PictureThis release sees Kubrick’s masterpiece anamorphically enhanced from its original 1.66:1 image, with a transfer that doesn’t quite fit the bill for its so-called restoration. Although fairly clean, stable and clear, the picture is still marred by the appearance of many scratches and speckles. There are no fades, thankfully, and the contrast on the monochromatic image is pretty reliably decent. There is heaps of grain muddying up the picture, though, which may help with the semi-documentary look that Kubrick was after but still tends to disenchant on larger screens.
The black levels have a slight greyness to them that I feel could have been improved upon. The deep shadows of the War Room fare well, though, revealing that a better job could have been made all round. Detail is nicely captured – with faces and cockpit instrumentation looking reasonably crisp – and backgrounds are sharply etched too.
I noticed no artifacting with this transfer, but there is some edge enhancement that may be problematic with projectors. But, all things considered, I was still very happy with the image as it now stands. I’ve seen a few different version of Strangelove, from around the globe, and I certainly haven’t seen it look better than this.
SoundSony Pictures have released this edition with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in both English and Japanese, and a 5.1 DTS mix in English. What is missing, however, is the original mono track that is on the very similar R1.
Now, hands up if thought for one minute that Dr. Strangelove would have some involving use of surround sound. One, two … three of you, eh? Well, I’m sorry to inform you hopefuls out there, but the mixes here provide little but ambience and a slight boost to the score, with regards to the rear speakers and the sub. Practically everything, as was only to be expected, is pushed out from the front. But, that isn’t to say that the audio transfers are in any way lacking – because they are not. The DD 5.1 and the DTS are incredibly clean, with no hiss or distortion. The dialogue is crystal clear, the score is robust and the gunfire, explosions and the REALLY BIG BANG are lively and powerful. At a push, I would say that the DTS is better track. It offers nothing more than its DD counterpart in terms of surround activity, but it does sound louder, clearer and little bit more vibrant. And the voices in the War Room possess slightly more echo.
So, I’m not going to mark this down for not providing the all-immersive sound design that we know DTS and DD can deliver, because I feel the sound is handled exceptionally well. Considering that it is the original mono track that has been spruced up, the mix works surprisingly effectively. Very nice then, but no bells and whistles.
ExtrasNow we’re talking. This double-discer replicates the R1 Anniversary Edition with a plethora of features that show remarkable respect for the film, and its fans. Starting with the gorgeously presented photo-booklet of production stills, we know that we are in for a class act here. Okay, so Roger Ebert’s essay on the film is all in Japanese – this is their version, when all said and done. But the book provides a lovely array of stills that need no translation.
All the other extras are over on Disc 2.
No Fighting in the War Room Or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat is a great 30 min documentary that takes a detailed look at the difficult and frightening era out of which the film was born. It reveals just how close the world came to the brink of destruction. Robert MacNamara talks of the threat of when the Soviets sought to take West Berlin into their sector in September 1961, and there is a lot of nice period propaganda footage that remains very interesting to see, just the same. There is input from Roger Ebert, James Harris, Bob Woodward and Spike Lee. Great stuff.
Next up is Inside Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (46.00 mins) This fabulous documentary endorses Kubrick’s belief in there being a lighter side to Armageddon and is one of those better making of’s that actually has some meat on its bones and offers fascinating insight and terrific anecdote. Originally intended to be a straight thriller, it is interesting to see how the daftness of the scenario began to infuse the plot. Chronicling the people, ideas and influences that that helped evolve the film from its fledging re-writes, the many participants deliver a wonderful stream of fact, hearsay and trivia – such as how the real Air Force top brass went white when they saw how accurate the B-52 interiors were; how Sellers was originally slated to play Kong as well, and even filmed much of his scenes until an injury forced Kubrick to rethink the part; and how beating Scott at chess proved to be the crucial key to getting him on board and singing from the same hymn book as the difficult director. The rivalry between Kubrick’s movie and Sidney Lumet’s very similar production Fail Safe is covered, as is the infamous “pie-fight” sequence that never made the final cut. But perhaps the most spookily intriguing thing is how the film’s initial preview date had to be changed because it fell on the same day as JFK’s assassination, also prompting a line of Slim Pickens’ dialogue in the film to be looped over to avoid embarrassment. Top stuff, folks.
Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove (18.10 mins) pays affectionate tribute to the multi-talented actor and takes us through his various and distinguished guises in this film and some others. Without resorting to too much fawning, the participants – including Michael Palin, Shirley MaClaine, Sir David Frost and Spike Lee – reveal their admiration for his amazing skills for creating characters at the drop of a hat. Quality, again.
The Art Of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films To Strangelove (13.50 mins) has contributions from James Earl Jones, Roger Caras, John Baxter and more as they take a fairly personal look at how the great director got started in films – from his early love of photography to the production of his very first feature. They detail his growing notoriety and his own particular uniqueness.
An Interview With Robert MacNamara is a 24 minute segment that actually plays a lot of his talking head moments from the previous documentaries in the full uncut interview. A good rounding-out of the time and events of the movie.
Split Screen Interviews with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott runs for roughly 7 mins and features two mocked interviews with the stars that were made during the film’s production. They are both clearly having a whale of a time and there are some great little stories on offer.
Sadly, the Filmographies on this release are all in Japanese, so I cannot reveal much about them. Finally, we get a selection of Theatrical Trailers and a Gallery of Advertising Material.
All in all, this is an exemplary package. Still, a commentary track would have been nice to complete the picture.
VerdictDr. Strangelove seems like a film very much of its times. Yet, today, it feels as pertinent as ever. The faces in power may have changed, but we all know the conceited, egotistical desires barely hidden beneath their rhetoric, are exactly the same. But enough of politics …
Kubrick’s movie is a wonderful satire, full of inspired characters and performances. The screenplay is witty, intelligent and extremely thought-provoking. Sellers simply excels, as does Scott, and the imagery is utterly indelible. See it. Love it. See it again.
This Japanese R2 edition is a carbon copy of the R1 release, except for the subtitles and the Japanese menu screens. The extras are excellent and full of tantalising anecdotes, production fact and smart era-evocation. It is a shame that Roger Ebert’s essay at the start of the exceptional photo-booklet is all in Japanese, though. But then, this is their version, when all said and done. The picture quality isn’t quite as splendid as we may have anticipated, but it is perfectly enjoyable, all the same. The sound is more than an agreeable, though. The DTS, or DD 5.1, may not involve the use of intricate wraparound sound, but the mixes are resolutely clear, robust and vibrant. Dr. Strangelove is a winner. Very highly recommended indeed. Though, for obvious reasons, it may be advisable to go after the R1 or R2 (which, incidentally, has the source book, Two Hours To Doom, accompanying it .
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