by Kubrick. Along with Terry Southern, he went on to create some of the sharpest and most memorable dialogue in film history. Shot in gorgeous black and white on a minimal number of sets, the story retains its focus on the ridiculous words and ideas of military officials.

General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden): "I can no longer allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."

General Ripper stands in his huge office with a giant cigar in his mouth and a look of profound self-importance. Viewed from a low-angle shot, he dominates the frame, but also appears oddly distorted. Because he believes in this Communist conspiracy, Ripper has given the order for a nuclear strike on Russia. Can the top United States and Soviet officials discover a way to avert this crisis? They line up in the War Room - a creation of production design guru Ken Adam, who created some of the most memorable Bond sets. It is a relatively simple design, with a huge map and one circular table, but it works wonders for this film. In order to stop the nuclear strike, the weak president and his army officers must first stop bickering. The highlight of this petty talk occurs during a conversation between President Merkin Muffley and his counterpart, Soviet Premier Kissov. They have a ridiculous talk that comes off like the minor arguments of an old married couple. It's sadly not as far from the truth as one would hope.

General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott): "I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say, no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops - depending on the breaks."

Dr. Strangelove features a collection of wonderful acting performances, with the best coming from George C. Scott as an energetic army officer. Turgidson is the perfect army man and will never condemn the military complex, even if it destroys the world. His words come out with a wide-eyed excitement for the greatness of the army no matter what the crisis. Men like this have always existed in the world, and it's frightening to understand the power they possess. The other unbelievable performance comes from the incomparable Peter Sellers, who shines in three extremely different roles. The highlight is Dr. Strangelove - a jittery, crazed German scientist who wears dark sunglasses, speaks through a cigarette, and fights to control his unwieldy hand. Sellers adds significant differences to each character and makes them individuals, and it doesn't come off as a gimmick in any way.

It would be impossible to mention all the creative subtleties that exist in this classic film. Slim Pickens' patriotic Major T.J. "King" Kong leads the bomber on its fateful run with aplomb and ridiculous jargon. His final scene is the one probably most mentioned in connection with this movie. Even the names of each character explicitly tie them to their personal identities. Jack D. Ripper is named for a notorious killer and sex offender, Buck Turgidson's name stands for a macho and aroused man, and Kissov has the obvious meaning. The intricacies of this remarkable screenplay still continue to impress viewers after 35 years. It may not be Kubrick's most visually inventive creation, but Dr. Strangelove contains possibly the best screenplay of any of his heralded films.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full-frame transfer for Dr. Strangelove features bright images with excellent definition and sharpness. The black-and-white picture does contain a few specks of dirt here and there, but they don't detract too much from the film. Kubrick's long shots of Ken Adam's infamous War Room and General Ripper's office look wonderful, with impressive focus throughout the frame. The shots of the plane flying in Russia are clear and well it. However, the transfer does suffer slightly in the final scenes, with a few major defects existing on the print.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanish, Portugueseyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0-channel mono transfer does a nice job in keeping the extensive dialogue clear and understandable. The wit and humor in the script are the pivotal elements of this story, and no elements are difficult to decipher. However, the transfer lacks much force or power, and it remains fairly simple and low-key. This fails to have a major effect because Dr. Strangelove is mostly devoid of music and significant sound effects. There is one decent battle scene, a few musical interludes, and patriotic background music on the bomber, but overall the story is driven by dialogue. This renders this mono transfer acceptable in terms of the nature of the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Fail-Safe, Anatomy of a Murder
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Original advertising gallery of film posters
  2. Interviews with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott
Extras Review: This special edition DVD features the 45-minute documentary Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove-a comprehensive new look at this original black comedy. It contains compelling interviews with basically everyone still alive who worked on the movie. It even includes a brief conversation with Sidney Lumet, the director of Fail-Safe, a similar dramatic film. Every element of production is covered here, including the initial concept, casting, 2nd-unit footage, and the intricacies of Slim Pickens' final scene. The interviews are combined nicely with photos from the set and various scenes. This documentary stands with the best of its kind on disc, and is a must-see for fans of Kubrick and this film.

The Art of Stanley Kubrick presents an interesting overview of the early days of this brilliant filmmaker. This thirteen-minute featurette includes enlightening conversations with Kubrick's producer and editor, as well as production designer Ken Adam. Quick looks at his short films and Paths of Glory, Spartacus, and Lolita give interesting tidbits on their production. While this extra is fairly brief, it does provide a nice introduction to viewers yet to discover Kubrick's talents.

A disappointing extra is the split-screen interviews with George C. Scott and Peter Sellers. Recorded during production, the actors provide taped answers to interviews that would fool audiences into thinking they're live. Unfortunately, the statements are fairly dull and lack more than the usual promotional words. The entire segment runs for seven minutes, and apart from a few funny accents from Sellers, contains nothing worthwhile.

The remaining bonus features follow the basic structure for special edition DVDs. The original advertising gallery includes various posters from the original marketing campaign. The posters are very effective, and almost assuredly helped to sell the film to audiences. The theatrical trailer for Dr. Strangelove is also extremely creative, and raises plenty of questions without providing any answers. Finally, the disc contains talent files for Stanley Kubrick and all of the major actors. They include a list of achievements, basic biological information, and a selected filmography.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

The American Film Institute recently voted Dr. Strangelove as the #2 comedy of all time. While these lists are subjective and probably unnecessary, this recognition does show its continued importance today. Stanley Kubrick took a fairly simple premise and creatively turned it into a memorable and hilarious film. The disturbing reality of this story within the silliness is one of the many reasons why it draws scores of new fans many years after its release.

 


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