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DVD Pick:
"Dr. Strangelove"
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Guide Rating -

Tagline: "The hot-line suspense comedy."

Length: 93 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG

Stanley Kubrick's 1964 "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" is possibly the greatest political satire in film history, and it surely ranks near the top of any reasonable list of the best black comedies ever made. When I watched "Dr. Strangelove" recently on DVD, the film didn't seem dated at all. I laughed loud and often, but at the same time I found the movie's timeless theme of technology gone awry pretty frightening.

As the opening credits of "Dr. Strangelove" roll, we see a tanker airplane insert a rigid boom into a B-52 bomber and offload fuel to it as the two planes fly along together. The soundtrack music we hear as we watch the bomber-tanker mating is the old pop standard "Try a Little Tenderness," and this is only one of the many examples of humorous sexual innuendo occurring in the movie.

I love the acting and the quirky characters in the film. Peter Sellers plays three roles, including Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi who has become a top scientist in the administration of bland U.S. President Merkin Muffley (also portrayed by Sellers). Sellers also plays a third important role as RAF Group Captain Mandrake. But I think the most brilliant performance is turned in by George C. Scott as the juvenile, but bellicose, General Buck Turgidson, a top man in the U.S. Air Force.

The story line in the movie is that psychotic, commie-hating General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) takes it upon himself to send the 34 B-52s under his command to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons. When this is discovered by President Muffley, he assembles about 25 advisors, including General Turgidson and Dr. Strangelove, in the War Room at the Pentagon to deal with the crisis. But it looks as though nothing can keep one of the B-52s, piloted by cowboy Major "King" Kong (Slim Pickens), from delivering its nuclear payload in the U.S.S.R., and this will set off a Russian device known as the "doomsday machine," destroying all human and animal life on Earth.

I think the screenplay for "Dr. Strangelove," which was written by Kubrick and Terry Southern, is one of the best ever. I also find the film to be extremely cinematic, even though most of it is shot on three sets: the War Room, inside a B-52, and in General Ripper's office. Nevertheless, the intercutting between these three sets and some stock footage is done with such consummate artistry that the movie is extremely visually engaging.

Although the DVD provides no commentary track, it does have a few interesting and informative special features, including a 46-minute documentary "Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove." I enjoyed seeing some shots from the cream pie fight in the War Room that Kubrick had originally envisioned might end the movie, although he wisely decided not to use the footage in the film's final cut. Also, I found it intriguing that the initial screening for "Dr. Strangelove" was scheduled for November 22, 1963, but JFK's assassination forced a postponement. This also caused the word "Dallas" in one of Slim Pickens' speeches to be changed to "Vegas."

The DVD also contains a 13-minute featurette "The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove," which traces the early career of the great writer-director, including information about "Fear and Desire" (1953), "Killer's Kiss" (1955), "The Killing" (1956), "Paths of Glory" (1957), "Spartacus" (1960), and "Lolita" (1962). I found it interesting that Kubrick's clashes with Kirk Douglas during the making of "Spartacus" drove Kubrick to resolve that he'd never again work for anyone except himself.

Also on the DVD are brief interviews with George C. Scott and Peter Sellers where the two stars are shown on a split screen answering scripted questions. The questions would then be filmed later by local TV interviewers and inserted into the split screen, giving the illusion that the local interviewer was actually present with the stars. I found the Scott interview pretty boring, but I very much enjoyed Sellers demonstrating half a dozen different British accents.

Selected Special Features on the DVD:

  • The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove
  • Inside the Making of "Dr. Strangelove"
  • Interview with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott
  • Original Advertising Gallery
  • Talent Files
  • Theatrical Trailers (3)
  • DVD Release Date: February 27, 2001

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