Kubrick was a celebrated photojournalist before he became a filmmaker, and Strangelove—shot like a stylized documentary, in chiaroscuro black-and-white—finds him drawing on that history. There are few films that are so worthy of frame-by-frame study yet that move along so briskly and unassumingly. More than any of his films, except perhaps Lolita, the cast makes Strangelove work: Peter Sellers in three roles (the president, a British RAF officer, and the title character, a perversely logical, wheelchair-bound, Nazi scientist turned Pentagon R&D chief); George C. Scott as the Pentagon’s bug-eyed top general; Sterling Hayden as Gen. Jack D. Ripper, the SAC base commander who sends his bombers to kill the Commies in Russia; and Slim Pickens as the genial rodeo-hound B-52 pilot who rides the bomb to Ground Zero. Viewers at the time didn’t realize how real this film was: For instance, the “fail-safe” alert system, which made it hard to recall B-52s to their base after they received the Go code, really was the system of the time. (It was being changed as the movie came out.)
The film was shot dark, and the Criterion Collection’s 1080p transfer, struck from a 4K scan of myriad elements (the original negative was destroyed long ago), picks up all the shades and shadows in sharp detail—just a bit more so than Columbia’s Blu-ray (which was struck from a 2K scan) of a few years back, but enough to make you notice, especially with the scenes inside the B-52. The sound and music are clearer still. The special features include almost all the Columbia extras plus several more, including fascinating interviews with scholars who have plumbed the Kubrick archives.
This is essential.
Studio: Criterion Collection, 1964
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio Format: Uncompressed mono, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 95 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden