George C. Scott
Turgidson: ”Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.”
It was about time they started reworking and re-releasing Kubrick’s films with special features, documentaries, et al, and where better to begin than with one of the smartest comedies ever made: DR. STRANGELOVE. This is a film that can be enjoyed as a satire, a straight-up laugher or even as a dark commentary on what “could’ve happened” in an America that was, at the time, still very much in fear of the nuclear threat and communist infiltration. I cannot begin to describe how much Peter Sellers excels in this film, playing three drastically different characters – the American President Merkin Muffley, British military attaché Lionel Mandrake and the ex-Nazi wheelchair bound kook Dr. Strangelove. He deservedly got an Oscar nomination for his role (s) and most of the lines from his Dr. Strangelove and President Muffley characters have now become part of the great film quotes lexicon. But it’s his portrayal of Captain Mandrake that I found most enjoyable. Seeing the sheer fear in his eyes as he listens to, humors and witnesses the deranged, paranoid and sexually insecure General Ripper getting crazier by the minute – is one of the highlights of the film. A man who has set the planet up with a date with complete annihilation just because of a post-coital “feeling” that he had that led him to believe in a maniacal conspiracy theory that involved foreign commie substances being filtered into his drinking water. Some of the most satisfying moments in the film are in seeing Ripper’s lunacy gradually escalate as the global situation grows grimmer and grimmer…
Sterling Hayden, Peter Sellers and George C. Scott all give the performances of their careers, I don’t think many people could argue that. Scott, in particular, playing General Buck Turgidson, will likely have you hooting loudest of all. Buck is a gung-ho, wildly manic, playboy general who is for the most part at complete odds with the President - continuously having to deliver bad news onto him in the War Room of the Pentagon. Their exchanges are just one of the reasons I never get tired of re-watching this clever, intelligent and above all, culturally important movie. Kubrick’s mix of the frighteningly realistic and the incredibly comedic is what makes DR. STRANGELOVE not only one of the best comedies of all-time but one of the best movies ever. The entire film plays out superbly to the ominous humming and drumming of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and ends with the even more appropriate “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn. Like everything else in the movie, those choices are perfect…
No Fighting in the War Room or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat (30 minutes): A mini-documentary featuring director Spike Lee, Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, film critic Roger Ebert, Kubrick’s former producing partner James Harris and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (who you’ll recall from the remarkable documentary THE FOG OF WAR). All four men give their impressions on the movie and the effect and relevance it had upon its release in 1964 (when the country was seemingly always on the brink of nuclear disaster) as well the significance the movie still has in today’s political climate (replace weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union to countries like North Korea and some of the middle-eastern countries). The documentary covers much more than this, with commentaries from a lot of the people who worked alongside Kubrick on the film discussing things as varied as the films origins to the original “pie-fight in The War Room ending” that was left on the cutting room floor (several photo stills from that sequence are featured). You won’t be disappointed with this very insightful and entertaining documentary.
Inside Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (46 minutes): Here, you get even more of everything you wanted to know about Dr. Strangelove as this documentary features interviews with direct participants on the film. Co-writer Terry Southern’s family, the art director, production designer, editor, assistant editor, composer, the woman working continuity, camera operator, opening title sequencer and even some of the actors (notably James Earl Jones) all discuss their involvement with Dr. Strangelove and the special experience they had working with Stanley on the picture. Of course, the documentary reveals tons more about the film, from its inception to the final Oscar nominations it got. When it ends, you’ll feel like an genuine expert on the film after having seen only the first two documentaries on this DVD – and there is still much more to come…
Best Sellers or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove (18 minutes): Part mini-biography of Sellers and part recollection by friends and filmmakers of the actor, the primary focus of this documentary remains on his work in Strangelove. Alexander Walker (Sellers’ biographer), Roger Ebert, Michael Palin and Shirley MacLaine are just a few of the people who reminisce about the genius of Sellers in this movie and beyond. His improvisations and great working dynamic with Kubrick are discussed at length. This is another crucial and welcome inclusion to this DVD.
The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove (13 minutes): Photographer. Producer. Director. Writer. Artist. Genius. This mini-biography/filmography of Kubrick’s traces his career from his early rise in photography and short films to his undertaking of DR. STRANGELOVE. Once again, friends and fillmakers reminisce fondly on the man and his career. This one’s a little too short for my taste but nevertheless a happy addition to these extras.
An Interview with Robert McNamara (24 minutes): McNamara fascinated me back when I watched and reviewed the Oscar winning documentary THE FOG OF WAR, a film that featured him discussing his experiences as former U.S. Secretary of Defense in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He is no less engrossing here as he speaks of the political relevance of the movie and its parallels with the dire situations and heated political climate of the Cold War era…as well as today. Give it a minute and you’ll be hooked as well.
Split Screen Interview with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott: I’d seen this feature before as it’s also included on my original DR. STRANGELOVE DVD, but it was a real pleasure to revisit it. The feature is basically interviews set-up by the studio with the stars of the movie to be used at a later date as a promotional tool. The catch is, the actors are answering scripted questions and an interviewer was later inserted in the split-screen with the actor to give the illusion of an actual interview. In this case, all you’ll see are Scott and Sellers in a split-screen, answering questions all by their lonesome. What I dig about this is seeing one of my favorite actors George C. Scott, acting all casual, and looking super cool answering these phantom questions from the other side of a telephone…in the actual War Room! If you already admired and liked the man, you’ll love him all the more after seeing this. I can’t give justice to this with this simple description, just watch it and enjoy…
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