55 Cents to Save the World

In seconds, it’s clear Dr. Strangelove isn’t nuanced. Behind the opening credits, a sensual instrumental song plays, and two planes couple – sexually in context – for refueling. The mere thought of a nuclear-armed bomber receiving life-giving liquid is treated as pleasurable, even euphoric.

“Peace is our profession” states signage outside of an Air Force base. Soon, it’s background filler during armed combat, the irony sweet enough to pass for ice cream. The fight is over a mad general who countered every fail safe on a mission to strike at communists. This was 1964, the Kennedy era, where masculinity was portrayed by dueling rockets headed to the moon, or via ever growing nuclear arsenals. Dr. Strangelove spares nothing or anyone in its parody.

Dr. Strangelove fills itself with quotable insanity, stupidity, and genius mockery

There’s endless greatness in Dr. Strangelove, little jabs or clever satires masterfully inserted into the mix. Say, a soldier reticent to shoot a Coke machine and access the change needed to phone the president, and in the process, potentially stop total annihilation. Or, transitioning from in-air plane sex to Tracy Reed as a secretary, waiting in bed for another round with General Turgidson (George C. Scott), joining military machine to military men.

The whole movie is maddeningly funny – maddening because it’s so precise, relentless, and likely true to at least some extent. In the final seconds before Russia’s doomsday device activates, the US president and his team argue over contingency plans to save the human race. Turgidson takes a stance that 100 years after the bombs, Russians will have the upper hand. Boom. Then, no one has an advantage… or hands.

Dr. Strangelove’s iconic image is of Slim Pickens riding a nuke (stamped with a “handle with care” warning) down to the surface, hootin’ like a cowboy. It’s such an American image, but utterly mocking military ideology and false strength. In conjunction with the “peace” sign earlier, Dr. Strangelove’s totality misses nothing in skewering the mindset, sadly prepping for the Vietnam calamity to come.

Peter Sellers walked away with a best actor Oscar. He plays three characters, all sensational, although the menial, comically gentle US president Merkin Muffley (few writers or directors choose to drench their misery-satires with such childish humor, yet it works in de-legitimizing them) is a standout. The crime though is giving only one Oscar for acting, as George C. Scott unknowingly parodies his role in Patton, still six years away, dousing Dr. Strangelove with quotable insanity, stupidity, and genius mockery of an entire nation’s military culture.

Video

While shot on 35mm, the resulting stock appears more in line with 16mm; it’s heavy, thick, and rough. This 4K master doesn’t reduce that visual impact, but does help resolve it into something more natural. Sony’s encode fights and wins out, even if the result looks unavoidably harsh, even lightly processed. No haloing or ringing appear though.

A documentary style either erratically plays to the faux realism or settles down in long Pentagon shots, mixed with richly textured close-ups. When facial detail breaks free from the grain structure, it’s clear and defined. The resolution bump makes itself noticeable here.

Gray scale matches the Blu-ray. The HDR boost primarily intensifies lighting in the war room, especially those overhead lights; those gain notable energy. Shadows hit needed density, with clean transitions between shades.

Audio

DTS-HD comes in mono or 5.1. Short of true purists, the 5.1 will please most as little tinkers with the mono source. A slight bass rumble as bombs go off and mild stretch from the score inoffensively add a modern touch. The rest stays strictly centered.

Fidelity wavers as expected, somewhat harsher on board the bomber, engine sounds clogging dialog. That’s always been Dr. Strangelove’s case. Otherwise, audio remains precise and sharp.

Extras

Both the Blu-ray and UHD hold bonuses. On the latter, a short five minute featurette speaks of the era and Kubrick’s thoughts (via archival interviews, copied in total elsewhere on the disc). Individual interviews include Mick Broderick, Joe Dunton, Kelvin Pike, Richard Daniels, David George, and Rodney Hill. Two segments from The Today Show interview Peter Sellers and George C. Scott. Some trailers fill additional space.

Switch to the Blu-ray to keep going. A PIP feature plays optionally (of course) with the movie. A 30-minute piece looks at Dr. Strangelove’s nuclear parable, the reality, and Kubrick’s approach. The making-of runs 46-minutes. Peter Sellers gets his due in an 18-minute retrospective. For 13-minutes, a look at Kubrick’s career invites producers, actors, and more to discuss his work and life. Former secretary of state Robert Mcnamara speaks for 24-minutes. Finally, EPK interviews with Scott and Sellers run seven minutes.

Dr. Strangelove
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Still a satirical masterpiece (if only it were less real), Dr. Strangelove loses none of its staying power over sixty years later.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 55 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: