PictureDr. Strangelove explodes onto your Blu-ray enabled screens at a theatrically correct widescreen 1.66:1 ratio and this is somewhat incongruous with the 1.85:1 listed on the back of the outer case. Obviously we're seeing this for the first time in 1080p and as usual for any Sony release the preferred MPEG-4/AVC codec is in use.
Strangelove has always been a worthwhile presentation on disc, from the first time I bought the Kubrick box set to the superbit 40th anniversary edition. The quality on this new release is marginally better than those early versions, it's subtle but the difference is there.
There is still some relatively minor brightness fluctuations on the print, usually when swathes of grey are shown, but nothing really to be concerned with and the only other minor print damage I could see was a few specks and wobbles when looking at the B52 in flight. This is probably more down to the actual techniques used at the time rather than any transfer defect which has crept in. Those special effects by Wally Weevers were always a little on the ropey side; certainly not the best we have seen from him and I was expecting the transfer to Blu-ray to make them stand out like a sore thumb. Quite the reverse actually though; although it still looks a little cheap some of the outside shots do in fact look a lot better than the earlier releases.
There is more depth to be seen in the expanse of the War Room with subtle gradients as light streams in from small light sources. These gradients are pristine with no banding on show and highlight the excellent contrast. Textures are more precise on the suits and ties, with the stitching more than apparent. The interior of the B52 comes across well with the aluminium/steel panels beautifully rendered and the controls just that little more defined.
Whites are kept in check whilst blacks dive down into the inky murkiness we have come to love. No encoding errors to speak of and as such this is definitely the best presentation of Dr. Strangelove I have ever seen.
SoundSony have graced us with a full on Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track for this release, however for the purists amongst us there is also a welcome original mono track to take advantage of. In all honesty the TrueHD version is not really required as Dr. Strangelove would suffer if a bombastic all encompassing surround mix was to enter the fray.
There is some very minor surround use as the Kong's B52, “The Leper Colony”, narrowly evades a tracked missile and damages some electrical equipment. The same surround use with the same effect kicks in again when Major Kong has to delve into the belly of his aircraft to release the bomb bay doors.
Apart from that it's all up front. The sonics are well defined and in the main always placed in the centre channel; that's no disappointment though. The audio is just a little better but in all honesty there's not much that can be done with it to make it any better. The initial slap of hand on stomach by George C. Scott is the best I have ever heard as is the explosion by the tracking missile and the final all encompassing nuclear explosion. These though do not stretch your LFE channel in any way at all; it goes low, but not so low that you need to blu-tac your ornaments down.
A comparison between the TrueHD surround version and the mono revamp indicates that there's really not much to choose from between the two. The former does most of the work up front anyway and whilst there is the odd surround effect is hardly worth mentioning. If anything the only real difference is the Vera Lynn song at the end. “We'll Meet Again” sounds much better in the TrueHD version than the mono. There's definitely more depth and the backing choir on the TrueHD version is more easily understood. A marginal step up, exacting and very true to the original material.
- The Cold War: Picture in Picture and Pop-up Trivia Track.
One of the best pop-up trivia tracks I have ever seen. Most are the usual throw away affairs but this has some interesting facts and figures appearing on your screen at regular intervals. There are some brief snippets from defense advisers at the time; people working for the RAND corporation and their involvement in defining the technical specifications for many weapons as well as strageic thought. Must watch.
- No Fighting in the War Room Or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat. - 0:30:04 - 480i/MPEG-2.
A number of different people (Roger Egbert, Robert McNamara and James Harris amongst many others) giving their views on Kubrick and Dr. Strangelove. There's some excellent input from all parties concerned and this featurette not only covers the movie but also the political mentality of the time and the occasions the world came to the brink of nuclear war. Special mention should go to McNamara for his insightful opinion the administration he was working for when this was released and Harris, one time producer and collaborator of Kubrick's. McNamara's comments are taken from the interview shown later in the extras package.
- Inside Dr Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. - 0:46:04 - 480i/MPEG-2.
An excellent documentary on the making of Dr. Strangelove and one for all lovers of this film to watch and be entertained by. How Stanley got the idea, what research he did after that, the book he paid for to base the screenplay on. Then how he took the script to the big screen, the actors he chose to take the parts, the help of production designer Ken Adam bringing the War Room to life. Like the previous featurette this is interspersed with snippets from the political world at the time this film was released. The infamous pie fight is dealt with and some stills from that elusive scene are shown.
- Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove. - 0:18:27 - 480i/MPEG-2.
Sir David Frost introduces this piece saying Sellers was a genius and I personally think he's probably correct. It's a short documentary on Sellers' life in the motion picture industry and once again mentions the fact that Sellers never really showed his own personality, only those parts he was playing at the time.
- The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove. - 0:13:40 - 480i/MPEG-2
As the above short discussed Sellers, now we have the chance to see a brief history of Kubrick himself. Most of the information has been seen before on other discs but is still a worthwhile watch. Still the best in this field is the documentary A Life in Pictures, still this is a worthwhile watch to anyone who is unfamiliar with his contribution to the motion picture industry.
- Interview with Robert McNamara. - 0:24:26 - 480i/MPEG-2
A extension of the snippets we saw earlier in the War Room extra. A discussion on the political times of the early sixties, the conflicts between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the missiles they had available to them and the policies that each brought to any negotiating table. His brief insight into that period of time is welcome and a good enough watch, but I was eager for a little more.
- Split Screen Interviews with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott. - 0:07:17 - 480i/MPEG-2
A rather odd one really, split screens of Scott and Sellers (at different times), with the other half of the screen completely blacked out. The idea was these pre-arranged questions were 'answered' by the interviewee and later the 'interviewer' would be fitted into the black frame on the other side of the screen. An interesting one to watch.
Trailers for Ghostbusters, The Da Vinci Code ( Extended Cut ), Men in Black and So I married an Axe Murderer.
BD-Live you have to love it, when connected to the net all I get is...”An Error Occurred in Downloading your update. Please try again”. No matter how many times I tried the cupboard was bare. I'll do some research and see if my player needs 'reset', I've heard rumours that this may be the case for the Pioneer BD-35.
This really is fantastic, all of what has gone before plus an informative pop up track which is one of the few that really does deserve your full attention. Packed up superbly in one of those little digi-book offereings with a 32 page glossy booklet attached it's probably the best package we're ever going to get from any Dr. Strangelove release. Still no pie fight as an extra though, and I'm am pretty sure one exists out there somewhere. So who knows perhaps in time for the 50th anniversary edition we'll get that too. If we do then I for one will be queuing up yet again to double, nay triple, nay quadruple dip on this one.
VerdictInitially scripted as a serious drama on the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb Kubrick realised early on that he could only get his point across if he did this as a comedy and a nightmare comedy at that. He was right. Look at Fail Safe, a picture Kubrick had issues with due to it following his own storyline very closely, so much so he tried to block its release. Fail Safe sort of works but only if you have not seen Kubrick's vision, because once you have it simply pales into insignificance.
Kubrick the perfectionist, the master tactician brought in some wonderful people to help him complete this project. The actors and the work they produced here speak for themselves and I hope to have adequately covered this in the movie section of the review. Ken Adam designed and built the now famous War Room (no fighting there though please) and with some little help constructed the inside of a B52 bomber from nothing other than small photographs in hobbyist magazines. Laurie Johnston's score, especially when the action reverts back to Kong's B52 and we hear “Johnny Comes Marching Home”, will have you humming along and it really sets the tension for the final bomb run and that timeless image of Slim Pickens riding to his atomised death.
Kubrick is one of the great cinema masters; he's tried his hand at a number of different genres and in the main he has succeeded in them all. Time and again though he returned to the concept of war, from Fear and Desire to Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove and of course Full Metal Jacket. In the last three of those he finds elements of war which to him are absurd and exploits the situation to the extreme. Never before or since has anyone ever taken such a scenario of nightmare proportions and made people smile.
Dr. Strangelove is insightful, witty, laugh out loud funny and has left the cinema going public with quotes they could only ever wish for. It is a timeless piece and one which can be viewed on countless occasions without it ever feeling diluted, staid or aged. For me it's the actors that make this film what it is and whilst immense credit has to be given to Sellers, Hayden and Pickens, it is Scott who steals the show.
If you've not seen this then I strongly urge you to pick up a copy, unless you're Paul Wolfowitz you'll probably find it incredibly funny. The extras package we've seen before but have been extended slightly for this new medium. The video is a step in the right direction and the audio... well there's really not a lot you can, or in fact would want to, do with it so that rests its case right there. It's a well presented package in the digi-book format and I must admit to being a fan of that style. This might not get full marks on the video nor audio front but I still have to give it a 10 . Ten out of ten overall because quite frankly the actual film is that good, it's a must own if ever there was one.
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- The Cold War: Picture in Picture and Pop-up Trivia Track.