Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 12, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“A film ahead of its time, Stanley Kubrick’s satire of a fanatical general who has his pilots launch nuclear bombs in Russia and how the both the US and USSR governments try to fix the situation. Great performances and really smart innovative ideas for this 1964 film that still has its relevance in today’s modern world. The 45th Anniversary Special Edition is packed with lengthy special features plus an all new picture-in-picture exclusive with pop-up trivia track and booklet plus 1080p High Definition picture quality and lossless audio. Overall, this 45th Special Anniversary Edition is magnificent and is definitely the definitive version to own!”
TITLE: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition
DURATION: 95 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:66:1), English, French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English (Original Mono), Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Arabic and Dutch
COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2009
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Based on a novel “Red Alert aka Two Hours to Doom” by Peter George
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern and Peter George
Produced by Stanley Kubrick
Associate Produced by Victor Lyndon
Music by Laurie Johnson
Director of Photography: Gilbert Taylor
Editing by Anthony Harvey
Production Design by Ken Adam
Art Direction by Peter Murton
Peter Sellers as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove
George C. Scott as Gen. “Buck” Turgidson
Sterling Hayden as Brg. Gen. Jack D. Ripper
Keenan Wynn as Col. “Bat” Guano
Slim Pickens as Maj. T.J. “King” Kong
Peter Bull as Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky
James Earl Jones as Lt. Lothar Zogg
Tracy Reed as Miss Scott
Jack Creley as Mr. Staines
Frank Berry as Lt. H.R. Dietrich
Robert O’Neil as Adm. Randolph
Glenn Beck as Lt. W.D. Kivel
Psychotic Air Force General unleashes ingenious foolproof and irrevocable scheme sending bombers to attack Russia. U.S. President works with Soviet premier in a desperate effort to save the world.
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.
“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” revolves around Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), a commander who is responsible for a group of B-52’s of the 843rd Bomb Wing that are armed with nuclear weapons and are on a training drill and initiates “Plan R” (where the President is supposed to authorize a nuclear attack, this is a system in which the military can bypass that) and orders the B-52’s to detonate nuclear bombs on Russian military/missile installations. He tells his men that the United States has been attacked by the Russians.
For Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), who is the Executive Officer for General Ripper, is shocked that the General has done such a thing especially since there is no mention on the radio of an attack. He can’t believe the General has acted on his own without consulting Washington or the President. He tries to stop General Ripper but it’s too late. Ripper has ordered the military to protect the base from all cost and if anyone comes within 200 yards of the base, to shoot them down. He also seals both himself and Group Captain Mandrake inside his office and threatens him.
General Ripper explains that because “Plan R” has been implemented, Washington will know its too late too stop the planes and they have no choice but to go on with the attack on Russia. As for General Ripper, he explains to Group Captain Mandrake of why he send the B-52’s to destroy Russia. It is because he wanted to thwart a Russian conspiracy to sap the bodily fluids of the American people with fluoridated water. Group Captain Mandrake is shocked to hear all of this and now Mandrake knows he is stuck in a room with what may be a sick, psychotic madman.
Meanwhile on one B-52, Major T.J. “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) gets his men prepared for the top secret mission as they prepare for their nuclear attack on Russia.
At the Pentagon, Air Force General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) briefs the President, his advisers and the other generals of what General Ripper had done. President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) is shocked to hear that one man can authorize a nuclear military attack without his authorization. But Turgidson who despises the Russians, tries to explain that the Americans can take advantage of the situation. And with the nuclear attack on Russia, 90% of their missiles would be destroyed and if they did retaliate, only 10 or 20 million Americans would be killed. A number that Turgidson seems comfortable and happy with. Immediately, the President and his men try to find a way to stop their B-52 bombers from dropping those missiles. Having one of his Generals send another military group to apprehend General Ripper and to stop the B-52 bombers from attacking Russia.
General Turgidson advises the President that if the US Military are to go to a General Rippers base which is sealed and currently under “Plan R”, there will be casualties but the other General feels that their men can easily defeat General Ripper’s men in battle and apprehend him.
The President who is distraught over the situation asks for the Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky (Peter Bull) to come to the War Room. General Turgidson is against a Russian coming into a top secret facility but considering the situation, the President allows it.
When the Russian Ambassador comes into the room, General Turgidson is very defensive about the Russian Ambassador’s presence in the war room. The two get into a squabble when he catches the Russian Ambassador taking photos of the War Room to the President’s chagrin. But the President needs the Russian Ambassador’s help in order to contact Soviet Premier Dmitri Kissoff.
The Soviet Premier explains to the President that the Russians have a Doomsday Device that will go off if any of their missile installations are attacked. The Doomsday Device is not a weapon that will just attack the US, it is an attack that can destroy all life on the Planet Earth.
Meanwhile, back at the base of General Rippers command, the attack begins between the two American military groups begin. Ripper’s men who believe they are in war with the Russians due to “Plan R” follow the order to attack anyone who comes close to the base and are thinking that Russians are dressed as American soldiers and are attacking them.
The President also enlists the help of former Nazi Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), a mad scientist who is brought to the War Room to discuss the strategy of the Doomsday Device.
Will the United States be able to stop their own B-52 bomber’s from a nuclear attack and will they be able to prevent the Doomsday Device from activating?
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!
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