Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
R1 - America - Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (22nd August 2005).
The Film

I love absurdity, I love comedy and I love satire. How could I not love this movie? I love Stanley Kubrick. His reputation is probably more popular than some of his movies. How many people have seen Barry Lyndon, or his pre-Spartacus movies? This is the only time heís done a comedy, and you kind of wish heíd done some more. His movies have a strange detached quality, but always have a particular message to get across.
Mr. Kubrick was especially fascinated by two subjects: sex and war. Looking at his extremely short filmography (especially considering the time between his first and last movie was almost 45 years), most of his movies dealt with one of those two subjects. Dr. Strangelove deals with the latter. Itís the cold war, and some crazy general worried about his fluids launches a nuclear strike against those commie Russians. Now, I wasnít around at the height of the cold war, but how fluoridation of water could have possibly been a strong right-wing belief is beyond me. Fluoridation started in 1946, General Ripper says. Ah, with logic like that, who can argue?
Mr. Kubrick used Sterling Hayden as that crazy general. He used the actor before, in The Killingí, and in both movies the guy is great. Heís utterly crazy and how he could have gotten a job with the US military could be an interesting message. George C. Scott has a fun role, he probably represents the general American mentality of the time. Heís proud of his army. He seems annoyed by all of this. All he wants to do is go home to boff his girlfriend. The other big actor is Peter Sellers (whom Mr. Kubrick used two years prior in Lolitaí), who plays 3 roles, he handles himself perfect in all three. The voice of reason in all this chaos is his Captain Mandrake (a British officer). He also plays the President, who seems powerless to do anything. I mean, he canít even stop people from fighting in the war room. He also plays the title character, the guy with the hand. Bruce Campbell probably owes a lot to this character.
The ending has the war room arguing over mine shafts, with Dr. Strangeloveís gloved hand going insane. The whole scene is completely ludicrous, and is just the perfect ending. I mean, the movie starts out normal enough, then the fluid aspect comes out, with the general telling people to shoot first and ask questions later, then having the revelation that making a making to kill all life is cheaper than defending a country. Having a Peace is Our Professioní army poster in the middle of a friendly fire shootout, followed by Mandrake having all the trouble in the world trying to call the president, while having all the idiocies going on the in the war room, make the last argument just the icing on the mushroom cloud. George C. ScottĎs character is just great. Heís happy at the prospect of the potential war killing only 20 million (tops!) Americans if his plan is followed.
I was lucky enough to see this movie in theatres along with The Killing. My friend, talking about Dr. Strangelove said, ďWell, thereís no storyĒ. Okay, thatís true, the plot isnít quite David Mamet complicated, but thatís not the point. Satire doesnít really require a complex plot. Just look at Duck Soup. Context, on the other hand, is important. For someone like me, who was born almost twenty years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, General Ripper might seem completely out of his gourd. I mean, he is completely crazy, but his logic was simply absurd to me. Until I read that right-wing people actually believed what he was saying, he was just completely nuts. I liked the movie the first time I saw it, but with more information, the richness and depth of the characters and situations just becomes more impressive. The logic is better and I can understand where everything comes from.
Hell, the logic is so good that I almost believe General Ripper now. After all, have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?

Video

1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Silly me, I started watching this movie in the day, for about five minutes, until I realized the movie took place largely in the dark. Later, that night, I watched the movie, and wasnít exceptionally impressed. I mean, for the age the picture was very nice, but there were still specks and tiny scratches, and you could see the worn quality of the print. The contrast is great and the detail is very nice, mind you. Iím just being annoying. The picture is on par with other Columbia releases. You should be happy.

Audio

One of the extremely rare cases where Columbia put a DTS track on a non-Superbit title. Iím all for DTS tracks, you know, but for this movie it seems kind of a waste. I mean, the track sounds quite fine, donít get me wrong, but the track is mostly centered. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track can handle everything perfectly fine. You also have the original mono track and a French stereo dub. Now, I heard the DTS track and it was fine, like I said. Pretty much everything was centered, but you do get some rear use. Some ambience here and there, and you can even hear a little echo in the war room. The bass doesnít kick in too much, but itís not that kind of movie. Everything is crystal clear and nothing unintended happens.

Extras

DISC TWO:

"No Fighting in the War Room: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat" is a half-hour documentary that focuses on the threat of nuclear war at the time the movie was made and does a great job contextualizing the movie. You hear about the events that shaped the movieís germination. Various critics, filmmakers and Robert McNamara talk about how close nuclear war was and what the government did. It also talks about how the movie would respond to the events. The pie fight scene is discussed also. Itís a nice doc and sets gives great information about how the movie came about.

"Inside Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombí" documentary is a bit longer, at 46 minutes long and is a making-of doc. Itís well-rounded and you see every aspect of the movie, from the screenwriting process to critical and box-office reactions and the movieís ultimate influence. Various people of all walks of life, including wives and sons of the people who worked on the movie talk about the work done. It has a lot of anecdotes, like how Stanley Kubrick got George C. Scott to say the lines the way he wanted. Itís fascinating and could have gone on longer.

"Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove" documentary includes a bunch of filmmakers and critics talk about how great Sellers is. This 18Ĺ-minute piece talks about Mr. Sellersí life and film career. You see some of his very early film work and keeps going up until Dr. Strangelove. Along the way, you have interview bits and clips from Dr. Strangelove. People like Michael Palin, Roger Ebert, Spike Lee along with crewmembers from the movie give insightful and interesting comments.

"The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove" documentary is essentially a short biography about the director focuses on his early filmmaking career. The narration voice seems to be one of a B-movie or spoof, but this is still nice enough. The movie focuses on the directorís short films, although they skip the first shorts they did, starting with Fear and Desire, which, technically, isnít quite a short film. They then go through all his movies up until Dr. Strangelove. Itís a really nice piece, but quite short, at 13 minutes and 49 seconds. This dates from 2000.

Interview with Robert McNamara, here Mr. McNamara starts with talking about his idea that the Cold War was really a hot war, in which he talks about nuclear war and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He then goes on to talk about the possibility of a mistake, like in the movie. He talks about how close the US and Russia came to nuclear war, giving you an account of a B-2 being shot down. Heís very interesting and itís a shame this is only 24Ĺ minutes long.

Split Screen Interview with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott is a 7 minute and 17 second long piece, but thereís an explanation card for the first 30 seconds. In any case, if youíve got the Spartacusí Criterion DVD, youíll know what this is. These are two fake interviews, where the actor answers pre-asked questions. It was done so that local newscasters could be the ones asking the questions. In any case, theyíre just simple questions, with nothing too insightful. It is fun to watch Mr. Sellers go through all the British accents.

Filmographies are included for: Director Stanley Kubrick and actors Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens and James Earl Jones get filmographies. Given Mr. Kubrickís sporadic output, his filmography is complete, while the others are selected. Nice information, but nothing more.

Theatrical trailers are also included for: Dr. Strangelove (3:26), The Bridge on the River Kwai (3:08 ), Farenheit 9/11 (2:16), The China Syndrome (2:00), From Here to Eternity (1:04) and On the Waterfront (2:40) get trailers. Not all of them are the original theatrical trailers, but theyíre still quite good.

Overall

An excellent piece of satire that harks back to a time where the threat of nuclear holocaust would destroy the world, and is strangely relevant today with the threats of terrorism. Well at least you can laugh at the absurdity of it all with this gem of a flick, the DVD includes an ok transfer with decent sound and a collection of nice extras.

The Film: A+ Video: B- Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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