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Blu-ray Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

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Not every comedy is a mindless series of fart and boob jokes.  That type of fare unquestionably has its place in the pantheon of filmmaking genres, but a comedy can certainly also provide a deep, hard-thinking, sobering look at our world.  To know that to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt, one only need look at the Stanley Kubrick classic, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.  Which, not so coincidentally has just made its way onto Blu-ray in a "45th Anniversary Special Edition."

The film, originally released in 1964, stars Peter Sellers (in three different roles), George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, and Slim Pickens (as well as a young James Earl Jones in a supporting role).  Strangelove follows an attempt on the part of General Jack D. Ripper (Hayden) to eliminate the Soviet Union with a massive pre-emptive nuclear strike and the aftermath of that attempt.  Never has the apocalypse and the end of all mankind been quite so funny.

As the film progresses, President Merkin Muffley (Sellers) learns what Ripper has done and invites the Soviet Ambassador into the War Room to try to make amends, much to the chagrin of Joint Chief of Staff Buck Turgidson (Scott).  Muffley is only somewhat successful – the ambassador certainly feels for Muffley, which leads him to informing the folks in the War Room about a "Doomsday Machine" the Soviets have invited.  The machine is meant to prevent any nuclear strikes as one a strike occurs the machine will make the entire planet radioactive for almost 100 years – clearly an effective deterrent, that is, it would be if the Soviets had bothered to tell anyone they built it.

Strangelove, made at the height of the Cold War, takes a lot of reality and facts and twists them just slightly, turning everything just enough where one knows that this hasn't happened, but where one is sure that it could (despite what the crawl before the movie states).  Everything progresses in an exceedingly logical, if ludicrous, if fashion, and watching the film today the audience can't help but wonder what everyone in  the world was possibly thinking 50 years ago.

Watching the Blu-ray today one will also be incredibly impressed that the film was initially released in 1964.  While grainy due to the film stock used, the print is perfectly clean and looks far better than any 45 year-old film has a right to look.  The brightness of certain shots does appear to waiver, and some definition is lost in the darkness of the War Room, but for an older film it is a very good release.  The sound has been redone in a 5.1 channel TrueHD mix, but the original English mono track is still available.  While the 5.1 channel sound does add a little to some of the battle scenes, it doesn't represent a huge leap forward for the film.

A number of featurettes are included on the disc, including an interview with Robert McNamara and docs on the film's relation to world events at the time, Sellers, and Kubrick.  Also included are split-screen interviews with Scott and Sellers which were initially intended for use in local markets.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is a picture-in-picture/pop-up trivia track which provides viewers with additional Cold War info.  The Blu-ray release also contains (built-into the packaging) a booklet on the film and some of the actors involved.

Full of great performances (including all three of Sellers'), an almost-true-to-life story, and more than one laugh-out-loud moment, Dr. Strangelove or:  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb represents a masterwork by a master in filmmaking.  It is a darkly satirical look at not just a single moment in time, but at an entire line of thinking that may still be all too prevalent in the world.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.