This is a film that stands out from the crowd in innumerable ways, from being a singularly unique, almost kooky creation of one of the greatest filmmakers ever to have lived to the casting of comedian Peter Sellers in three different roles; there are countless starting points for a review of the film and Criterion’s superb new Blu-ray release. The one that strikes me hardest while rewatching the film is just how relevant this satire’s warning has become in the modern era when we face the possibility of trusting our most devastating weapons with a handful of individuals who may, in fact, be stark raving mad.
A bit of history to explain the plot: During the cold war, America kept B52 bombers in the air all the time in case of nuclear war with Russia. In Dr. Strangelove, General Jack D. Ripper (get it?) goes rogue and orders all the bombers on their attack runs, effectively launching World War III single handedly. The story follows three people through the crisis: Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) who is trying to convince a delusional Ripper to give him the recall codes and cancel the whole thing, President Muffley (Sellers again) and his staff in the ‘War Room’ trying to avert disaster (while blind to the fact that their immaturity, paranoia, and war mongering set up the situation in the first place), and Major ‘King’ Kong (Slim Pickens) the commander and pilot of one of the B52’s (the bombardier is James Earl Jones years before Darth Vader). The film’s comedy is a pitch black sense of gallows humor.
The titular Dr. Strangelove (Sellers in his third role of the film) is one of the ‘War Room’ advisors and a parody of one of the Nazi Scientists America imported after the war (yes they did that). He provides the President with the intellectual reassurance that no matter how badly the leadership screws up and sinks the planet; everyone in the room of importance will be okay and survive the apocalypse they’ve unwittingly incited. Also look for the incomparable George C. Scott as General Turgidson, the General who’s more than ready to commit to the end of humanity, accidental or not.
The film is a glorious Black & White 4k digital transfer that relays all the sharpness of the original. You can see all the fine grain and the all the deep blacks throughout. The disc also includes a huge number of extras; all of the previous release disc materials and ‘making of’ featurettes and a bounty of other historical interviews (much of the cast and crew has passed away making new interviews difficult). There are also a number of new featurettes with academic examinations of Kubrick and his crew. The disc casing itself is cardboard slipcover and includes an ‘Attack Plan R’ folder filled with more awesome Dr . Strangelove themed extras. Overall, it’s an incredibly cool and informative package for one of the greatest films ever made. Criterion hits a home run yet again, Dr Strangelove is up for pre-order, available 6/28.
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.