Release: 25th July 2016
U.S. Air Force General Jack Ripper goes completely insane, and sends his bomber wing to destroy the U.S.S.R. He thinks that the communists are conspiring to pollute the “precious bodily fluids” of the American people.
There may be 10 years separating them, but Stanley Kurbirck’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (henceforth referred to here as simply Dr. Strangelove) and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws have one striking resemblance; they both posses one hell of a bite. And now, to commemorate Criterion’s illustrious arrival on British shores, they have released a stunning 4K transfer of Kubrick’s hilarious satire on Blu-Ray. It’s time to see the “big board” in ultra high-definition.
In a world not too dissimilar to our own, a group of complete idiots find themselves at the helm of Western civilisation; world leaders, confined to a small room debating the fallout of one gung-ho Jack D. Ripper and his paranoid attempt to rid the world of Communist scheming. In all honesty, you could stick Donald Trump on the bomb, Teresa May on the phone to Russia (“So we’re both sorry!”) and Kim Jong-un in a wheelchair, and Dr. Strangelove very quickly begins to look like a documentary. The world is extremely close to being run by clownish buffoons. So many have seen comedy in Kubrick’s ode to the Cold War, and it is definitely there is spades, but the true core of Dr. Strangelove is a warning; and like 2001, The Shining and many other Kubrickian tales, a sideways glance at the dangerous and fragile relationship man shares with sanity and control.
Sellers was always going to be a standout in whatever he did, and the multiple versions of him on offer here still remain one of the most rewarding viewing experiences in film history. Kubrick needn’t be honoured further, and although Dr. Strangelove may not be his most refined project, it still serves as example of what one of cinema’s most gifted masters could achieve whilst still, ‘having a lark.’ Gilbert Taylor’s cinematography is an unsung hero in the film, but like Ken Adam’s glorious production design, there has never been a better time to appreciate that work than with this gorgeous restoration.
The wave of influence this film caused can still be felt today, and with recent thrillers such as Eye in the Sky sharing more than a little DNA with Dr. Strangelove, proving its modern relevance, you can see why the United States Library of Congress consider it worthy of the National Film Registry. There is no denying that when Kubrick put his mind to it, no one on this Earth could create something so utterly funny, with such toe curling honesty, and still have the end result be truly unnerving.
Film Grade: A
There are enough supplementary docs here to have Dr. Strangelove’s arm in an all out frenzy. The beauty of what Criterion has always offered is not just the quantity, but the quality of film extras. This version of the film comes with so many goodies from the archives, you’ll likely overdose and be seeing the world in geometric aesthetics for days.
Personal favourites include Stanley Kubrick (a series of archival interviews), Best Sellers (historical look at the legendary comedian), Rodney Hill (dissection of the film’s mythology) and Richard Daniels (look back at the film’s development). But you’ll be hard pressed to find a reason not to love everything on offer here; especially if one finds oneself at all enamoured with such a landmark film and its director.
Special Features Grade: A+
Call of the search. Short of having a private screening with Kubrick himself, this is the closest anyone could hope to get to a definitive viewing experience. Criterion will find themselves more than welcome in the War Room.