Posts Tagged ‘Movie Review’


Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 73 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: 2.0 English LPCM (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 29.88 Mbps

Notes: This title has also been given a DVD release.


“I knew about historical cases of hysterics and had always been interested in the broader phenomenon of contagions. The ‘Dancing Plague of 1518’ and ‘Lisztomania’ were some of the most fascinating cases to me, big cultural moments. I read long-form nonfiction articles on a daily basis and came across some more recent accounts about these episodes with groups of teenage girls in the United States. I obsessively researched these mysterious cases and started looking for narrative patterns. The majority of the episodes I learned about took place in tightknit groups of girls with a strong hierarchical structure. I was also surprised that none of the cases ever seemed to be formally resolved or cell phone videos online that girls had recorded of each other’s ticks, fits, and fainting. Re-imagining these subconscious movements as choreographies provided the foundation of the film.” -Anna Rose Holmer (Topics of Interest, Press Book)

Holmer’s debut film heralds an exciting new voice in filmmaking that is as disciplined as it is audacious. Her decidedly spare aesthetic is appropriate for the film’s relatively spare story, which relies more on character and behavior than it does on plot. Toni (Royalty Hightower) is an eleven year old tomboy who trains as a boxer with her brother at a community center in Cincinnati’s West End, but she becomes fascinated by the dance team that also practices there. Enamored by their strength and confidence, Toni eventually joins the group, eagerly absorbing routines, mastering drills, and even piercing her own ears to fit into the group. As she discovers the joys of dance and of female camaraderie, she grapples with her individual identity amid her newly defined social sphere.

Shortly after Toni joins the team, the captain faints during practice. By the end of the week, most of the girls on the team suffer from episodes of fainting, swooning, moaning, and shaking in a seemingly uncontrollable catharsis. Soon, however, the girls on the team embrace these mysterious spasms, transforming them into a rite of passage. Toni fears ‘the fits’ but is equally afraid of losing her place just as she’s found her footing. Caught between her need for control and her desire for acceptance, Toni must decide how far she will go to embody her new ideals.

The film’s themes are examined in a decidedly original manner, as one has the feeling that they are eavesdropping on real people and events. This is largely the result of Holmer’s documentary approach and interesting casting decisions.

“I fell in love with drill and the Q-Kidz simultaneously. We never considered any other team.  From the film’s conception, I wanted to cast a real community of girls for the film. Casting all of the girls from the same real life drill team meant that we could emphasize the authentic sisterhood that young women experience when they bond on a team. There is this texture or underlying current that I knew we couldn’t pull off otherwise. So we knew when we approached the Q-Kidz that we were looking to cast not only a few of the leads, but really cast the entire team in our project. The founder of the Q-Kidz, Marquicia Jones-Woods, immediately understood the film and supported the vision. She was on board before the first draft of the script and worked closely with us as an Associate Producer. Ms. Quicy (as she is known) played an integral role in the filmmaking process. We cast about 45 of the girls from her team of over 200 to be part of the film. The only role we considered casting outside of the team was Toni; however, we fortuitously found Royalty on day one of the Q-Kidz casting.” -Anna Rose Holmer (Topics of Interest, Press Book)

Some cinematic experiences are nearly impossible to encapsulate in even the most succinct review. This sort of film must be experienced and absorbed to truly be understood, and each viewer will process it quite differently. The Fits, for example, will seem a different film to each individual who watches it (mass hysteria be damned). Viewers will either love it or absolutely loathe it.

SS 01.jpg

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Fits is given a somewhat special release in that the Blu-ray disc is housed in an unusual digipak. Unfortunately, Oscilloscope Pictures doesn’t utilize the standard plastic tray for this release. Instead, the disc rests in a sort of folder or sleeve. This isn’t the best choice, because it doesn’t really protect the disc very well. Disc protection should always be priority one. However, it is a rather attractive package that showcases the film’s one sheet artwork.

The disc’s menu utilizes one of the film’s many silent scenes and the result is an attractive and easy to navigate disc experience.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The excellent video transfer is rich in both detail and clarity with natural colors throughout. Contrast is also well handled as the black levels are appropriately deep without crushing. The disc’s bitrate is relatively high, but it seems as if it could be much higher considering the extremely short length of the film. However, it is still difficult to imagine the image looking much better.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Both tracks included here are quite wonderful with the 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio being the most immersive and the obvious choice for anyone with a proper sound system. Both tracks are free from anomalies and mixed well. These are surprisingly dynamic sound options for what is essentially a small and intimate film.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Anna Rose Holmer (Director/Writer), Lisa Kjerulff (Producer/Writer), and Saela Davis (Editor/Writer)

It is evident from listening to this commentary that all three participants are proud of the film, but there is little in the way of actual production information, character insight, or analysis. Everyone has been with friends that insist on recounting memories that aren’t shared by them personally. This track feels like a walk down memory lane, but with the viewer somehow stuck in the middle without any context for the conversation.

Dreams Come True – (HD) – (11:41)

“Behind the scenes” and audition footage illustrates a number of exclusive interviews with the Q-Kidz Dance Team founder, choreographers, and cast members “Beezy” “Legs” and “Karisma.” This is only slightly more substantial than the typical EPK fluff that one suspects to find on more recent Blu-ray releases, but viewers are given some interesting information and an authentic glimpse behind the scenes of production.

Presenting Royalty Hightower – (HD) – (04:44)

This exclusive on-set interview with Royalty Hightower feels as if it could have been woven into the “Dreams Come True” featurette, and this interesting (but less than comprehensive) footage would be all the better for it. The “behind the scenes” and audition footage make this a worthwhile five minutes.

Outtakes – (HD) – (04:34)

This “behind the scenes” footage should be a fun glimpse behind the proverbial curtain for the film’s fans, but there isn’t a great deal of revelatory substance here. One wishes for a more in-depth glimpse at the production methods utilized by the filmmakers.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (01:22)

It is nice to find that the theatrical trailer is also featured as a supplement here. It seems like fewer and fewer home video releases include the original trailer, and this is unfortunate.

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Final Words:

The Fits is singular film experience and this Blu-ray from Oscilloscope Pictures offers viewers the best viewing option.

Review by: Devon Powell


Spine #63

Carnival of Souls - Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA

Release Date: July 12, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:18:14

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono LPCM (48kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 32.37 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD edition from Criterion, and can also available in an unimpressive DVD release from ‘Off Color Films’ (which also includes a dreadful colorized version). It should be mentioned that both of these editions include the famous “Director’s Cut” of the film, which is eight minutes longer than the film’s theatrical release.


“It was sunset, and I was driving back to Kansas from California when I first saw Saltair, an abandoned amusement park located at the end of a long causeway into the Great Salt Lake. The lake had receded, and the pavilion, with its strange Moorish towers, stood silhouetted against the red sky. I felt I had been transported into a different time and dimension. I stopped the car and walked out to the pavilion. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. The stark white of the salt beach, and the dark quiet of the deserted buildings created the weirdest location I had ever seen. When I got back to Kansas I discussed Saltair with my friend, coworker, and writer, John Clifford. We agreed [that] with the Saltair location and others we had scouted locally, we could develop a script for a very eerie feature film.

Well, John wrote the script for Carnival of Souls in three weeks, and our crew spent a week in Salt Lake City filming Saltair, and two weeks in Lawrence Kansas filming the rest of the movie. We were naïve enough to hope for the look of a Bergman film and the feel of a Cocteau. When a preview was shown in Lawrence in the fall of 1961, the audience’s reaction was mixed. The Bergan look and the Cocteau feel were a little too far out for the time and place. That year, Carnival of Souls was shown in shortened form primarily in the south in drive-ins as part of a double bill, and then it went underground.

Making the film had been exciting. Distributing the film had been agonizing… But Carnival of Souls had affected more people during its short run than we thought. Through magazines, books, and television, it has become a cult classic…” –Herk Harvey (Video Introduction)  

Saltair Resort Postcard

This is a vintage postcard that features the Saltair Resort.

Herk Harvey’s description of the film’s strange journey from a low budget passion project to a celebrated cult classic should be encouraging to any future filmmakers who are currently saving their pennies in an effort to make their dreams come true. Carnival of Souls is required viewing for these individuals. However, it also works as an eerie mood piece. Sure, it is a low budget film with many obvious flaws, but there are many people who might argue that these flaws actually add to the surreal nature of the film. Whatever category readers of this review might fall into, it is recommended that everyone see the film once so that they can make an educated decision for themselves (because it could easily go either way).


The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. Edward Kinsella’s original artwork is brilliantly conceived and probably surpasses the film’s original one sheet artwork. An added bonus is the wonderful fold out pamphlet featuring an essay by Kier-La Janisse.

The disc’s menus utilize eerie footage from the actual film coupled with Gene Moore’s organ score.

Menu 1Menu 2Menu 3Menu 4

It is an elegant menu that is quite easy to navigate. All of this makes for an extremely attractive presentation.


Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given viewers an outstanding high definition transfer of the film’s original theatrical cut of the film that looks incredibly clean. Their transfer of the 4K restoration of the film is a marvel to behold. As always, the film’s restoration was explained in technical detail in the leaflet provided in the disc’s case:

“This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, jitter, and flicker.” –Liner Notes

The resulting image is incredibly detailed with remarkable clarity and depth. Contrast is also beautifully rendered while blacks are deep without crushing. Meanwhile, the rich and always consistent grain textures add a beautifully organic quality to the proceedings. One could easily argue that seeing this new restoration of the film gives fans of the film an altogether new experience. It is impossible to find anything to criticize! This is a gorgeous transfer.


Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s uncompressed sound transfer is perhaps the most surprisingly immaculate element on this disc. The film’s famous organ music is finally given enough room to breathe while allowing the dialogue to be as crisp and clearly defined as the film’s ambience. As is usual with Criterion discs, steps were taken to ensure that the sound isn’t marred by any distracting anomalies.

“The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.” –Liner Notes


Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has included a near-perfect supplemental package for Carnival of Souls. It is as close to perfect as anyone has a right to expect. There are those who may fault Criterion for not including the infamous “Directors Cut” of the film, but this was probably excluded because this version has always been sourced from a one-inch video copy. It would be pointless to release such a copy on Blu-ray (although, a DVD copy of this version could have made a very nifty second disc). Only the most ungrateful cinemaphiles should allow this omission to affect their opinion of this sensational package.

We are given over five hours of material, and all of it is well worth watching.

Audio Commentary with Herk Harvey (Director) and John Clifford (Screenwriter)

This selected scene commentary with the film’s director and writer is taken from a 1989 retrospective interview with the two gentleman. It was edited to create this sparse commentary track (which is always informative and engaging). It is really to bad that it doesn’t fill the entire length of the film.

Deleted Scenes:

Those who haven’t already seen the film’s director’s cut should find these three deleted scenes fascinating. They were cut from Carnival of Souls before the 1962 release of the film. Unfortunately, the best available source for the deleted footage was a one-inch analog videotape.

Organ Factory – (01:17)

This is a scene that suffers from awkward dialogue (or perhaps wooden delivery of “on the nose” dialogue), but it is a scene that has certain virtues. However, one wonders if the film didn’t benefit from its omission.

Running – (01:00)

While this scene doesn’t seem to add much to the film, the inclusion of this footage did make for a more effective edit.  Out of the three deleted scenes, this is the one that comes the closest to being missed (even if it seems to be the most insignificant).

Doctor’s Office – (01:45)

This scene has a creepy quality that adds to both the film’s tone and story, but it seems to work better in its shorter form.

Outtakes – (27:09)

This lengthy collection of outtakes are accompanied by Gene Moore’s organ score, and there is so much here that it might actually overwhelm the average viewer. While this footage might not be as engaging without any context provided to help guide the viewer, it is certainly a generous offering that fans should find interesting. More supplemental packages should include such a feature.

The Movie That Wouldn’t Die! – (32:13)

This 1989 reunion documentary was made in an effort to celebrate and promote the film’s 1989 theatrical release. Herk Harvey and John Clifford are on hand to explain the conception of the film’s story, the process of funding their project, the location shooting, and the initial reception of the film during its original release. Candace Hilligoss (actress), Glenn Kappelman (one of the investors), Tim DePaepe (filmmaker), and Mark Syverson (fan) also lend their voice to the proceedings. The program was created by Bill Shaffer for a television station in Topeka, Kansas (KTWU – Channel 11), and it is without a doubt one of the better features included on the disc.

Hidden Featurette: The Carnival Tour

Those who wait for the credits to roll on “The Movie That Wouldn’t Die” will discover this tour of some of the film’s locations. (The tour took place in 2000, and the locations have probably changed a bit in the past 16 years.) It is interesting to see what these locations looked like so many years after the release of the film.

Regards from Nowhere – (23:36)

David Cairns (Film Critic) offers a slightly more scholarly appreciation of the film as he discusses various aspects of the film including the unusual netherworld featured in the film. One might call this a video essay or an appreciation instead of a proper documentary, but it is a creatively rendered essay that includes excerpts from interviews with various other participants that appreciate the film, snippets from some of Harvey and Clifford’s industrial shorts, background information, and an impressive presentation. This is exactly the sort of scholarly material that Criterion fans have come to appreciate.

Final Destination – (22:41)

One wonders if Dana Gould (Comedian) can really be seen as a serious authority on Carnival of Souls, but it must be said that his enthusiasm for the film is contagious. He discusses his love for the horror genre and favorably compares Carnival of Souls with The Night of the Living Dead. His discussion of the production is both informative and entertaining.

[Note: He does give the viewer one small nugget of false information. It was not released the same year as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which was released in 1960.]

Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City – (26:00)

This 1966 documentary about the Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City (where the most iconic scenes in the film were shot) was created by Ed Yates for a Salt Lake City television broadcast (KCPX-TV). It presents the rather sad story behind the spooky pavilion seen in Carnival of Souls. It is one of the highlights of this supplemental package (even if the image and sound quality is lacking).

 The Centron Corporation:

Herk Harvey and John Clifford were both working at this industrial film company (which was based in Lawrence, Kansas) when Carnival of Souls went into production. This collection provides a glimpse at some of these industrial films, which provide a kind of context for the production of Carnival of Souls.

The following clips are included:

 The Centron Corporation: Historical Essay – (09:57)

This audial history of the Centron Corporation originally appeared in Ken Smith’s Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1979. Dana Gould lends his voice to the text, which turns this informative excerpt into an effective video essay.

Centron Commercial (1967) – (02:13)

Rebound (1954) – (21:15)

Star 34 (1954) – (12:37)

To Touch a Child (1966) – (12:01)

Case History of a Sales Meeting (1963) – (05:32)

Signals: Read’em or Weep (1982) – (05:24)

Theatrical Trailer – (02:17)

The campy theatrical trailer used to market Carnival of Souls doesn’t do the film justice, but it does provide an interesting look at how the film was positioned upon its original release.


Final Words:

Carnival of Souls is one of those cult films that divides audiences. Those that love these quirky little B-movies will agree that Criterion has provided them with a spectacular Blu-ray release that does the film justice. Others will argue that the film has received a better release than it really deserves. Either way, it is difficult to argue against the quality of this incredible disc.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures

Release Date: June 21, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 125 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Spanish, Huitoto, Latin, Okaina, Portuguese, Tikuna, Wanano, and German DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: 2.0 Multi-language LPCM (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 27.00 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD edition.

Colombian One Sheet

This is the original Columbian one sheet that was used to promote the film.

“…The explorers have told their story. The natives haven’t. This is it…” -Ciro Guerra (Press Book)

Embrace of the Serpent is an unusual film that often feels like a fever dream. The stunning 35mm monochrome photography adds to this effect as we follow Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman, and the two scientists who build a friendship with him over the course of 40 years. The story was inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers (Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes) who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred Yakruna plant. All of this takes place during two different periods of time as if everything were happening at once.

“There’s an idea in many of the texts that explore the indigenous world that speaks of a different concept of time. Time to them is not a line, as we see it in the West, but a series of multiple universes happening simultaneously. It is a concept that has been referred to as ‘time without time’ or ‘space without space.’

I thought it connected with the stories of the explorers, who wrote about how one of them came to the Amazon following the footsteps of another explorer before him, and when he would encounter the same indigenous tribe, he would find that the previous explorer had been turned into myth. To the natives, it was always the same man, the same spirit, visiting them over and over again. This idea of a single life, a single experience, lived through the bodies of several men, was fascinating to me, and I thought it would make a great starting point for the script. It gave us a perspective of the indigenous way of thinking, but also connected with the viewer who could understand these men who come from our world, and through them, we could slowly begin to see the vision of the world of Karamakate.” -Ciro Guerra (Press Book)

This Amazonian concept informs the film’s structure at nearly every level. The screenplay was mostly written by Ciro Guerra during the course of four years, with cowriter Jacques Toulemonde coming on board for the final drafts, helping to shape a non-western tale for audiences used to western storytelling. It’s worth noting that, of the very few films that have been shot in the Amazon, almost all of them are told from the explorer’s point of view, and Amazon natives are often seen as primitive savages. This certainly isn’t the case here, and this fact makes all the difference in the world.

The Amazon has never before been quite this mystical. There are moments when one almost feels as if they are falling under some sort of spell (or perhaps becoming intoxicated by the psychedelic properties of the Yakruna). This is the film’s greatest strength, but one has to wonder if it isn’t also its largest weakness. The film never really touches ground. We are stimulated visually and taken across the threshold of what might as well be another world.

Many of the best films are powerful in their ability to take the audience to places that they have never been before, but is it possible for the subject matter to be too far removed from the viewer’s experience? The answer to this question probably depends on the sensibilities of each individual viewer.

Photo by Andrés Córdoba - Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

This is a posed production still from the film. The photograph was taken by Andrés Córdoba. – Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with a slightly altered version of the film’s American One Sheet artwork. Oscilloscope Pictures should be admired for not attempting to utilize different artwork for the film’s Blu-ray cover. (One Sheet artwork is nearly always superior to home video artwork, which usually ranges from cheesy to completely inept.)

The menu utilizes footage from the film’s dreamy cinematography with accompaniment from the score. The result is an attractive menu that is quite easy to accommodate.

Photo by Andres Barrientos - Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

This is a posed production still from the film. The photograph was taken by Andres Barrientos. – Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

David Gallego’s monochrome cinematography is faithfully rendered in this beautiful image transfer that showcases impressive detail and clarity. Contrast is wonderfully on point while blacks are deep without crushing. The layer of fine grain adds a cinematic texture to the proceedings. This is yet another wonderful example of how fabulous black and white translates on Blu-ray.

Photo by Andrés Córdoba - Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories - 3

This is a posed production still from the film. The photograph was taken by Andrés Córdoba. – Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Sound Quality:

 4 of 5 Stars

 Oscilloscope’s lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA transfer is an extremely modest mix, but one cannot say that it doesn’t faithfully translate the film’s original theatrical sound elements to Blu-ray. The track is a quiet affair with a quiet ambience that works well for the film. One can hear the Amazon’s creepy insect life in the background, and other (less identifiable) jungle life also make their presence known. This never interferes with the film’s dialogue, which is presumably quite clear. (Although, one cannot say this with complete certainty. This reviewer isn’t a native speaker of any of this film’s identifiable languages.) Sound effect are well mixed and come to vivid life at the appropriate moments as well. Music seems to be given room enough to breath in the mix, and this all adds up to a perfectly fine mix (even if some might complain that it doesn’t give their sound systems much of a workout).

Photo by Andrés Córdoba - Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories - 2

This is a production still from the film. The photograph was taken by Andrés Córdoba. – Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Making Embrace of the Serpent – (1080p) – (23:45)

While this short book behind the scenes is hardly comprehensive and somewhat more difficult to digest, viewers are given a glimpse behind the scenes of a film that seems to have an unusual production history. The interviews with the cast and crew provide some interesting nuggets of information, but it is the location footage that really makes this program worth watching.

Adventure, Culture, History, Magic: In-Depth Behind the Scenes – (1080P) – (09:36)

We are also given four EPK promos that are labeled as being “In-Depth Behind the Scenes” featurettes. The truth is that there is absolutely no depth to these short clips at all. However, they are worth watching because the footage gives viewers a chance to see some “behind the scenes” footage (even if the interview narration isn’t particularly informative). As a matter of fact, some of this footage is in color, which adds to the novelty of these promos. A play all function is also included.

Lessons from the Amazon: New Interview with Brionne Davis – (1080P) – (15:03)

This interview with Brionne Davis is much more than the usual EPK promotional nonsense one usually expects to be included as a supplement. Not only does Davis discuss the preparatory chores that informed his performance and his experience shooting the film on location, his memories provide insights to the film as a whole. One’s appreciation for the film is enhanced after watching this fifteen minute interview, and most viewers should find that it gives them a new lens in which to view the film a second time. However, it must be said that the interview isn’t likely to convert those who didn’t enjoy the film in the first place.

Theatrical Trailer – (1080P) – (02:09)

The theatrical trailer is reasonably effective in its ability to get across the mood and tone of the film, and it is nice to see it included here.

American One Sheet.jpg

Final Words:

Colonialism takes a gut punch in Guerra’s mystical excursion into the vast reaches of the Amazon rainforest. This is required viewing for anyone looking for a truly unique cinematic experience, but it isn’t for everyone. Oscilloscope’s Blu-ray release offers a solid transfer and is probably the best way to see the film in one’s own home.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Release Date: June 21, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 105 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Norwegian Dolby Atmos

Alternate Audio: 5.1 English Dolby True HD (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English, English Narrative, English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 2.39:1

Bitrate: 31.01 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD edition.


This is the original one sheet that was used to promote the film.

“There are registered more than 300 unstable mountainsides in Norway. One of the largest is “Åkerneset.” It’s a system of cracks 800 meter long that keep expanding up to 15 cm per year. When, not if, it falls 7 million cubic meters of rock will crash into the fjord below, creating an 80-meter high tsunami that will hit the local community of Geiranger after just 10 minutes. It was the perfect starting point for the first ever-Scandinavian disaster movie.” –Roar Uthaug (Press Book)

The Wave (or Bølgen, if one prefers the film’s original title) may be the first Norwegian disaster film, but it should be mentioned that the filmmaker’s seem to have taken notes from the countless disaster films that have been made by Hollywood. All of the expected tropes of the genre are here, but Uthaug puts them to smarter use.

“With THE WAVE I wanted to bring a traditional Hollywood genre closer to home. Moving away from president’s speeches and megacity mayhem, I wanted to experience the destruction through a normal family and the small community they live in. Working from the thought that the closer you feel to the characters, the more impact the imposing disaster will have… And although we of course wanted to create spectacular action sequences through practical and visual effects, the biggest impact should always come from the emotions of the human drama.” –Roar Uthaug (Press Book)

It is this focus on character that helps to set The Wave apart from the typical disaster spectacle. Hollywood films often spend so much time planning the spectacle that they neglect character. Viewers are left with mere outlines of “types.” The audience has no one to sympathize (or empathize) with, so the spectacle doesn’t serve anything but the director’s ego.

All things considered, the film’s story isn’t particularly groundbreaking. Nestled in Norway’s Sunnmøre region, Geiranger is one of the most spectacular tourist draws on the planet. With the mountain Åkerneset overlooking the village (and constantly threatening to collapse into the fjord), it is also a place where cataclysm could strike at any moment. After putting in several years at Geiranger’s warning center, geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is moving on to a prestigious gig with an oil company. But the very day he’s about to drive his family to their new life in the city, Kristian senses something isn’t right. The substrata are shifting. No one wants to believe that this could be the big one, especially with tourist season at its peak, but when that mountain begins to crumble, every soul in Geiranger has ten minutes to get to high ground before a tsunami hits, consuming everything in its path. All of this has the kind of high-concept extravagance that one might expect to find in the cheesiest Michael Bay production, but the filmmakers understand that character development matters.


Silje Breivik and Kristoffer Joner in THE WAVE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected by a standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork, and the case is protected by a special hologram slip cover.

 The menus utilize beach footage of the seascape as this environment slowly and subtly becomes more ominous. They are appropriate, attractive, and easy to navigate.


Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

It is always nice when a film’s Blu-ray transfer lives up to the format’s potential for clarity and detail, and this particular transfer is a good case in point. John Christian Rosenlund’s digital cinematography shines here. Actually, I would say that the overall effect is gorgeous. The lad and seascapes are nothing short of spectacular, and they are rendered with incredibly sharp detail. Contrast seems to be accurate as well. Solid blacks never seem to crush, and the image is clean and noise-free. If certain viewers disagree about this 5-star rating, it is probably because of the opening archival news footage. It is certainly of lesser quality, but this is intentional. It seems unfair to hold this against the film.


Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The star track on this disc is definitely the Dolby Atmos track, which is a transfer of the film’s original theatrical mix. This is an incredibly immersive track that almost warrants the purchase of a top quality sound system (just to hear it at in the best environment possible). To call the track “dynamic” might very well be an understatement. Disaster films are known for their engulfing sound mixes, and this is a film that doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The water sounds that make up the film’s primary atmosphere wraps around the viewer from every direction, and one feels that they are there with the characters. Even the more subtle sounds in the track are given resonance in this mix. It is quite an experience. The English-dubbed track is slightly less impressive than the two Norwegian options, but it is nice to have this included on the disc.


Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Behind the Scenes of “The Wave” – (1080P) – (04:29)

One would be daft to expect a proper “behind the scenes” look at the film after noting the four and a half minute runtime, but the viewer is given a very brief glimpse at some relatively interesting on-set footage. It is somewhat difficult to digest some of the interview blurbs (via subtitles) while attempting to view the footage, but this manages to marginally rise above the level of EPK fluff.

The Wave Visual Effects Breakdown: Part 1 – (1080P) – (03:14)

Lars Erik Hansen (VFX Supervisor) discusses the CGI creation of the film’s rockslide sequence, and the initial location scouting necessary to plan them.

The Wave Visual Effects Breakdown: Part 2 – (1080P) – (03:09)

Lars Erik Hansen (VFX Supervisor) discusses the CGI effects necessary to bring the film’s most famous sequence to life.

The Wave Visual Effects Breakdown: Part 3 – (1080P) – (03:06)

This final featurette concentrates on the effects created to bring the destruction of Geiranger to life on film.

Interview with Director Roar Uthuag – (1080i) – (04:29)

This English language interview with the film’s director isn’t very comprehensive, but some of Uthag’s remarks are interesting enough.

Theatrical Trailer – (1080P) – (02:09)

The film’s trailer features some of the film’s more sensational moments and it is easy enough to understand why. It isn’t the most interesting trailer in the universe, but it manages to get the job done. It is nice to have it included here.

That wraps up Magnolia’s supplemental package (unless one wishes to include the standard trailers for other Magnolia releases). The featurettes might have been marginally superior if the material had been edited as a single featurette with a twenty-something minute runtime, but this wouldn’t allow the packaging to promise five separate special features.


This is the American one sheet used to promote THE WAVE.

Final Words:

It is safe to say that fan of the disaster film genre will want to watch The Wave, and this exceptional Blu-ray is a near perfect way to view the film in one’s home environment. The disc more than makes up for its merely average supplemental package with an incredible image transfer, an excellent Norwegian sound mix, and the film’s dubbed-in-English soundtrack.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:32:37

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Icelandic DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: A DVD edition of this film is also available for this title.


“Conflicts between neighbors are very common in the countryside in Iceland.  Personally I know of many instances where people living side by side fall out and still have not spoken a word to each other many decades afterwards.  Often they even forget why they are enemies in the first place.  Icelanders are stubborn and autonomous people, they want to stand on their own two feet and they distrust everything that comes from the outside.  There’s a streak of independent thinking that sometimes goes beyond all logic…

… It’s a very tragic state of affairs when people are living in very isolated places, part of very small communities, but can’t speak to their closest neighbor.  And at the same time I find this situation quite comical.” -Grímur Hákonarson(Press Book)

Dry humor is peppered liberally throughout the length of Rams, and these comedic elements element keep the viewer interested in a story that might have otherwise been to recondite to engage the average viewer. However, it is the dramatic and somewhat suspenseful nature of this unusual story that makes the largest impression on its audience.

The story is really rather simple. In a secluded valley in Iceland, Gummi and Kiddi live side by side, tending to their sheep.  Their ancestral sheep-stock is considered one of the country’s best and the two brothers are repeatedly awarded for their prized rams who carry an ancient lineage.  Although they share the land and a way of life, Gummi and Kiddi have not spoken to each other in four decades.

When a lethal disease called “Scrapie” suddenly infects Kiddi’s sheep, the entire valley comes under threat.  The authorities decide to cull all the animals in the area to contain the outbreak. This is a near death sentence for the farmers, whose sheep are their main source of income, and many abandon their land.

Apparently, Grímur Hákonarson (the film’s writer and director) had first-hand knowledge about the disease that his plot hinges upon.

“Scrapie (BSE) is the most harmful disease the Icelandic countryside has ever had to face.  It’s an incurable virus that attacks the brains and spinal cords of sheep and is highly contagious.  The disease originally spread to Iceland through British sheep that arrived in the late 19th century.  So far it has not been possible to eradicate it completely.  This winter we saw at least three cases of scrapie in Northwest Iceland, so it’s very current and still scares people.  I know farmers who have suffered because of scrapie and I know the mental trauma that results when the entire stock needs to be slaughtered…

… Scrapie infected my niece’s sheep stock and it was a big emotional shock for her and her husband.  I experienced firsthand how this affected them psychologically… I started to think how it would feel for someone who lives alone, and who only has sheep, to be forced to slaughter an entire stock.” -Grímur Hákonarson(Press Book)

None of this should lead anyone to believe that the two brothers are willing to give up their land, their livelihood, and their heritage without a fight. Each brother tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion: Kiddi by using his rifle and Gummi by using his wits.  As the authorities close in, the brothers will need to come together to save the special breed passed down for generations, and themselves, from extinction.

None of this really hints at the sort of cinematic experience that one can expect from Rams. Hákonarson has a way of lulling his audience into an easy state of amusement. One watches the film without realizing that they are being led down a dark alley… and there are many interesting things down this alley, but some of these things have sharp teeth. I believe that Tom McCarthy (director of Spotlight) said it better: “At first it charmed me and then it snuck up and punched me in the gut emotionally. That doesn’t happen a lot. It really caught me off guard.”

This one is really worth checking out if you haven’t already. It is a nice alternative to all of the comic book films floating around.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with a slightly altered version of the film’s one sheet artwork framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Inside the case is a small booklet that features a chapter menu and film credits. The pages of this booklet is illustrated with various stills and screenshots from the film.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score. They are attractive and easy to navigate.

Screenshot 2.jpg

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Groups remarkably crisp image transfer showcases an exceptional level of detail with nice color balancing and appropriate contrast levels. Blacks are reasonably rich without seeming to crush detail, and digital anomalies never become a problem. This seems to be a relatively accurate reproduction of the HD source (though this reviewer didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing the film in theatres).

Screenshot 02

Sound Quality: 

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s 5.1 Icelandic DTS-HD Master Audio mix isn’t particularly dynamic, but it certainly serves the film admirably. The subtle scoring has room to breathe, and dialogue is always clear and appropriately mixed. Meanwhile, the sheep farm ambience is appropriately placed in the mix.

Screenshot 4

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Wrestling (A Short Film by Grímur Hákonarson)(22:26)

Wrestling is Hákonarson’s second short film. It premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in 2007 and went on to win 25 festival prizes around the world. It is also one of the most successful short films from Iceland. The story concerns two gay wrestlers who carry on a secret relationship with one another but might be facing the end of their affair. One’s enjoyment of this film will probably depend as much upon their personal feelings about the subject matter as any aesthetic tastes.

It is always nice to have a director’s early short efforts included in a Blu-ray package. It is too bad that this doesn’t happen more often.

Interview with Grímur Hákonarson (Director) – (04:44)

This is merely a short promotional piece. Don’t expect a comprehensive look into the making of Rams or even a proper discussion about the film. Instead we are shown an edited compilation of interview clips and footage from the film (most of which was included in the trailer). The information provided is interesting but not particularly enlightening.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:28)

A film’s theatrical trailer is always an essential Blu-ray ingredient, and it is especially interesting to see how Rams was marketed to American audiences.

Screenshot 5

Final Words:

This eccentric film should be enjoyable viewing for anyone who loves offbeat cinema, and Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray release is the perfect way to experience it.

Review by: Devon Powell

Spine #821

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: The Criterion Collection

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:34:58

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Uncompressed Original English Mono Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.66:1

Bitrate: 28.50 Mbps

Notes: A 2-Disc DVD edition of this ‘Criterion’ title is also available. ‘Sony Picture Classics’ previously releases this film on Blu-ray, but the transfer is slightly less impressive and it doesn’t contain nearly as many supplemental features.


“I started out being completely unfamiliar with any of the professional literature in the field of nuclear deterrence. I was at first very impressed with how subtle some of the work was—at least so it seemed starting out with just a primitive concern for survival and a total lack of any ideas of my own. Gradually I became aware of the almost wholly paradoxical nature of deterrence or as it has been described, the Delicate Balance of Terror. If you are weak, you may invite a first strike. If you are becoming too strong, you may provoke a pre-emptive strike. If you try to maintain the delicate balance, it’s almost impossible to do so mainly because secrecy prevents you from knowing what the other side is doing, and vice versa, ad infinitum…” -Stanley Kubrick (as quoted by Alexander Walker in “Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis”)

The paradox described by Kubrick is the basis of what may very well be his finest feature. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is an incisive and unflinching satire that contains ingredients that nearly everyone can enjoy. Kubrick bombards the audience with irreverent humor that includes plenty of sexual innuendo and toilet humor. (The entire framework of the film is sexual… beginning with intercourse [a bomber re-fueling] and ending with orgasm [bombs exploding].)

The Opening Title Sequence

The film’s sexual framework is apparent in the fabulous opening credit sequence.

However, the dark and bone-dry satirical elements combined with shrewd observations about the more ridiculous patterns of human behavior are what sets Strangelove apart from other comedies. Actually, the film was originally conceived as a serious thriller.

“As I tried to build the detail for a scene I found myself tossing away what seemed to me to be very truthful insights because I was afraid the audience would laugh. After a few weeks of this I realized that these incongruous bits of reality were closer to the truth than anything else I was able to imagine. After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?” -Stanley Kubrick (as quoted by Alexander Walker in “Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis)

Instead of forcing the film to conform to his original intentions, Kubrick changed his intentions to better fit his subject matter. This made all the difference in the world.

“…In culling the incongruous, it seemed to me to be less stylized and more realistic than any so-called serious, realistic treatment, which in fact is more stylized than life itself by its careful exclusion of the banal, the absurd, and the incongruous. In the context of impending world destruction, hypocrisy, misunderstanding, lechery, paranoia, ambition, euphemism, patriotism, heroism, and even reasonableness can evoke a grisly laugh.” -Stanley Kubrick (as quoted by Thomas Allen Nelson in “Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze”)

Perhaps the laughs were too grisly for certain viewers. Critical reception at the time was somewhat positive, but praise was given with a certain amount of reservation. Bosley Crowther’s review for the New York Times is one case in point.

“Stanley Kubrick’s new film, called Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is beyond any question the most shattering sick joke I’ve ever come across. And I say that with full recollection of some of the grim ones I’ve heard from Mort Sahl, some of the cartoons I’ve seen by Charles Addams and some of the stuff I’ve read in Mad Magazine.

For this brazenly jesting speculation of what might happen within the Pentagon and within the most responsible council of the President of the United States if some maniac Air Force general should suddenly order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union is at the same time one of the cleverest and most incisive satiric thrusts at the awkwardness and folly of the military that have ever been on the screen…

…My reaction to it is quite divided, because there is so much about it that is grand, so much that is brilliant and amusing, and much that is grave and dangerous.

On the one hand, it cuts right to the soft pulp of the kind of military mind that is lost from all sense of reality in a maze of technical talk, and it shows up this type of mentality for the foolish and frightening thing it is…

…As I say, there are parts of this satire that are almost beyond compare.

On the other hand, I am troubled by the feeling, which runs all through the film, of discredit and even contempt for our whole defense establishment, up to and even including the hypothetical Commander in Chief.

It is all right to show the general who starts this wild foray as a Communist-hating madman, convinced that a ‘Red conspiracy’ is fluoridating our water in order to pollute our precious body fluids. That is pointed satire, and Sterling Hayden plays the role with just a right blend of wackiness and meanness to give the character significance.

But when virtually everybody turns up stupid or insane–or, what is worse, psychopathic–I want to know what this picture proves. The President, played by Peter Sellers with a shiny bald head, is a dolt, whining and unavailing with the nation in a life-or-death spot. But worse yet, his technical expert, Dr. Strangelove, whom Mr. Sellers also plays, is a devious and noxious ex- German whose mechanical arm insists on making the Nazi salute.

And, oddly enough, the only character who seems to have much common sense is a British flying officer, whom Mr. Sellers–yes, he again–plays.

The ultimate touch of ghoulish humor is when we see the bomb actually going off, dropped on some point in Russia, and a jazzy sound track comes in with a cheerful melodic rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again Some Sunny Day.’ Somehow, to me, it isn’t funny. It is malefic and sick.” -Bosley Crowther (New York Times, January 30, 1964)

Did Mr. Crowther not understand that satire is supposed to have this dividing effect on the viewer? The entire point is to show the folly in all arguments. Everyone is ridiculous for the simple reason that there is ridiculousness in each point of view. This is what made the cold war situation so dangerous. I suppose the dark nature of the humor might still be too much for certain people to digest, but this is probably a testament to the film’s brilliance. It still seems relevant today.


The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given Dr. Strangelove the royal treatment. Instead of utilizing their usual clear case packaging (which is usually quite lovely), they have designed an impressive Digipak with film related artwork designed by Eric Skillman.

Inside the digipak is a “Plan R” envelope that contains the following artifacts:

1. A booklet that is beautifully designed to look like a men’s magazine entitled “Strangelove.” This booklet contains an article by Terry Southern about the making of the film that was originally written in 1994. This article is both enjoyable and informative. Fans of the film will love it.

2. An official document that is labeled “TOP SECRET” and contains an essay by David Bromwich about the production of Strangelove.

  1. Holy Bible and Russian Phrases. This tiny little booklet is slightly less impressive than the other two items. There are a few Russian phrases at the beginning of the book, but most of the book is devoted to film and disk credits and technical information about the transfer.

Blu-ray Contents.png

This is really a very clever little package, and it should look terrific on your Blu-ray shelf.

The menus utilize footage from the film accompanied by a dramatic musical arrangement of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” that is featured in the film.

Menu 1Menu 2Menu 3Menu 4

They are quite attractive and easy to navigate.


Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s tiny “Holy Bible & Russian Phrases” booklet details their 1.66:1 high definition transfer in more depth than any review might hope to discuss it:

“…Because of overprinting and damage created at the time of its theatrical release, the original camera negative of Dr. Strangelove was destroyed at the laboratory fifty years ago. As a result, a combination of elements, including 35mm fine-grain master positives, duplicate negatives, and prints were used for this digital transfer, which was created in 4K resolution on an Oxberry wet-gate film scanner at Cineric in New York in 2004. Given the condition of the many elements; the fact that they represented different manufacturing generations from the original camera negative, resulting in wide variations in density and contrast; and the need to maintain the filmmaker’s aesthetic intentions, it was determined that the only way to restore the film properly was in a full 4K digital space.

Daniel DeVincent, Cineric’s director of digital restoration, created lookup tables designed to optimize the scanner for each element and achieve the dynamic range of 35mm film. Under the supervision of Grover Crisp, initial color correction was carried out by DeVincent, with additional color correction done by Scott Ostrowsky at Technicolor and Colorworks in Los Angeles. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed by Cineric using DaVinci’s Revival.”

The result is a fabulous transfer that gives viewers the opportunity to experience the film in a fresh light. Fans who have only viewed the film on previous DVD issues will be especially surprised at the difference in quality.

However, those who own Sony’s 2009 Blu-ray release of the film might need to look quite closely to see a definite difference in quality. The higher bit-rate (28.50 Mbps as opposed to Sony’s 25.95 Mbps) does give Criterion’s transfer a decided edge, and one can see that Criterion’s transfer is marginally superior when one carefully compares the each transfer. The differences are especially clear while comparing the transfers while they are in motion.

The cinematic layer of grain gives the transfer a cinematic texture that is preferable to overzealous DNR, and the picture remains clear throughout the length of the film. The high-definition transfer showcases a level of detail that wasn’t evident on DVD issues of the film, and the transfer exhibits near-perfect contrast with clean gradients in the mid-range. There may be a few minor edge enhancement issues, but one really has to scrutinize the image to notice this. It certainly never becomes distracting. Overall, this is an excellent transfer!


Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The film’s soundtrack was also restored to its former glory by the restoration team.

“The original monaural soundtrack and the alternate 5.1 sound mix were remastered from the best surviving optical tracks at Chase Audio by Deluxe, under [Grover] Crisp’s supervision, [and] additional restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection using Pro Tools and iZotope Rx4.”

Purists will no doubt prefer Criterion’s LPCM English Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit). This mono track sounds quite good for its age. Criterion seems to have cleaned up a few of the track’s blemishes leaving a relatively clear audio experience. Meanwhile, their 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Mix (48 kHz, 3680 kbps, 24-bit) is slightly more dynamic with some subtle activity in the rear speakers, though this track has a few minor anomalies (such as minor hissing) that aren’t quite as obvious in the mono track. It should be said, that these issues are barely noticeable. One would have to have a terrific sound system and a sensitive ear to notice them.


Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

It is nice to see that most of the terrific supplements from the Sony Blu-ray have been carried over for this disc in addition to Criterion’s brand new bonus features. (The picture-in-picture feature isn’t included, but few will miss it.) There are nearly four hours of supplements on this disc, and it is nearly impossible to imagine that anyone will feel shortchanged.

Inside Dr. Strangelove (2000) – (SD) – (46:04)

David Naylor’s documentary is a better than average look at the making of Kubrick’s masterpiece. The program utilizes a healthy amount of narration to fill in any holes left by the numerous interviewees featured throughout the duration of the piece, and archival stills, newsreel footage, and clips from the film are used to illustrate what the various participants discuss. Participants include James B. Harris, Ken Adam, Peter Murton, Gilbert Taylor, Tracy Reed, James Earl Jones, and probably two times as many others worth mentioning. The result is as entertaining as it is informative.

No Fighting in the War Room (2004) – (SD) – (30:04)

“No Fighting in the War Room, or Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat” gives viewers a glimpse into the political atmosphere of the cold war era. Interestingly, Robert McNamara (former secretary of defense) is on hand to explain the finer points of nuclear deterrence in a manner that is simple to understand, and horrifying to contemplate. This contextual information adds to one’s appreciation of the film’s satirical elements.

The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove (2000) – (SD) – (13:50)

This is obviously a companion piece to David Naylor’s “Inside Dr. Strangelove.” Many of the same participants are utilized, and it could have very easily been edited as a part of that particular program. “The Art of Stanley Kubrick” would be the perfect introduction to the work of Stanley Kubrick if it proceeded to discuss the director’s six post-Strangelove efforts. As it is, the viewer is given a general overview of Kubrick’s becoming.

Best Sellers (2004) – (SD) – (18:28)

 “Best Sellers, or Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove” is relatively self-explanatory. This short piece gives the brilliant comedian his due while telling the story of his background and discussing his vast talent. Plenty of participants are on hand to sing his praises as the program finally comes to his legendary three-role performance in Dr. Strangelove.  While this cannot be described as a particularly comprehensive look at the life and career of Peter Sellers, it is an admirable introduction. There are quite a few clips of his early work that will be new to many viewers, and the inclusion of this footage would be enough reason to praise this excellent featurette.

Stanley Kubrick’s Pursuit of Perfection: Joe Dunton and Kelvin Pike – (12:13)

Joe Dunton (Cinematographer) and Kelvin Pike (Camera operator) discuss Kubrick’s photographic knowledge while reminiscing about their experiences working with Kubrick. Pike’s memories are especially interesting (and relevant), because of his work on Strangelove. This is a very welcome addition to the disc!

Deep Impact: David George Remembers Peter George – (10:57)

David George discusses Red Alert (which formed the basis for Dr. Strangelove) and his father’s collaboration with Kubrick and Southern on the film’s screenplay. This program further expands the viewer’s behind-the-scenes knowledge of the film by looking at the evolution of the script. There are some wonderful nuggets of information here.

Flying Solo: Stanley Kubrick as Producer – (19:14)

Mick Broderick has recently written a book about the making of Dr. Strangelove entitled “Reconstructing Strangelove: Inside Stanley Kubrick’s “Nightmare Comedy,” and this program is essentially a one-sided conversation with Broderick about Stanley Kubrick’s first efforts as producer. The information given is more general in nature and offers the viewer information about Kubrick’s working methods.

Exploding Myths: Richard Daniels on the Stanley Kubrick Archive – (14:15)

Daniels discusses some of the misconceptions about Kubrick’s working method while offering evidence of the contrary that can be found in “The Stanley Kubrick Archive.” For example, we are given evidence that Sellers didn’t ad-lib dialogue nearly as much as legend suggests. His improvisations were more in his delivery and physical business. There is quite a bit of information crammed into these fourteen minutes.

Transcending Time: Symbols and Strangelove – (17:25)

In this scholarly discussion, Rodney Hill theorizes about the various Jungian archetypes present in Dr. Strangelove. Hill claims that Kubrick’s appreciation of the writings of Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces) influenced his films. Dr. Strangelove is briefly dissected along these lines. It makes for interesting food for thought (even if one doesn’t agree with Hill’s theories).

Peter Sellers on “The Today Show – (4:23)

This excerpt from a 1980 episode of The Today Show is a very humorous clip of a conversation between Gene Shalit and Peter Sellers. The conversation is less informative than entertaining, but Sellers is always a delight to watch. This archival clip adds a charm to the supplemental package that is most appreciated.

1963 Split Screen Interviews 1963 with Peter Sellers & George C. Scott – (SD) – (7:16)

While these interviews are interesting as artifacts of the film’s marketing and promotion, they suffer from a lack of context. The viewer are only given pre-recorded answers to unknown questions. It is good to have them included here, but it is difficult to gather any concrete knowledge from them.

Exhibitor’s Trailer – (16:53)

This “trailer” is made up of raw footage from the film that is narrated (or explained) by Stanley Kubrick) himself. The most interesting aspect of this short promotional piece (which was never intended to be seen by the public) lies in the fact that this is essentially unedited footage that has been roughly assembled. It has the capacity to give one insight into Kubrick’s shooting and editing process (even if these insights might seem minor).

Jeremy Bernstein Interviews Stanley Kubrick (1966) – (3:06)

This is an excerpt from a 1966 interview with Stanley Kubrick. It must have shocked Jeremy Bernstein when Kubrick agreed to a lengthy interview for what would become a full-length profile for The New Yorker, because the director wasn’t particularly fond of giving interviews. The interview was held in England while Kubrick was working on his newest project (2001: A Space Odyssey). Kubrick even insisted that Bernstein use one of his tape recorders to capture this legendary 77-minute interview… and now we have this wonderful excerpt from this conversation included here on this disc.

The clip focuses on Dr. Strangelove and is essential listening for fans of the film. It is really nice to have this audio footage included on the disk.

Theatrical Trailer – (3:24)

One of the more ambitious and unusual trailers to come out of the Hollywood system, this might be better called a “teaser” than a proper “trailer.” Fans should be grateful to have this included on the disc!


Final Words:

The final paragraph of Roger Ebert’s 1994 rave about the film sums up this reviewer’s feelings perfectly.

“Seen after 30 years, Dr. Strangelove seems remarkably fresh and undated – a clear-eyed, irreverent, dangerous satire. And its willingness to follow the situation to its logical conclusion – nuclear annihilation – has a purity that today’s lily-livered happy-ending technicians would probably find a way around. Its black and white photography helps, too, putting an unadorned face on its deadly political paradoxes. If movies of this irreverence, intelligence and savagery were still being made, the world would seem a younger place.” –Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, October 28, 1994)

Over ten years have passed since Ebert wrote these words, and Dr. Strangelove still hasn’t grown stale. There is no excuse for ignoring this film, and Criterion has given us the perfect outlet for watching it film on home video. Find a place of honor on your shelves for this one.


Review by: Devon Powell


Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA

Release Date: June 26, 2012

Region: Region A

Length: 01:26:45

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English LPCM Mono (48 kHz, 1152 kbps)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.34:1

Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Notes: Criterion also released a DVD edition of this title. There are probably a few public domain discs that are available, but these should be avoided (the quality is terrible).


“What I liked about Thirty-Nine Steps were the sudden switches and the jumping from one situation to another with such rapidity… If I did The Thirty-Nine Steps again, I would stick to that formula, but it really takes a lot of work. You have to use one idea after another, and with such rapidity.” –Alfred Hitchcock(Interview with Peter Bogdanovich, 1963)

The film moves so rapidly that it is actually rather difficult to discuss The 39 Steps in the same manner that one might discuss…

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