It’s one of the strangest movies ever made, and it’s certainly one of Stanley Kubrick’s best. Now, the 45th anniversary edition of “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is out on Blu-ray and High-Def with some incredible extras.
If you only know Peter Sellers as Chance the Gardener (“Being There”), or Inspector Clouseau (from the “Pink Panther” movies), then you’re in for a treat when he plays three roles as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Mirkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove himself. From the extras and the 32-page booklet included in the anniversary edition, you find out that the role of Major “King” Kong was also intended for Sellers, but he just couldn’t do it (because Sellers broke his leg late in the filming), so Slim Pickens took over the part.
Dr. Strangelove is a wheelchair-bound former Nazi and nuclear war expert. The story follows the paranoid ravings of U. S. General Jack D. Ripper (played by Sterling Hayden) who unleashes a series of bombs at the USSR leading to a cataclysmic event that spells Armageddon for the world.
The edgy political satire got four Oscar nominations (including ones for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Sellers, and Best Adapted Screenplay) but won none of them. Instead, it was the era of “My Fair Lady” and “Mary Poppins” to win awards.
The extras on the Blu-ray include a Pop-up Trivia Track about the Cold War, which shows just how close we were to an actual nuclear exchange in the 1960’s. There are also four documentaries of varying interest. One is an inside story on the making of the movie, one the other is more about history. The experts quoted in the docs include Daniel Ellsberg, from the JFK administration; Richard A. Clarke, who wrote counter-terrorism books like “Against All Enemies,” and David Alan Rosenberg, who is a historian of nuclear strategy.
George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson in the War Room seems like a primer for the role of “Patton” that would eventually win him the Oscar. He’s a great contrast to Sellers in the role of a deadpan president, who is trying to make everything all right. When the president calls up a very drunk Russian president and says things like, “Yeah, he went and did a silly thing,” and then gets a little perturbed and says, “Look, I’m just as capable of being sorry as you are,” it’s both scary and funny because of Sellers.