Dr. Strangelove appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a very good transfer.
Sharpness seemed positive. Most of the movie appeared fairly crisp and well-defined, with only some mild softness on display in a few interiors. I noticed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent.
Strangelove came with fairly heavy grain, but that represented the source. Clearly the transfer used no noise reduction. No print flaws created distractions here, as the film was clean and without any blemishes.
Black levels looked nicely deep and dark throughout the film. These tones showed no tendency to appear gray or washed-out, and shadow detail seemed very good.
Low-light scenes were appropriately delineated but not excessively thick, and the disc’s HDR added good contrast and brightness to the movie. The image replicated the source material in a highly satisfying manner.
Don’t expect any auditory fireworks from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, as it largely remained monaural, with only minor use of the other channels. The shots on-board the B-52 offered the best utilization of the soundfield. Those opened up the sides and rear speakers to provide a nice sense of environment, with the plane’s hum all around the spectrum.
A few of the battle scenes also broadened the mix, and occasional examples of localized speech occurred. The soundfield didn’t go hog-wild, but it presented a moderate expansion of the material. The 5.1 edition broadened the information in a moderate manner, but not one that added anything to the experience.
As a whole, the mix sounded dated but decent. Dialogue came across as a little brittle and thin but usually appeared acceptably accurate with no problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and relatively realistic, though they lacked great depth.
Some moderate bass popped up for louder bits like the bomb blast at the end, but not much else occurred in that domain. The film’s simple score - which consisted mainly of martial drums and trumpet - was clear and without any shrill or distorted qualities. The track offered a minor expansion of the source but I can’t say the 5.1 soundfield improved the movie.
The Blu-ray also provided the film’s original DTS-HD MA monaural mix. Audio quality seemed very similar for both the 1.0 and 5.1 tracks, so the only real difference came from the way the multichannel soundscape expanded the material to the side and rear speakers.
I’m glad that the 5.1 mix didn’t suffer from degradation in terms of audio quality. Often, these remixes seem less accurate and full than their monaural sources, so I’m pleased that the two tracks sound so similar.
That said, I prefer the monaural track. Though I’m not opposed to 5.1 remixes – and have enjoyed some of them – I think they’re usually pretty pointless, and that goes for Strangelove.
Action movies can benefit from 5.1 reworkings but multichannel audio does nothing to improve a black comedy like Strangelove. In the absence of clear improvements, I’ll stick with the original audio.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Criterion Blu-ray from 2016? Audio felt identical, as both apparently sported the same soundtracks.
As for the visuals, they showed a nice uptick, as the 4K showed superior definition, blacks and contrast. Because the Criterion looked so good, I didn’t sense remarkable improvements, and those who hate grain may actually prefer the Criterion, as the UHD’s HDR accentuated grain even more.
Nonetheless, the 4K became the stronger rendition of the film. It created about as appealing a version as I could imagine – if you don’t go bonkers due to grain.
The 4K UHD mixes old and new extras, and on the 4K disc itself, we open with Stanley Kubrick Considers the Bomb, a five-minute, 38-second featurette. It offers archival comments from Kubrick as well as new remarks from Command and Control author Eric Schlosser, Kubrick’s daughter Katharina, and executive producer Jan Harlan.
“Considers” discusses the Cold War era and its impact on the film. This doesn’t become an especially informative reel.
An Interview with Film Historian Mick Broderick spans 19 minutes, 14 seconds and brings Broderick’s thoughts about Kubrick’s work as producer and other aspects of Kubrick’s filmmaking techniques, with an emphasis on Strangelove. Broderick delivers a fairly good set of notes, especially when he discusses deleted sequences/lines.
Next we get an Interview with Cinematographers Joe Dunton and Kelvin Pike. In this 12-minute, 13-second piece, they look at photographic issues, as they discuss shooting Strangelove and related topics. Some useful notes emerge, but too much of the chat devolves into praise/happy talk.
An Interview with Kubrick Archivist Richard Daniels lasts 14 minutes, 15 seconds. He tells us about the Archive and shows us/discusses some of its elements. Daniels delivers interesting insights about the Archive’s materials and how they represent the filmmaker.
After this we get an Interview with Novelist’s Son David George. It goes for 10 minutes, 56 seconds and examines Peter George’s Red Alert, the book that inspired Strangelove.
The younger George chats about the source novel and its adaptation into Strangelove. Expect another pretty good discussion.
An Interview with Film Historian Rodney Hill spans 17 minutes, 25 seconds and covers the archetypes that appear in Strangelove and other Kubrick films. Hill gives us thoughtful background about the way these elements develop in the film.
From 1966, we locate an Archival Stanley Kubrick Audio Interview. Recorded with physicist/author Jeremy Bernstein, the two-minute, 50-second segment looks at Kubrick’s interest in Strangelove’s subject matter, screenplay development, directing and editing. The clip seems too short to tell us much.
Two Today Show Clips appear. We find a 1980 chat with actor Peter Sellers (10:37) and a 1982 segment with actor George C. Scott (6:01).
Sellers discusses Strangelove, differences among various audiences, aspects of his career and his “true” personality. The segment offers little concrete information, but it’s entertaining.
As for Scott, he talks about his reputation, parts of his career and then-current Hollywood. He doesn’t mention Strangelove, but it’s a decent conversation, one made unintentionally amusing because Scott talks about how studios make nothing but “comic strip films” and horror and “sci-fi crap”. Even 40 years ago, people complained about that!
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer (3:23), we find an Exhibitor Trailer (16:53). The latter offers little more than a long compilation of movie clips. It’s interesting for historical reasons but it never becomes especially interesting to watch, even though it sounds like Kubrick does the narration.
Plenty more materials show up on the included Blu-ray Disc, and we find The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove. This 13-minute, 50-second show features biographer John Baxter, cinematographers Oswald Morris and Gilbert Taylor, executive producer Lee Minoff, film critic Alexander Walker, friend Roger Caras, former producing partner James B. Harris, editor Anthony Harvey, production designer Ken Adam, camera operator Kelvin Pike, and actor James Earl Jones.
We hear a lot about Kubrick’s early work and learn how his style evolved. Ultimately, “Art” seems too short, and it should have gone further into Kubrick’s career. As the title indicates, the program ends with the completion of Strangelove, which means we hear nothing of his later films. Despite those flaws, “Art” offers a solid little overview that proves to be fairly enlightening.
More compelling and informative, Inside Dr. Strangelove brings a 46-minute, four-second documentary. We hear from Adam, Harvey, Harris, Walker, Minoff, Jones, Taylor, Caras, art director Peter Murton, screenwriter’s wife Carol Southern and son Nile Southern, wardrobe Bridget Sellers, Gilbert Taylor’s wife Lee, assistant editor Ray Lovejoy, Peter Sellers’ friend Lee McGrath, continuity Pamela Carlton, filmmaker Sidney Lumet, former Columbia Pictures Director of National Publicity Bud Rosenthal, opening title sequence creator Pablo Ferro, composer Laurie Johnson, National Coordinator of Advertising and Publicity Richard Kahn, former Columbia publicist Sid Ganis, and actors Tracy Reed and Shane Rimmer.
“Inside” covers story/characters/screenplay, the movie’s genesis and development, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, editing, cinematography, the opening credit sequence, and the film’s release/reception. I learned an awful lot about the making of Strangelove, and this program provides quite a few interesting details about the film.
No Fighting in the War Room Or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat lasts 30 minutes and four seconds. It includes remarks from Kubrick’s one-time partner James Harris, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, directors Spike Lee and Joe McGrath, editor Anthony Harvey, film critic Roger Ebert, James Earl Jones, and Sellers/Kubrick biographer Alexander Walker.
The program discusses the atmosphere of the Cold War era, antagonism between the Soviets and the US, the concept of “deterrence”, the fragility of the system, the early development of the story and the choice to make it a comedy, policies in the event of a nuclear attack, “acceptable losses”, the film’s original ending, and the film’s continued relevance.
My main complaint about “Threat” comes from the excessive use of Strangelove clips, as they add little to the piece. Otherwise, this offers a thoughtful look at the era in which the movie was made. It covers the concepts well and presents an informative examination of the reality behind the flick.
Next we see Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove. It goes for 18 minutes, 27 seconds as it presents an examination of the versatile actor. We hear from Ebert, Harris, Harvey, McGrath, Walker, Lee, Woodward, Jones, actors Michael Palin and Shirley MacLaine, Sir David Frost, and director Richard Lester.
“Sellers” gives us a basic biography of Sellers, his development as a performer and career, his traits as a performer, the collaboration between Sellers and Kubrick, Sellers’ vocal inspirations, the possibility that Sellers would have played a fourth character in Strangelove, and Sellers’ career after this flick.
Overall, “Sellers” provides a fairly basic look at the actor. It combines occasional examples of good tidbits but largely feels like a puff-piece to praise the glory of Sellers.
Nonetheless, a mix of cool elements appears. The best one comes from a Sellers audiotape that includes a chat between the actor and a German photographer who clearly acted as the inspiration for Strangelove’s voice.
After this comes An Interview with Robert McNamara. This 24-minute, 26-second set features the subject of The Fog of War as he discusses the heat of the Cold War, nuclear policies, the real potential for nuclear war during the era, nuclear deterrence, the possibility of accidents, “acceptable losses” and lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Some of the snippets repeat from the “Threat” program, but this piece allows McNamara to expand on the topics substantially. It’s interesting to hear McNamara delve into subjects relevant to Strangelove without cuts or other constraints.
The final video piece shows some canned interviews from 1963. These took place on the set and featured actors George C. Scott and Peter Sellers.
At that time, “open-ended” interviews were popular. Through this, your local TV dude could pretend to talk directly to Scott and/or Sellers via scripted questions.
These were used more frequently on radio shows, but these clips show a split-screen format in which your TV person would be inserted on the left side of the screen. There’s little information to be gleaned from the seven minutes, 17 seconds worth of clips, and the presentation seemed a little annoying since we hear none of the questions themselves - we just get the answers - but it’s a cool historical addition nonetheless.
Exclusive to the Sony Blu-ray, we find The Cold War, a picture-in-picture/pop-up trivia track. This mixes text blurbs and video interviews.
In the latter realm, we hear from Against All Enemies author Richard A. Clarke, Professor of Government and Politics George Quester, former RAND Corporation and Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg, and nuclear strategy historian David Alan Rosenberg.
Across these elements, we learn about Cold War history, with an emphasis on the nuclear side and some connection to the movie. Like many of these trivia track/PiP features, this one delivers good information, but it does so somewhat infrequently.
Actually, “War” starts well, but after a few minutes, the video clips and text blurbs start to become a bit sparse. “War” still becomes a useful component – especially if you don’t mind its intrusion on the film – but it doesn’t totally satisfy.
Frankly, I don’t think that Dr. Strangelove deserves its reputation as a classic, but it can be funny and entertaining. While it falls short of Stanley Kubrick’s best work, it has its moments. The 4K UHD boasts strong picture quality with representative audio and an informative collection of bonus materials. I doubt Strangelove will ever become one of my favorites, but I love the treatment it gets on this 4K UHD.
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