36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Matthew T. Weflen
- Published on Amazon.com
Kubrick's best film? Tough to say. 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and Spartacus are pretty darned good. One of the best dark comedies of the 20th Century? Easily. Probably the single best. Consistently, some times uproariously funny, "Dr. Strangelove" is an indisputable classic. It expertly weaves the paranoia and fear of the period with phenomenal comedic performances, to both funny and chilling effect. Peter Sellers is absolutely stunning in this film, as is George C. Scott. The nuclear farce escalates and escalates throughout the 90 minute run-time, ultimately culminating in... well, I won't spoil it.
Simply put, this is one of those films everyone should see before they die.
This is a tough disc to review. The movie is so incredibly good that it might be blinding to the flaws in the presentation. And flaws there are.
The first one that will strike anyone who's seen this film before on home video is that this film is not presented in the 1.33:1 "academy ratio." Instead, it is cropped to a 1.66:1 ratio which is very close to today's widescreen TVs, with *very* slender black bars on the sides.
Now, I'm as big a fan of widescreen images as the next guy. But I'm an even bigger fan of seeing everything the director intended me to see, i.e. the original aspect ratio of a piece of film. Apparently, when Sr. Strangelove was transferred to laserdisc, Kubrick told Criterion that the film is supposed to switch from 1.33:1 to 1.66:1 aspect ratios, depending on scene. In the war room, for instance, the lighting above and some binders below the 1.66:1 frame were intended to be seen. Since this disc is fixed at 1.66:1, the image never opens up to show us this information. Is it story critical? No. But it could have been present, given the existence of other Blu-Ray discs that switch aspect ratios on the fly. It's too bad that it wasn't done here.
Another potentially problematic aspect of this transfer is video noise. I am a big proponent of film grain being presented realistically in a HD image. I don't want it scrubbed away by excessive "noise reduction." But this image strains my tolerance. Static backdrops and human faces positively swim with noise, much of which looks more "digital" than true "analog" film grain. I truly wonder whether a projected film print would have this kind of noise. Again, some sort of happy medium should have been achieved.
OK, bad news out of the way, I can still say that this is a highly watchable transfer. Blacks are much more solid than the previous DVD, and detail in some scenes is good (but not great). For a 45 year-old b&w presentation, this looks pretty good. It's not at the level of the recent "Casablanca" or "Seventh Seal" Blu-Rays, but it certainly holds its own.
Audio is presented in a 5.1 channel mix, as well as the original mono. The surround mix is pleasant, splitting some of the info (such as gunshots or airplane noise) out into the rear surrounds.
Extras are mostly carried over from the most recent DVD edition, with one new documentary included, and the film trailer tragically absent. It was a GREAT trailer, very 60's modern and cool. Really sad and kind of inexplicable that it was left out. The docs are presented in 480p, which is kind of lame. The "commentary" is a combination text overlay/video interview trivia track. Unfortunately, the text overlays pretty much half of the screen, making it tough to catch important parts of the film. The videos are interesting enough, but they talk over some key parts of the film, and some of the truly outstanding performances are obscured. Overall, the track is more irritating that it's worth, and I would have preferred a new 1080p documentary to it.
If you don't already own this, buy it. Just buy. Don't think. It's amazing, and an absolute must-own. Any of the above issues will not really matter to someone who doesn't own another edition. This one will do just fine.
If you do already have the more recent DVD edition, this is a tough recommendation. The picture quality is certainly better. There is more detail, better black levels, and fewer artifacts such as jagged edges and edge enhancement. But you're going to get a cropped image that may not square well (so to speak) with your recollection of the film you've seen before. And you'll be missing out on the classic trailer, in exchange for yet another superfluous documentary. So it's not really an upgrade. It's more of a lateral move from the DVD.
I still give the disc 4 stars. The film is 5-star material all the way. The BD presentation has some serious flaws, but it still is highly watchable and has a fair amount of value.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Dennis A. Amith (kndy)
- Published on Amazon.com
It was a time of turmoil in the world. There was the threat of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia, how fatalistic Americans were during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US involvement in the military conflict in Vietnam was starting to heighten and tensions were high. Director Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a thriller on a what if there was a nuclear accident.
Using Peter George's novel "Red Alert" (written back in 1958) as a source to write his film adaption, his knowledge of nuclear war after reading over 50 books on the subject, after the Cuban Missile Crisis started to become a growing concern with Americans, Kubrick wanted to give a unique perspective and not make things so grim. He immediately decided to change the screenplay which was more of a serious thriller into a black comedy.
Needless to say, his decision to do so has made "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" a classic film that was ahead of its time back in 1965 and has so much relevance in today's modern world. The film was well-written as the film is a satire on the political system, sexual themes (which the names and the characters and their role in the film plays a big part of the film's theme and their manhood) and most importantly the Cold War.
The film's storyline and even what went on behind-the-scenes to create the film are two very interesting stories and now, fans and new viewers who have been curious about this classic film and what went on behind-the-camera can experience it all on this 45th Anniversary Special Edition via High Definition on Blu-ray.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition" receives its first High Definition transfer ala 1080p (aspect ratio 1:66:1). With the outcry of videophiles of how a classic like "Patton" was heavily DNR'd (Digital Noise Reduction), the good news is that Sony didn't go that direction. So, with the Hi-Def transfer, you do see a lot more detail but also you see the grain of the film quite strongly at times (moreso in the B-52 sequences). But there are scenes that look absolutely awesome. Where the images look pristine and blacks are nice and deep with no sign of compression artifacts. Overall, this is the best transfer of the film to date.
As for audio, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition" is presented in English and French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (and also its original English mono audio presentation). For the most part, the audio is primarily dialogue-based but when you get to the action sequences as the US military fight each other, machine guns and blasts are heard quite nice and clearly. In fact, the military standoff featured good use of the fronts and rears and good directional of audio and hearing the soldiers scream from different areas.
The film utilizes the front channels quite well and again, dialogue and even the very few music used in the film comes out quite clearly for a film that is 45-years-old. And "Dr. Strangelove" does sounds great for a film that was made in 1964. But by no means is the sound going to be as immersive as a modern war film on High Definition but for a film that is 45-years-old, it sounds great. So, the fact that this classic film has received a lossless soundtrack is a major plus.
As for subtitles, English English SDH, French, Arabic and Dutch subtitles are included.
"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition" comes with a good number of lengthy special features and also, it is important to let Blu-ray collectors know that the presentation is in digibook format and not in the standard blue Blu-ray cases. The digibook has a book included which goes into "Strangelove's Durability: In Kubrick's Words" by Richard Tanne, pages dedicated to talents such as Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden and Stanley Kubrick. Also, chapters "Pie in the Sky: Or: How the Lunacy You Saw Wasn't All the Lunacy There Was" by Travis Baker and many still images from the film.
* The Cold War: Picture-in-Picture and Pop-Up Trivia Track (BD Exclusive) - When watching the film with this activated, people can learn many facts about the film and references to real life situations and through picture-in-picture also watch interviews with military commanders, military personnel and historians. Very informative and goes into detail about the US and Russia in term of their use of nuclear bombs and test sites.
* No Fighting in the War Room or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat - (46:04) Interviews with James Harris (producing partner of Kubrick), film critic Roger Ebert, filmmaker Spike Lee and many others about the significance of "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" and how relevant it is today.
* Inside: Dr. Strangelove - (46:04) This is the making of "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". How Kubrick read over 50 books on nuclear war and how the film became a comedy/satire from its original plan of being a thriller. Also, interviews with the cast and how certain talent were cast.
* Best Sellers: Peter Sellers Remembered - (18:27) A featurette celebrating the life of Peter Sellers on films and learning about the films he was in and friends and talent discussing how brilliant and versatile an actor he was. How he was able to play multiple characters for the same film.
* The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove - (13:50) Stanley Kubrick was a photographer, writer, producer and director but also an artist. This featurette goes into how he started out as a photographer and how he transitioned into becoming a filmmaker.
* An Interview with Robert McNamara - (24:24) Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara discusses why he calls the Cold War, a "Hot War" and the nuclear threats and strategies of the that time.
* Split Screen Interviews - (7:17) As part of the promotions of that era, both George C. Scott and Peter Sellers took part in mock interviews featured in split screen.
* Previews - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment theatrical trailers
As basic as this summary is, there is so much detail in the writing of "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" that it is one of those films to watch and just be in awe of. From the performances of Peter Sellers (playing multiple characters) to George C. Scott (who didn't know that he was being filmed during his run through of scenes) and just the amount of thought and detail that went into the creation of the film.
Director Stanley Kubrick went through many nuclear war books (over 50) and read quite a few of them several times in order to immerse himself and gaining the knowledge he needed in creating the film, finding certain situations of that time that seem absolutely frivolous now but actually did happen during that era and crafting characters based on other characters but giving everything a satirical spin. The results are magnificent and just brilliant!
At first, when hearing General Jack D. Ripper wanting to go to war due to fluoridated water. I thought such a thing was preposterous but then I learned that the John Birch Society at that time thought it was a conspiracy by the US government to introduce fluoridated water into the system. Also, to learn that the "Doomsday Device" was not a far off idea, that a scientist had proposed a Cobalt Bomb that would act like the Doomsday device and annihilate all human life on the Planet.
I was really amazed by this film and it definitely gave the viewers this unique perspective that Stanley Kubrick had at that time but giving it a comedy spin. You have to remember that during that era this film was released, the threat of nuclear war and everyone dying from it was very real. The political tension between the Kennedy Administration and the Russians was very real and very tense. So, for this film to put a comedy spin into nuclear war was probably unheard of. So, needless to say, it was a film ahead of its time and has so much relevance today.
The Blu-ray release of "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition" is absolutely fantastic. You are literally getting your money's worth because the special features included are lengthy, informative and really go into the behind-the-scenes creation of the film and setting up the tension of that Cold War era.
For those that own the 40th Anniversary DVD Special Edition (released back in 2004), you may be wondering if its worth the double dip. Personally, I would have to say yes because of the High Definition transfer and lossless audio. You also, get the Blu-ray exclusive "The Cold War: Picture-in-Picture and Pop-Up Trivia Track" which is very informative and a booklet. But if none of these interest you, then you are safe with the original DVD Special Edition release. (Note: The DVD Special Edition release does come with a theatrical photo and advertising gallery not included on the special features of the Blu-ray edition). With a release for it's 40th, and now it's 45th, there is probably a big chance we will see another release 2014 for a 50th Anniversary Special Edition.
But for Blu-ray fans who have been wanting Kubrick's films on Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition video transfer and lossless audio track, you can't go wrong with this release because it's quite solid and definitely worth having in your Blu-ray collection. "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition" is highly recommended!