Thought your were done with Stanley Kubrick box sets? You would be wrong. Here is the 'Masterpiece Collection of 'Stanley Kubrick, which is now an exclusive to Amazon.com. These are basically the same discs as the previous special edition releases, compelete with all their extras and transfers.
The new material comes in the form of three excellent 'NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN' documentaries that focus on Kubrick and his work. All of which are worth the price of admission for this box set. Also included is a cool heavy duty box with a 78-page booklet, and artwork.
Portions of this article previously appeared in our reviews of 'Dr. Strangelove', '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'A Clockwork Orange', 'The Shining', 'Full Metal Jacket', and 'Eyes Wide Shut'.
Portions of this article previously appeared in our reviews of 'Dr. Strangelove', '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'A Clockwork Orange', 'The Shining', 'Full Metal Jacket', and 'Eyes Wide Shut'.
It's amazing to me how a story like 'Lolita' was ever made into a film. Not only that, but it has been remade over and over again, with audiences still loving it. Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those audience members who loves 'Lolita', both the novel by Vladimir Nabokov and Stanley Kubrick's 1962 version of that novel. Hell, I even own one of the original French movie posters of the film, which is displayed in my house. But to make a film back in the early 60s with such a controversial taboo subject as 'Lolita' has, somebody somewhere had to make a lot of changes to get past the MPAA.
Before 1962, Kubrick had already made a name for himself in film, with movies like 'The Killing', 'Paths of Glory', 'Fear and Desire', and 'Spartacus'. But 'Lolita' is usually the first film from Kubrick to appear in the never-ending box sets since the first one came out on DVD more than fifteen years ago. The main reason for this is that this is where Kubrick started to become bigger than life and able to take total creative control of his films. Something that Kubrick was a stickler about and usually turned out that his adaptation of whatever novel he was making, turned out better than the book itself. And that is something very rare.
But with 1962's 'Lolita', Kubrick still had to fight and curve around studio execs, actors, and producers to get this movie made, because of the intense subject matter. Kubrick went on to say that if he had to do it over, he probably wouldn't have made the film since he had to constantly jump over obstacles and change his vision to make the censors and executives happy. The result is surprisingly still an excellent film, but is far different from Nabokov's novel from 1955. Kubrick even had to change actors, because the actors he had asked were too scared to take on the roles, because of the controversial subject, which was basically pedophilia.
So Kubrick had to re-work and re-write the script, which is much more comical than the book, but left the sexual innuendos and sex scenes to the viewer's minds and thoughts, rather than show anything remotely of the sorts. Needless to say, Kubrick was very cautious with making 'Lolita'. The film starts out with the end of the movie as we see a man kill another man in cold blood. We flash back several years before this incident where we meet the killer, who is Professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason) who teaches at the local college. He is looking to take in a vacation before he heads back up to the university for the school year and comes across a woman named Charlotte Haze-Humbert (Shelley Winters), who owns a big house where she rents out rooms.
This pushy woman entices Humbert to come stay at the house where he is reluctant to do so until he sees Charlotte's young daughter Dolores or 'Lolita' (Sue Lyon) for short. Humbert immediately falls for the very young Lolita and decides to stay in the house. In Kubrick's film version, we see the Humbert is simply a man in love, but it is a forbidden love since the girl is so young, but in the novel, Humbert has a wide variety of problems, which give way to his creepy and unnatural infatuation with Lolita. A couple of mishaps and accidents happen, leaving Humbert and Lolita together as they travel across country from hotel to hotel where they pose as father-daughter by day and lovers by night. Meanwhile, someone keeps popping up wherever they go, usually in different disguises.
This person is Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers), who usually throws a nail into Humbert's plans for Lolita. But this all builds and shows us what led Humbert, a man of questionable morals, but respected by everyone to kill a man. Kubrick, in order to appease the execs and producers, as well as make an excellent film took away the aspect of Humbert's motives for loving a much younger woman and instead put that focus on Lolita.
What is supposed to shock us, never ultimately does, and instead things play out comically with excellent performances by everyone involved. Still, it would have been interesting to see if Kubrick were to make this in the late 70s or 80s, if it would have been a much different and more disturbing picture than it was back in 1962. Perhaps we will never know.
When thinking of Stanley Kubrick's substantial oeuvre, a word that doesn't come to mind often is "funny." This is a mistake of course, as even his bleakest movies have at least a mischievous twinkle of humor (even 'Eyes Wide Shut' - just think about the film's closing line).
And for a time, Kubrick was out-and-out hilarious.
After getting chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood studio system with Kirk Douglas' 'Spartacus,' he made his goofball take on Nabokov's 'Lolita,' which costarred the very funny, very genius Peter Sellers. After toiling for a while on a straightforward adaptation of a nuclear age thriller called 'Red Alert,' he decided to go in a different direction, transposing the same framework to an all out black comedy.
The result was 1964's 'Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,' a movie that really is nothing short of magic. It also marks the beginning of Kubrick's reign as one of cinema's all-time great artists - one that would stretch until his sudden death in 1999.
'Dr. Strangelove' is a cautionary comedy. From the brilliant title sequence, which juxtaposes planes refueling to, er, sex, we know what we're in for. A general (Sterling Hayden) orders a nuclear bomb to be dropped on Russia, and then locks himself in a room with a British captain (played by Peter Sellers). A bomber plane (populated by a very young James Earl Jones and a very cowboy Slim Pickens) sets off to Russia. Inside the Pentagon, a group of gruff white men (including an Air Force General played by fabulous George C. Scott and Peter Sellers, again, this time playing the President of the United States as well as, later, the titular Dr. Strangelove) try to sort out the fate of the world. Included in this discussion is a Russian ambassador, who soon lets loose that the Russians have a doomsday device, capable of wiping out all life on earth (as we learn in the special features, this seemingly far-fetched scenario was actually quite plausible).
This could have been a kind of white-knuckle thriller, and in a way, it still is. How far, will Kubrick go, exactly, in the pursuit of bleak, absurdist comedy? Will a bomb actually be dropped because a few knuckleheads couldn't communicate properly? By the time Peter Sellers shows up as a wheelchair-bound goose-stepper, the movie reaches a kind of stratospheric level of comedy that few movies ever attempt these days (an exception, of course, is the very 'Strangelove'-ian, very underrated Tim Burton comedy 'Mars Attacks!') Can you imagine studios that put out 'Confessions of a Shopaholic' or 'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past' ever setting a comedy on the razor's edge of thermonuclear war?
This could have been an absolute folly, but in the skilled and assured hands of young Stanley Kubrick, the movie absolutely soars. Part of this is due to the trust Kubrick places in his actors. Even though Peter Sellers is amazing in his multiple roles and should be commended, I must say that I am always wowed by George C. Scott's performance. His line delivery is positively heavenly.
The movie is also so gorgeously shot - and the sets so meticulously put together - that it gives a sense of reality to the situation. As outlandish as the situations or dialogue get, it feels like the truth. There's an anecdote in one of the documentaries on this disc that when Ronald Reagan took office, he asked where the White House's war room was. There wasn't a war room, they explained to the new president - that was just in 'Dr. Strangelove.' It shows you how provocative and powerful the film really was.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Developed by writer Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick, '2001: A Space Odyssey' begins with an extended vignette about human evolution. A bestial group of pre-humans live their daily lives in fear until they stumble upon a black, rectangular monolith. After encountering this otherworldly device, one of the creatures inexplicably invents the first tool and uses it as a club to protect his tribe. The film suddenly leaps forward to the future where man inhabits space in ships and orbiting stations. On the surface of the moon, a dig uncovers a deliberately buried monolith that's identical to the one the man-apes found at the beginning of the film.
Two years later, two pilots -- Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) -- escort three scientists to Jupiter on the spaceship Discovery One. The ship is run by HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), a supercomputer that represents the pinnacle in human-created artificial intelligence. Treated like any other crew member, HAL talks to the pilots and mimics human behavior and intelligence. Everything is seemingly routine until HAL stumbles upon information on the secret excavation on the moon. When Dave questions HAL's reliability, the computer stages a mutiny.
Like many Kubrick films, '2001: A Space Odyssey' is best approached as a cerebral endeavor rather than as outright entertainment, as Kubrick uses the trappings of the sci-fi genre to pose genuine questions of sentience, existence, and intelligence. Action fans won't find any gunfights or explosions here; instead, this is a deliberately paced adventure of the mind that requires patience, thought, and introspection. The director famously refused to explain his interpretation of the film, preferring that his audience draw their own conclusions. To be blunt, the film demands a level of engagement and intelligence from its audience that's truly rare in modern filmmaking.
It's safe to say that almost everything about '2001: A Space Odyssey' is challenging and atypical. The characters are painfully naturalistic, relationships are cold and unnerving, and the ending is vague and experimental. Kubrick decided early on that he wanted the film to be a primarily non-verbal experience, and the result is an eerily quiet film. The silence is punctuated by classical music, technical banter between the astronauts, the hums and rumbles of the ship, and HAL's soothing voice.
In fact, the only segment of the film that relies on a familiar genre scenario (HAL's mutiny) doesn't gain momentum until the final act. But even then, this classic clash of wills doesn't constitute the climax of the story -- that comes a bit later as Dave is confronted with a metaphysical journey across time and space that makes for a most intriguing twist in the story.
Kubrick is the only director who makes me feel like a puppet on strings, and this is the only film that manages to leave my head spinning no matter how many times I watch it. Every time I think I've got my finger on the pulse of Kubrick's methodical madness, I realize there are ideas in this film that I'll probably never completely wrap my head around. It astounds me in our age of technological advancement that a futuristic film made in 1968 remains one of the most compelling cinematic labyrinths of all time.
Years ago, I gave up trying to argue the merits of the film with those who find it tedious or plodding. I've come to accept the fact that '2001' is a definitive love-it-or-hate-it flick that will forever split audiences. Still, whatever you may ultimately think of the film itself, '2001: A Space Odyssey' will literally haunt your brain after you watch it. In my opinion, every film fan owes it to themselves to experience '2001' at least once in their lives.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Take away the shag haircuts and the severe aging of lead actor Malcolm McDowell and the now forty year old cinematic classic could have been made yesterday. 'A Clockwork Orange' has held up amazingly well. Based on the Americanized version of the 1961 novel by Anthony Burgess, which lacks the final chapter of the story, this tale of crime and punishment (among many other things) remains an important, must see experience, one of the masterworks of the most notoriously perfectionistic director ever known, with topics that remain as relevant today as they were when both the novel and film debuted.
The story of Alexander DeLarge's descent from rampaging hooligan and borderline lunatic into convicted murderer and eventual guinea pig is all too powerful. With no explained traumatic experiences or unfortunate upbringings, we have a being who hides behind many masks, both figuratively and literally, a product of nature rather than nurture, who abandons the rigors of day to day life, the rigamarole of school, and the eventual job and career, for a life of chaos, his bloodlust enhanced through ingested chemicals, with his three "droog" friends (Michael Tarn, James Marcus, and Warren Clarke) roaming the nights beating, robbing, and raping the innocent. Double crossed by his only friends and left to solely bear the fourteen year punishment for their collective crimes, Alex becomes a product of the system, now known as 655321. But rather than serve out his sentence, our hero and narrator volunteers for an experimental procedure that will get him out of jail and ensure he'll never return. But at what cost? Is Alex's new life truly "free," or is he more a prisoner than he was when he was behind bars?
Of all the films I've seen in my life, I can count on any appendage only a few that I've seen more times than this 136 minute thrill ride that passes by faster and faster with each repeat viewing. I can count even fewer films that I could say, like 'A Clockwork Orange,' that I'd not change a single minute, second, or frame of. Methodically paced, spread out across a distinct three act structure (crime, consequence, and the true aftermath thereof), the film links together seamlessly despite being tonally distinct and incomparable. The chaos and anarchy on display with the youthful Alex and his ironically white clad gang in the early goings is poetic. It's all so savagely cruel and random, yet completely believable.
Anarchy is then traded in for control. Institutionalized and thrown to the wolves, the leering perverts as well as the powerful guards and wardens who prove to be Alex's antithesis, we see manipulations of a man trying to survive, misinterpreting biblical passages and meanings to reaffirm his own beliefs, while playing the part of a convert to the pastor he assists. The film then insinuates that the criminal in the midst of his peers will only grow more dedicated in his craft, and just as fast, we see the six digit cog in the system manipulate his way into an early release. He doesn't want to be cured as much as he wants to be released, to seemingly continue his criminal spree. As we see Alex's eyelids clamped open as he's forced to watch atrocities, drugged to feel the opposite of the way he did when he took his previous partakings, we see the hand of governmental control as well as the idea of conformity, though presented in a manner that makes it less idea than it is fact.
With one act to go, Kubrick's tale doesn't drive the path of redemption. Quite literally, everything Alex lived for is stripped of him, capable of making him desire death rather than indulge, including his one obsession capable of tranquilizing him rather than enticing carnage. Alex is a prisoner without a cage, a shell of a man and a victim to everyone, family, friend, and foe. His reason for existence excised, cruelly taunting him at every turn. The irony now is that the once ironically clad hooligan extraordinaire is now the same as those he once committed his atrocities upon, a helpless sheep, the wolf beneath brainwashed and killed.
Set to synthesized classical music, which is as timeless and unique as the film's visuals, 'A Clockwork Orange' paints a more believable state of the future, while giving a view of the present's paths even today, chock full of leering perverts at every turn eying Alex for what he embodies, whether they're in the position of power or on the same tier as our humble narrator. With perplexing speech patterns, bizarre and otherwise complex scene compositions, and a labyrinthine plot whose motives can be interpreted a number of ways, as we see a character constantly theorizing on the meaning of existence as he is thrown down the path that he's chosen for himself. As we see a character grow wiser, perhaps even cruelly so, it's hard to not connect, sympathize, or even relate to the misadventures of one of cinema's greatest anti-heroes. Damn near every shot of the film features the great Alexander DeLarge, and the few that don't feature characters talking directly about him. That equates to a one man show, and boy what a one man show this is.
After 'A Clockwork Orange' and before 'The Shining', Stanley Kubrick made an epic period drama that was 187 minutes long. It's the least talked about films of Kubrick's resume, but should in fact be one of the most discussed for its sheer beauty and brilliance. Kubrick decided to adapt the 1844 fictional book called 'The Luck of Barry Lyndon' by William Makepeace Thackeray and the results were astounding. Not only did Kubrick's vision win critic and audience's praises, but it also won four Oscars and might be Kubrick's best looking film in his collection of work, which is quite the feat, considering every single one of his films is visually stunning.
Hell, many critics and outlets have deemed 'Barry Lyndon' one of the greatest films ever made, and they wouldn't be far off the mark with that statement. But why does this film get the shaft from debates and film geeks like ourselves, spending hours discussing. Maybe it's perhaps the slow burn of this very long film, instead of Kubrick giving us a wild and adventurous tale of one man. Or maybe it's the fact that our main protagonist, Barry isn't such a great man from start to finish, thus disconnecting us with someone to relate to, not mater the time period. But I think that is one of the points here.
Kubrick not only wanted to make a film that was similar to walking into one of the greatest art galleries of the world and spending hours looking at the gorgeous paintings, but also show us an objective look at a man's life and how he conducted himself in his own selfish ways, which leads Kubrick to hypnotize us for a couple of hours before smacking us in the face. It's quite a brilliant move on Kubrick's part. Told in two acts, 'Barry Lyndon' starts out with Barry's father being killed in a duel in Ireland. At this time he known as Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neil). After the death of this father, Barry falls in love with his cousin and makes several advances towards her, although she never reciprocates, because she loves the English military Captain.
This angers the bratty and rude Barry and with his idiotic reaction to this, he is forced to flee his home and with no money and nowhere to go, he enlists in the British Army where he is shipped into the Seven Years' War. You'd think Barry would mature or think things through, but he doesn't and flees his post and regimen and ends up forced to join the Prussian army now. After the war, Barry is still a jerk and to make money, ends up becoming a cheating gambler with wealthy players. If his opponents give him grief or don't pay, he duels. Not exactly the best life.
He soon has an epiphany and no longer wants to live a poor life of gambling, cheating, and stealing, therefor he decides to marry a rich woman so that he can live off her dime. He accomplishes this with marrying a very wealthy countess (Marisa Berenson). It's not too long that the countess realizes what kind of person Barry really is, who has now taken on her last name Lyndon, hence 'Barry Lyndon'. Barry openly cheats, steals, and does not love his wife, but only uses her for her money where he lives a life of debauchery for his selfish needs. The only person who seems to want to speak up or do something about Barry is the countess' son from her first marriage.
And now we see all these issues and harm that Barry has caused come full circle as it weighs him down and causes him great humiliation, and rightfully so. What he has tried so hard to do, which is to clim the social ladder and keep his pockets full of money, suddenly come crashing down with his stupidity and childish actions. And the second half of the film focuses on Barry trying to confront these problems. This is not a redeeming story by any means as Barry never wants to better himself, but would rather keep up his shameful shenanigans for his own personal glory and wealth, which is coming to a stop quickly.
Kubrick's vision for 'Barry Lyndon' is one of the most beautiful pieces of art and cinema out there. Each frame of the film could be paused, printed out, and hung up on your wall. It's that amazing. The use of natural light and classical music fully immerses you into this old world, and with award winning performances by everyone in the film, it's no doubt that Kubrick has concted yet another masterpiece for himself and for us to enjoy and talk about. It's one of those films, like most of Kubrick's movies where if it is on television, you can't help but watch the whole thing all the way through. It's a film where you'll notice something different each time and take away something new with each viewing, which is something that doesn't come along too often.
Although Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' is now considered a horror classic, back at the time of its original 1980 theatrical release, it was something of a bust. Arriving that June amidst an almost breathless level of anticipation, audiences and critics alike were ultimately underwhelmed, complaining about the film's slow pace, lack of traditional horror movie shocks, and an over-the-top, scene-chewing star turn by Jack Nicholson. Despite a strong opening weekend, box office quickly plummeted, and 'The Shining' soon became known as the "bummer of the summer."
Funny, then, that just as the ghostly apparitions of the film's fictional Overlook Hotel would play tricks on the mind of poor Jack Torrance, so too has the passage time changed the perception of 'The Shining' itself. Many of the same reviewers who lambasted the film for "not being scary" enough back in 1980 now rank it among the most effective horror films ever made, while audiences who hated the film back then now vividly recall being "terrified" by the experience. 'The Shining' has somehow risen from the ashes of its own bad press to redefine itself not only as a seminal work of the genre, but perhaps the most stately, artful horror ever made.
By now, most everyone knows the story. Based (very loosely) on the novel by Stephen King, over the course of a few snowbound weeks at the Overlook Hotel, aspiring novelist Torrance (Nicholson) will give new meaning to the phrase "dying for your art." Expecting to finish his "Great American Novel," Jack drags his long-suffering wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to spend a relaxing winter at the cavernous Overlook, but the hotel's previous guests have something else in mind. Haunted by escalating visions of the macabre, Jack's dark impulses will erupt, eventually spiraling into madness (and a fondness for axes). With the oblivious Wendy unable (or unwilling) to see Jack's emerging psychosis, it is only young Danny -- who possess a latent psychic ability, or a "shining" -- who will be able to open her eyes to the evil around them and rescue the family.
I love 'The Shining,' but many of the criticisms initially leveled at the film are valid. The pace is as slow as molasses, with Kubrick bucking the rhythms and shocks that traditionally make for an effective horror film. He stretches scenes out well beyond their breaking point (often deflating tension), and misses several golden opportunities for the kind of heart-in-the-mouth scares that a more commercially-minded filmmaker would have spoon-fed to his audience. One imagines that if Kubrick has directed 'Jaws,' right before the big moment where the shark jumps out at Roy Scheider on the boat, he would have cut to a ten-minute shot of the sun setting.
Ironically, it's precisely because Kubrick took such an unconventional approach to the traditional machinery of a horror film that 'The Shining' is able to cast such a unique, compelling spell. The film's 148-minute runtime feels twice as long, but because it's such a slow burn, by the time Kubrick springs his climactic succession of shocks on us, they pack that much more of a wallop. Given the none-too-subtle sexual undercurrents in all of his films, it's arguably fair to say that the last 30 minutes of 'The Shining' are orgasmic. Jack's unleashing of fury on his wife and child is so ferociously rendered that it's primal and oozing with palpable subtext. Nowhere is this more evident than when Kubrick slyly reveals his "money shot" in full -- the now-iconic image of a hallway filling with a tidal wave of blood -- a "release" that's so visceral it rises to the level of the operatic. As always, Kubrick is frustrating in his methodical, rigid pacing with 'The Shining,' but he still rightfully earns the title of master manipulator because, like Hitchcock, when he finally rewards our patience it's well worth the wait.
Despite a renewed appreciation over the years, not everyone loves 'The Shining.' Stephen King himself remains one of the film's most vocal detractors, routinely slagging off Kubrick's take as a near-desecration of the novel (King would even go so far as to produce his own version of 'The Shining' as a mini-series for television in 1997). Certainly, Kubrick has jettisoned most of the novel's most overt supernatural underpinnings, and his casting choices are also quite a departure from King's vision (particularly Duvall's Wendy, who is far removed from the blonde beauty of the book). Kubrick can also be so oblique in his use of visual metaphor that at times it renders the story nearly incomprehensible. Nowhere is this more evident that during the film's final ten minutes, as the scope of the hotel's past perversity is finally revealed to Wendy (and the audience) in images that have now become legendary in their unintentional hilarity. (If anyone out there knows just what the heck Wendy's vision of two guys dressed in bunny costumes going down on each other has to do with anything, please send me an email). As such, it's not surprising that so many fans of the novel shared King's outrage. Indeed, as a strict adaptation, Kubrick's 'The Shining' is undoubtedly a failure.
Still, 'The Shining' remains fascinating in spite of -- or perhaps precisely because of -- its "flaws." It's a grand, ornate and intelligent horror film -- one far less concerned about delivering the expected shocks and scares than it is in painting an intentionally obtuse portrait of the American family in the grips of madness. Yes, Kubrick is a cold filmmaker who often seems to delight in thwarting our expectations just for the thrill of it, and 'The Shining' is often off-putting. But it's also unmistakably menacing, provocative and filled with enough unforgettable images for ten other movies. The rare genre film that's truly challenging in its complexity, 'The Shining' is a journey that every film fan simply must take at least once.
FULL METAL JACKET
As I wrote in my recent 'Jarhead', it seems there are two kinds of war movies -- those that rub our noses in the grisly reality of combat ('Saving Private Ryan,' 'Platoon') and those that examine everything else around it, whether soldiers suffering the dehumanizing effects of boot camp or the cost of war on those back home ('Tigerland,' 'Gardens of Stone'). So leave it to Stanley Kubrick to again flout convention and fuse the two together in his 1987 Vietnam war movie, 'Full Metal Jacket.' Essentially a two-act play, it's a flawed would-be epic often as frustrating in its incongruity as it is fascinating in its complexity.
I prefer Act One. Meet Gomer (Vincent D'Onofrio), perhaps the most lovable slob of a grunt in movie history -- though of course, since this is a Kubrick film, boot camp won't go so well for poor Gomer. Relentlessly tormented by his fellow soldiers and "leatherlung" drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey, in a performance that became an instant classic), he's always one step away from mental and physical collapse -- and madness. I won't spoil the first act climax (and it's a good one), only to say that his Jack Torrance-esque disintegration will be internalized by Joker (Matthew Modine) who, as Act Two begins, is plunged into the heart and hell of war. Assigned to the front lines of battle as a combat journalist, Joker will attempt to remove himself from the depersonalized mass atrocities he witnesses through the safety of his pen -- until the realities are too ugly to ignore, and his own descent into violence unavoidable.
I know I am not the first viewer to say as much, but 'Full Metal Jacket' leaves me split right down the middle, just like its structure. (I'm sure Kubrick loved reactions like that.) It is just impossible not to take sides, and I found myself far more drawn in by the first half. The plight of poor Gomer (D'Onofrio is terrific, by the way) is often mesmerizing, and is perfectly suited to Kubrick's cold, austere visual style. Kubrick has never been a particularly warm filmmaker, but here he found a perfect thematic foil for his perfectionism -- the military's systemic and unforgiving process of dehumanization, one solider at a time. Kubrick's methodical pace and completely unsentimental worldview rips Gomer literally and figuratively apart, and is an apt microcosm for brutal toll war takes on the human soul. Combined with director of photography Douglas Milsome's sterile visuals and a droning, unsettling score by Vivian Kubrick, the first half of 'Jacket' is its own mini-masterpiece.
Unfortunately, Act Two feels more or less generic, not a facsimile but far too similar to other, better war movies to stand on its own. Part of the problem is that Joker (though Modine gives an earnest, admirable performance) is simply less riveting an antagonist than Gomer. (It is also worth saying that once Ermey leaves the scene, the film never quite recovers from his absence.) Kubrick also seems to be restating the same themes he already so breathtakingly depicted in Act One -- it almost feels like a restaging of the same core concept, only refashioned out of war movie cliches (the grunts, the sniper, the injured screaming and dying all around). I also never felt that Kubrick quite knew how to stage the action, especially the climax, which is too much an exercise in existentialism to be really gripping as a visceral experience.
But make no mistake, all of 'Full Metal Jacket' is still well worth seeing. The second half may not measure up to such a powerful first 45 minutes, but in many ways the film's contrasts and jarring inconsistencies is what still makes it so intriguing almost twenty years later. Flawed, to be sure. But then leave it to Kubrick to make one of the most challenging, unconventionally conventional war movies ever made.
EYES WIDE SHUT
By 1996, Stanley Kubrick had been called many things throughout his legendary forty-plus career in film, but "sexy" wasn't one of them. So when it was announced that he would adapt the erotic novella "Traumnovelle" by Arthur Schnitzler for his next film project (and that it would star Hollywood's then-hottest couple, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), more than a few eyebrows were raised. How would the sensibilities of Kubrick, cinema's most notorious control freak, mesh with the dream-like, naturalistic tone of Schnitzler's novella, the pages of which which oozed with sexual impulse and unbridled, erotic passion?
If the subsequent critical and commercial reaction to 'Eyes Wide Shut' is anything to go by, the answer is not very well. Despite an almost unheard-of level of advance buzz, audiences were cool, and critics surprisingly dismissive of what was supposed to be Kubrick's final masterpiece (the director passed away shortly before its release). In fact, 'Eyes Wide Shut' wasn't just poorly received, it was eviscerated.
Luckily for me, diminished expectations can be a godsend. I didn't see 'Eyes Wide Shut' until it first hit DVD, and by that point I had been bombarded by so many negative reactions that I expected a disaster of epic proportions. Instead, I was rather pleasantly surprised. Is 'Eyes Wide Shut' flawed? Certainly. But it is it a train wreck devoid of any and all merit? Hardly.
Running 159 minutes, 'Eyes Wide Shut' is certainly the most epic piece of erotica ever committed to mainstream celluloid. It may also be the most menacing. Consistent with his approach to other literary adaptations, Kubrick took great liberties with Schnitzler's original story, extracting the simple kernel of the idea and largely dispensing with the particulars. In this case, those particulars include all traces of sexiness, romance and warmth. Instead, Kubrick's convoluted yet intimate narrative transforms the life-affirming sexual odyssey of the book's Dr. William Harford (Cruise) into a descent into a netherworld of jealously, infidelity and betrayal. Never has passion seemed so dangerous.
The opening scenes of 'Eyes Wide Shut' are the best, and are quite tantalizing. William and his wife Alice (Kidman) are nearing their tenth year of marriage, and enjoying a life of privilege on New York's upper west side. They would seem to have it all -- wealth, influence, powerful friends and a beautiful 7 year-old daughter. But as Kubrick will so slyly reveal in the opening subtle passages of the film as the couple goes about their daily bits of business in preparation for a fancy cocktail party, there are cracks in the veneer. By the time the night is through, Alice will admit to once having the mere fleeting thought of infidelity, a casual little admission that is more than enough to send William spiraling into obsession.
Had Kubrick made 'Eyes Wide Shut's opening act the entire film, it might have been brilliant. Instead, he dispenses with the Kidman character for most of the rest of the film, and the long, agonizing slog that follows is a largely unsuccessful, phony treatise on male anxiety. As Cruise roams the late-night New York streets (actually a soundstage in merry old England, and the substitution is distracting), he mingles with all manner of temptations, some amusing (including a run-in with a young prostitute) and some deadly serious. It all culminates in the movie's now-infamous "orgy" scene, where Cruise is invited to a gothic old mansion to experience something out of a big-budget episode of "Red Shoe Diaries."
Depending on your point of view, it is here that Kubrick either dares to push boundaries like never before in a mainstream American film, or goes completely off the rails. It's not that the material is all that graphic (though it is explicit, particularly in its unrated form as presented on this Blu-ray), it is that it so over-the-top theatrical that it teeters precariously on the edge of camp. By the time Cruise is wandering around the silent corridors of the mansion, wearing what looks like a clown mask, it's hard not to stifle a few giggles. If Kubrick meant for this material to titillate, it fails miserably.
Thankfully, when Kidman returns on the scene, the film regains its footing. Kubrick finally brings the themes he so carefully set up in the first act to fruition, as the questions Alice dares to ask of William will strike at the very core of our Western notions of marriage. To the credit of Kubrick (a lifelong, dedicated monogamist) he may have failed at depicting erotic passion with any degree of authenticity, but he certainly would seem to have walked in the shoes of his fictional Dr. William Harford. It is in these concluding scenes that the true value of 'Eyes Wide Shut' lies; whatever its missteps, at least it is brave enough to ask truly provocative, complex questions.
Having said all that, most will probably never warm to 'Eyes Wide Shut.' As is so often the case with Kubrick, the director seems so hell-bent on not catering to expectations that his film lacks any and all mainstream appeal. Of course, this is what earned the director the label of iconoclastic auteur -- in an industry that's often obsessed with the bottom line, Kubrick refused to shape his film to be mere "products." Although 'Eyes Wide Shut' may not succeed anywhere near the level of the director's most revered classics, like all of his work, its vision is uncompromising.
'Lolita' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, which was what Mr. Kubrick would have wanted. This transfer is leaps and bounds better than the previous DVD releases and looks simply amazing. There is a very organic and filmic look still to the picture, as there is a very nice layer of gran that never distracts. Detail is sharp and vivid. So much so that we can finally see individual hairs stand out and stitching in clothing during closeups.
Wider shots are a tiny bit softer, but it is never a big issue. It just feels like there is so much depth, visually speaking to this film now. The black and white color scheme looks excellent. The contrast is perfect with the whites looking crisp, the grays looking excellent the black levels running deep and inky. There is a hint of some crush, but it is very minor and doesn't last long. There are no instances of any banding, aliasing or video noise, let alone any dirt or debris to speak of, leaving this video presentation with top marks and the best this film has ever looked.
This 'Dr. Strangelove' Blu-ray has been embroiled in a "great grain debate" amongst some pretty prominent movie bloggers. (Of the Blu-ray controversies of this year, this ranks slightly louder than the 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' digital noise reduction complaints but far quieter than the 'French Connection' fiasco.) Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere compared the look of the disc to that of a swarm of insects, while Glenn Kenny (former Premiere Magazine critic) defended it solidly.
While this disc is far from perfect-looking, I am going to side with Kenny on this one. Kubrick was a notorious grain-freak, going as far as to buy out the grainiest film stock there was (even as late as 'Eyes Wide Shut') and, as a high definition disc, everything is going to be exploded and clarified - even the grain. Overall, Sony's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer does a great job presenting Kubrick's vision for a new generation.
The only time this is really noticeable is when someone's head takes up the entire frame. Then things do look a bit insect-y, but overall I was very impressed with this transfer. When things are shadowed, either partially or almost entirely, the movie looks gorgeous. Blacks are deep and inky and contrast is strong and well defined. Similarly, textures look dynamite, and detail really pops (the war room has never looked as swank and menacing as it does here).
That said, there are a couple of buggy technical issues that pop up occasionally - there are some odd artifacts and this transfer was not struck from the cleanliest or most well preserved print. The latter doesn't bother me quite as much, since I feel like seeing the occasional scratch or ding kind of adds to the magic of watching an old movie. Better than subjecting it to a processing treatment where every actor comes out the other side looking like a plastic mannequin. Now that would be atrocious.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Presented with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers on Blu-ray and HD DVD, this remastered release of '2001: A Space Odyssey' features a revelatory upgrade in picture quality that's likely to leave fans buzzing with excitement. Colors are magnificent, rich, and stable from beginning to end -- skin tones are perfectly saturated and primary hues are bold and vibrant. Blues and reds receive the most noticeable improvement from past DVD editions, but the entire palette is striking. I'm also happy to report that contrast is dead-on, black levels are inky, and shadow delineation reveals a variety of elements formerly cloaked in darkness.
Fine detail sets a new bar for high definition catalog releases. Facial imperfections are a cinch to spot, hair is crisply defined, and the star fields are flawless. I paused on several occasions to note actors' naturally splotchy skin and chipped fingernails. There are even scenes in this transfer that I completely re-watched just to have another chance to explore the intricacies of the sets and props. For the first time, I was able to read all of the small text Kubrick strategically placed across the film. Call me obsessed, but I found myself completely fascinated by these minor details that I'd previously been unable to enjoy. Pay close attention to the barren wilderness in the opening scenes, the space station electronics, and the slightest etchings on the ships floating above Earth. My apologies for sounding like Captain Adjective, but this transfer is just that beautiful.
The print is in excellent condition and isn't marred by softness, edge enhancement, scratches, or any distracting instances of source noise. There isn't a hint of the blockiness that haunts 'A Clockwork Orange' and the transfer easily surpasses the new 2-disc Special Edition DVD (as well as every other previous home video release of the film). As I watched this Blu-ray, I searched for something to complain about, but I'm happy to report that I failed to find a single thing. '2001: A Space Odyssey' has set a new bar for catalog transfers in high definition. For a film that's nearly forty years old, this high-def release is nothing short of a godsend.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Man, wouldn't it be awesome if one of the ugliest Stanley Kubrick Blu-rays got a well deserved and much needed upgrade in this double dip?! Unlike the digibook release of 'Goodfellas,' the second disc in this release features content originally found on the movie disc, meaning this is a different disc!
Unfortunately, despite the obvious opportunity, the same transfer was used for the digibook release of 'A Clockwork Orange' as was used for the original release from three and a half years ago. Still VC-1, still 1.66:1 (thankfully!), still 1080p. Still a massive mess. "And what's so stinking about it?!," you ask? Start with the tinted, dirty, ugly whites, weak blacks, and light noise, move forward to the questionable skin tones and random blurriness, and then again on to the lack of detail found somewhat regularly, alongside light artifacting and minor banding issues, and you have what proves to be a repeat offender. Do we need to strap some Warner folks to a theater chair and force them to see this flick next to each and every other Kubrick release on Blu-ray?!
Sure, I enjoy how minimal dirt and debris is, and I really liked how there doesn't appear to be any wobble whatsoever, but the on again, off again picture depth wore thin with this flick. Digibook double dips should mean an improvement over the previous release, not just same ol', same ol' with new expensive packaging. The change in content on the movie disc will account for a slightly different viewing experience, however, the deduction in score found here is accounted for by the fact that in three and a half years, we've seen quite a few discs since we last saw 'Clockwork,' and I just can't give this even two and a half stars without feeling like I were tethered to do so by the previous review. Too much great catalog fare has come out since then, and I must refuse. I wasn't impressed then, and I'm even less impressed now.
'Barry Lyndon' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is one of the best looking Kubrick films out there and this Blu-ray shows just how visually stunning this film really is. Overall, the image is soft looking, but that is the intent here. There is a very nice layer of grain that coats the picture, giving it a nice filmic and organic image. That being said, detail is still sharp and vivid, especially during closeups, which reveal the intimate detail in the costumes and lace as well as individual hairs, bumps, and wrinkles on the actor's skin. All of this is executed without the digital car wash look.
Wide shots look amazing here too and give the film some visual depth. Colors are fantastic and well saturated. The green fields pop, the blue skies soar, and the red, browns, and oranges look simply awesome. Nothing is overly done though, still giving this image a very natural look. The scenes where everything is lit by candles look incredible. The skin tones are natural and the black levels are very deep and inky always. There are no issues with banding, aliasing, dirt, debris, or video noise, leaving the video presentation with high marks.
The Shining' may not be the best of Stanley Kubrick's films, but it is my personal favorite, and I think I've owned every single version released on video (both the good and the god-awful). The best of the previous releases was Warner's remastered DVD from 2001, which at last saw the film's picture quality spruced up to something approaching its original glory. Unfortunately, that release was full frame only, and a widescreen 'Shining' that faithfully approximated the film's theatrical exhibition remained elusive.
Finally, Warner has delivered the goods, presenting 'The Shining' here in a matted 1.78:1 transfer that's slightly opened up versus the original 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition. Both the Blu-ray and HD DVD feature identical 1080p/VC-1 encodes, and they are both excellent. Although there is still the occasional blemish, this transfer is such a clear improvement over the old, dirty, speckled prints that it's hard to complain. 'The Shining' was always a rather soft film, with considerable use of diffuse lighting, but it's crisp here, offering a level of visible detail that's impressive for a film that's nearly thirty years old. Warner has also wisely not over-sharpened the source, so it remains natural and film-like.
Appropriate to the cold and oppressive mood Kubrick intended, the color palette here is muted, but most impressive to me about this new transfer is that, for the first time, the film's visual aesthetic finally comes to life, with subtle uses of select hues now seeming intentional rather than random. From the striking greens and purples of "Room 237," to the intense blue-white floodlights of the climactic hedge maze chase, to the crimson reds Kubrick selectively deploys with clothing, set design and (of course) blood, 'The Shining' at last looks vibrant instead of drab. To be sure, this is still a "'70s film" in feel, but the clarity and richness of hues (not to mention fleshtones that are finally accurate) make this transfer border on the revelatory.
FULL METAL JACKET
'Full Metal Jacket' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is by far the best this film has ever looked. The past DVD and Blu-ray releases up until a couple of years ago have not been the best video presentations of the film. They were riddled with all kinds of issues. But those seem to have been all fixed as of two years ago and this video presentation was taken from the fixed transfer. This brilliant war film looks amazing, from the confines of the Marine barracks to the war torn villages in Vietnam, it all looks excellent.
Detail is sharp and vivid, revealing excellent closeups that show individual hairs, wrinkles, specks of dirt and mud, and stitching in the military uniforms. There is still a very fine layer of grain here, giving the image a great filmic and organic look and not the digital car-wash look. Colors are vibrant and pop of screen, even with its army greens and browns trenching through the muck. Skin tones are natural and the black levels are very deep and inky. There were no issues or problems with this release other than a few minor instances of some halos, but it's nothing to write home about. This is a great looking film on all levels and deserves high marks.
EYES WIDE SHUT
Of the five films that Warner is issuing on high-def as part of its Kubrick collection (which also includes '2001: A Space Odyssey,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'The Shining'), 'Eyes Wide Shut' may be the most recent, but ironically it's also probably the one that benefits the least from the upgrade to high-def. A bit of the odd-man-out visually among Kubrick's other works, 'Eyes Wide Shut' is bold in its use of obvious fake sets, oversaturated colors and high-key, diffused lighting, creating an effect that is highly theatrical, and one that just doesn't translate all that well to video.
Presented for the first time in 1.78:1 widescreen in the US, this 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical on both the Blu-ray and HD DVD) looks only marginally better than standard-def. Black levels fluctuate, ranging from wonderfully deep and dark to sometimes washed-out, which flattens the image considerably. Colors are intense, often blurring out and suffering from excessive noise. Given the fact that almost the entire movie looks like it was lit through giant sheets of gauze, it's easy to forget that 'Eyes Wide Shut' was shot in 1999, and not 1979. The image is never sharp and rarely packs any sense of depth. At least there are no obvious compression artifacts, though with the consistently heavy level of grain and noise, that's not a huge plus.
To be fair, given the film's stylistic intentions, this is far from a bad transfer of 'Eyes Wide Shut.' But taken in the context of the more revelatory remasters in the Kubrick collection (particularly 'The Shining' and the absolutely stunning '2001'), the picture quality on 'Eyes Wide Shut' is likely to disappoint.
This release comes with a variety of lossless DTS-HD 1.0 Mono mixes in several different languages. I'm sure we will all pick the English one, but the others sound just as good too with great and easy to follow subtitles if you need them. This sounds excellent for being a mono mix, but can be a little to overcrowded at some points with sound effects, ambient noises, dialogue, and the score all coming in at once. That being said, it still sounds very good.
I just wish there was an option for at least a stereo or 5.1 mix as well. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. It's free of any pops, cracks or hissing. The score is fantastic and always adds to each comical and taboo scene perfectly, while not drowning out any dialogue to much. Ambient noises and sound effects are lively as well. This is a great audio mix, but the video presentation is where people will notice the upgrade.
Thank you Sony! They have packaged this 'Dr. Strangelove' disc with a pair of audio options, both of which are much appreciated. For those wanting the most out of your sound system buck, they have implemented a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track (which sounds very good - more on that in a minute), but for those wanting a pure experience (and perhaps those still gun shy about reworked 5.1 tracks after the 'Jaws' DVD a few years back) can listen to the original mono track.
Personally, I prefer the mono track. Even though, like the video, it isn't perfect or free from deterioration, it is very clear and strong and lively. The mono track adds a certain amount of time-accurate authenticity to the viewing experience. I was bowled over.
Those of you who opt for the more modernized 5.1 track won't be disappointed either, though. Unlike the aforementioned 'Jaws' track, which replaced all the sound effects and made it sound like a 'Jaws' from an alternate universe, this 'Dr. Strangelove' mix adds subtle but immersive atmospherics. Things are just as clean and clear as on the mono track, but with added rear-speaker support which didn't do a whole lot for me, but it's not exactly blasphemous either. (The core of each mix is similar given that this is a dialogue-heavy comedy.) Whatever audio option you choose should leave you happy.
In addition, Sony has packaged this with a French TrueHD 5.1 mix (sacrebleau!) as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Arabic, and Dutch.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
This Blu-ray edition of '2001: A Space Odyssey' features an uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/24-Bit/6.9 Mbps and a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (640 kbps). While I didn't notice much of a difference between the two tracks, both sound better than ever and provide a a faithful experience that still manages to enhance Kubrick's original vision.
The classical music in the film opens up the sound field and resonates with solid bass and stable trebles. Dialogue is crisp and perfectly prioritized, with HAL's soothing tones dominating the soundscape to good effect. Sharp sounds like bestial grunts and mechanical hisses have a distinct impact, while quiet scenes on the ship are layered with a careful level of naturalistic ambiance. This was the first time I'd noticed the subtle and comprehensive intricacies of the sound design -- small whirs, echoes through the ship, and the cooling fans inside the heavy space machinery were new to my ears. Like the clarity of fine elements in the video transfer, this high definition audio package revealed details that had escaped me so many times before on home video. I was also pleased to hear that the tracks sound much fuller than the mix on the newly released 2-disc Special Edition DVD.
The only thing that modern film fans may be disappointed by is the generally front-heavy sound field. The original 6-channel stereo sound track has been remixed for 5.1 surround, but the rear channels have a limited presence that bolsters acoustics more than anything. The tone of the sound design is a clear product of the '60s -- particularly evident in the tenor of the voices (which can be attributed to the original recording more than anything else). Having said all that, it's hard to fathom that '2001: A Space Odyssey' could ever sound much better than it does here.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
I really wouldn't say the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on this double dip is that much different than the Linear PCM one found on the original release. Don't misinterpret my star score on this release as meaning they're the same darn thing, though.
The Kubrick classic's classical music pierces the entire room from all angles, sometimes overpowering the other elements of the film, with what may be the main, if only, part of the track that hits the rear speakers. Still, this forty year old film doesn't exactly have to be all over the place like a modern flick, so the front heavy nature of this release isn't a bother at all. McDowell's narration is as powerful as ever, towering over the proceedings with little effort. Bass use is effective, with plenty of oomph in the score and in a few impacts, like the Billy Boy massacre early on.
There is some random static and feedback, and a hint of tin, which keeps this one from being a top notch audio experience, but at no point will this mix ever leave you screaming "shut your filthy hole, you scum!"That has to count for something.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix in English as well as several other languages with great and easy to follow subtitles. I'm so happy this is in 5.1, because originally and on past releases, this has had only a mono mix. And I'm pleased to say that this 5.1 track sounds excellent. This is mostly a front heavy mix, but the rear speakers and bass to kick in from time to time, giving us a fully immersive soundscape into this visually beautiful film.
Sound effects and ambient noises are mostly scarce, but when they do creep in, they sound real and robust. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, or hissing. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is fairly wide. The score and narration both sound great and never drown out any dialogue or sound effect, leaving this audio presentation with top marks.
'The Shining' is the latest in a series of recent Warner catalog titles to be graced with high-res audio, boasting PCM 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit/4.6mpbs) for the Blu-ray, and a companion Dolby TrueHD mix for the HD DVD. Unfortunately, even after doing some A/B comparisons, I felt that the source material was quite frankly a bit too dated to really benefit much from the boost.
As Warner has not included the film's original mono track as an option, purists will likely bemoan the 5.1 remix, as it has clearly been post-processed to achieve a surround-like effect. Unfortunately, truly discrete effects are non-existent. The fantastically eerie opening credits establishes the approach, with a limited bleed of Wendy Carlos' terrific score to the rears, and that's just about it. As the movie progresses, bleed is expanded to include very minor ambiance, but rarely is there any noticeable presence to the rears and atmosphere never delivers in the way the movie clearly cries out for.
Dynamics range from decent to anemic. Bass never extends deep enough, while high-end feels compressed and flat. Although there are no source issues or obvious harshness, the mix never feels particularly realistic or expansive. Dialogue is generally well produced, but at quieter volumes I had trouble hearing some of the characters, so if you can't turn up the level to a decent degree, you may find yourself flicking on the subtitles from time to time.
FULL METAL JACKET
There are a tone of audio options here in different languages with great subtitles that are easy to follow. The two main audio options are English with your choice of a lossless Dolby Digital 5.1 or an uncompressed LPCM 5.1 audio mix. I'm so glad to have two options here in 5.1, considering this film originally had a mono mix. It's quite nice to have all the sounds of war, gunshots, screams, explosions, and chatter come through the rear speakers. While it won't compete with the absurdity or craziness of a Michael Bay film, the audio still is lively, robust, and loud.
The sound effects are realistic and fine tuned as to not sound over bearing or shrieking, but to pack just enough punch. Ambient noises also sound great here too. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and never suffers from any pops, cracks, or hisses. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is wide. The score and soundtrack is a real treat too, while never drowning out any of the other aspects of this audio presentation, which receives high marks.
EYES WIDE SHUT
Warner has granted each of the films in its new Kubrock collection with high-res audio, and this Blu-ray edition of 'Eyes Wide Shut' is no exception, sporting a new PCM 5.1 Surround mix at 48kHz/24-bit (the HD DVD features a comparable Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track). Unfortunately, the film's sound design is so bland that if it didn't say PCM on the back of the box, I never would have believed it.
The late Kubrick was famous for his disinterest in surround presentations of his films, and as such, 'Eyes Wide Shut' may as well be mono. I counted nary a single discrete effect through the whole film, and only a meager amount of atmosphere and score bleed. There is no sense of envelopment at all, which is a particular shame because a bit of sonic excitement could have added whole new layer of effectiveness to what's essentially erotic thriller.
The quality of the recording is better, but also far from noteworthy. There's little real sense of dynamics to the mix, with the subwoofer often left with little to do, and a thin, reedy sound to the upper ranges. Even Kubrick's use of classical compositions and a few modern songs (most notably Chris Isaak's "Baby's Done a Bad, Bad Thing") are rendered with little life. Dialogue is generally intelligible, but it's somewhat recessed in the mix, which I found required a bit of volume adjustment. At least there are no source problems, such as hiss or distortion.
Trailer (SD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
The Cold War: Picture-In-Picture and Pop-Up Trivia Track - This is one of those pop up tracks, much like the U-Control stuff on the Universal discs. As far as these types of things go, this is fairly well done, with a lot of text commentary, giving historical background about the real-life situations that inspired 'Dr. Strangelove' as well as the occasional talking head clip by someone of note (including former Secretary of Defense turned Bush-era doomsayer Richard A. Clarke). Overall, it's very well done, they just need to work on the timing. As silly as this may sound, they could get a couple of tips from VH1's long dead 'Pop Up Video' television show. They really seemed to understand the frequency and duration of these tidbits. (Those were much more frivolous, but still, kept your attention.) There are far too many dead spots, and for something that usually takes the place of a commentary track, it should be a sort of non-stop barrage. Still, well worth your time.
No Fighting in the War Room: Or Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat (SD, 30 Mins.) - This documentary examines the satirical elements of 'Dr. Strangelove' and how they really were closer to the truth than anyone imagined (or hoped or feared). With a wonderful selection of interviewees (many of which were also part of the aforementioned doc), including Robert McNamara (engineer of the Vietnam war), Spike Lee, Bob Woodward, and Roger Ebert, the subject matter really comes to life; strong, powerful stuff.
Inside 'Dr. Strangelove' (SD, 46 Mins.) - This is a fairly exhaustive look at the making of the movie, from almost everyone that was involved (and still alive). As far as I'm concerned, this is essential viewing for anyone who loves the movie (or just loves movies in general). From the movie's evolution from a straight forward thriller to a zany comedy, the original pie fight sequence that had ended the film, and the corrections the film had to make to the script in the wake of the JFK assassination, it's all absolutely wonderful. And it was the first time I had ever realized that there's a spelling error in the opening credits. (Watch this doc to find out where!)
Best Sellers: Or Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove (SD, 19 Mins.) - This is one of my favorite things on the disc - a great look back at Peter Sellers' life and work. He seemed to be a man of profound joy but also of profound sadness, and this really chronicles his ups and downs in a succinct and powerful way. Essential viewing.
The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Dr. Strangelove (SD, 14 Mins.) - While all-too-brief, this is still a fascinating look at the beginnings of Stanley Kubrick's career - from photojournalist to hired-gun (with 'Spartacus') and then to the artist he would forever be known as. A nice companion to the feature length Stanley Kubrick doc, 'Life in Pictures.'
An Interview with Robert McNamara (SD, 25 Mins.) - This sit-down with Robert McNamara, while interesting, isn't anything new for anyone who saw Errol Morris' great documentary 'Fog of War.' This one is more for history buffs or those that missed 'Fog.'
Split Screen Interviews with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott (SD, 7 Mins.) - As an introductory note describes, studios would often film their actors on set, asking scripted questions. When the movie would then be released, the second half of the screen would be swapped out by some regional talent, asking the scripted questions, making it look like the interviewer was actually interviewing the actor, even though the whole thing was phony and done months beforehand. So here are two examples of that, with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott. It's pretty weird, but interesting, and the way George C. Scott says "picture" will stay with you all day.
Trailers (HD, 10 Mins.) - Trailers for other Sony titles.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Audio Commentary by Kier Dullea and Barry Lockwood - Actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood avoid diving headlong into discussions about the cultural ramifications of the film or its interpretations, but instead have an engaging conversation about Kubrick, the production, the on-set atmosphere, and reaction to the film. They share plenty of fun anecdotes and prove themselves to be generally affable gents. I didn't really learn anything new about the film per se, but it was interesting to hear their personal accounts from the trenches. The only downside is that the two actors clearly aren't old hands at recorded commentaries, and as a result seem to skip over some obvious scenes and topics that I would have loved to hear them discuss.
Interview with Stanley Kubrick from 1966 (77 Mins.) - Here is a bonus feature that documents a "1966 Kubrick Interview Conducted by Jeremy Bernstein", which was included on CD in the Taschen book 'The Stanley Kubrick Archives. The notoriously elusive director remains true to form, but Bernstein (a physicist and veteran writer for the "New Yorker") keeps Kubrick chatting. I was surprised to find that Kubrick doesn't come off anything like the blowhard he would be accused of being in later years. His answers are thoughtful and polite for the most part, and he divulges a bit more information than I expected. This is a true gem for Kubrick fans that shouldn't be missed.
2001: The Making of a Myth (SD, 43 Mins.) - Here is a Channel Four documentary that includes extensive interviews with the film's cast and crew, author Arthur C. Clarke, and numerous leading industry directors, producers, and professionals. This is a compelling glimpse into the impact the film has made in Hollywood and the world over the decades. It documents the initial critical reaction, the eventual declaration of '2001' as a masterpiece, and a hodge podge of other facts that kept me riveted from beginning to end.
Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The legacy of 2001 (SD, 21 Mins.) - This extra concentrates solely on the influence the film has had on countless directors and filmmakers. It includes interviews with notable filmmakers like George Lucas and Stephen Speilburg. This is a tight journey through a cult phenomenon that James Cameron calls "a film that shouldn't work, but does."
Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001 (SD, 22 Mins.) - Here is an entertaining look at the technologies that the film predicted (or inspired) and the visions that have yet to transpire.
2001: A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind the Future (HD, 23 Mins.) - Here is an archive bonus that examines the sets used during production.
What Is Out There? (SD, 21 Mins.) - This extra includes a discussion about space and the possibility of intelligent life existing somewhere other than Earth.
2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork (SD, 10 Mins.) - Here is a short extra that looks at the early concept work for the film and some of the big visual FX.
LOOK: Stanley Kubrick (SD, 4 Mins.) - This is a photo montage of Kubrick's photography from the film and his time on 'LOOK' magazine when he was younger.
Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Audio Commentary With Malcolm McDowell and Historian Nick Redman - This track features an engaging McDowell who's an incredibly interesting speaker (perhaps only because he's so blunt). Providing a balanced overview of the production, the experience, and the film's notorious reputation, McDowell's candid comments and keen observations kept me hooked from beginning to end. Redman can only pale in comparison, offering up only general facts and diluted cinematic analysis.
Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange (SD, 44 Mins.) - This smart documentary looks at the controversy and cultural impact of the film. While it's mainly comprised of interview segments with the cast, crew, other directors, and industry commentators, this one's no dry lecture on how "wonderful" Kubrick was. Instead, it's fast paced dissertation on Kubrick's fascination with human depravity. To my surprse, I found this one almost as engaging as the commentary track.
Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange (SD, 28 Mins.) - A tidy featurette that examines the shoot and the film's theatrical release. This one's a more standard behind-the-scenes account of the film, but it's certainly a well made featurette that has a pleasant tone and good pacing.
Turning Like Clockwork (HDM 26 Mins.) - Holy shit! The opening of this feature is a nerd's wet dream, as the grizzled voice of the elderly McDowell speaks the opening lines of the character! James Mangold, Oliver Stone, Paul Greengrass, Paul Duncan, Neal King, John Baxter, Sir Christopher Frayling, Julian Petley, Christiane Kubrick, Brigid Marlin, David Simon, Jan Harlan, and David Hughes join McDowell in providing views and opinions in this wonderful new piece. Participants talk about the controversies of the film, and the idea of films inspiring criminal behavior to great detail. We delve into the death threats against the Kubricks, and then circle back to the themes of the film itself.
Malcolm McDowell Looks Back (HD, 10 Mins.) - Again join McDowell as he reminisces about the film that made him a star. This one is far less relevant and entertaining than the Turning Like Clockwork extra.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Trailer (SD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Audio Commentary with Garret Brown and John Baxter - This is a full-length audio commentary featuring the film's original Steadicam operator Garrett Brown, and Kubrick biographer John Baxter. I was a bit fearful that this one would be completely dry and boring. But for a film lasting 146 minutes, I was amazed that Brown and Baxter never run out of things to say. Brown is articulate and insightful about working with Kubrick day after day, and provides great detail on some of the film's best sequences -- particularly the climactic hedge maze, as well as the iconic "wall of blood" shot. Baxter is more illuminating on the narrative, though his take on Kubrick's intentions will certainly cause some debate. All in all, a fine commentary.
View from the Overlook: Crafting 'The Shining' (HD, 31 Mins.) - Here are new interviews with screenwriter Diane Johnson, composer Wendy Carlos and Mr. Jack Nicholson himself, plus comments from a series of A-list directors, including Steven Spielberg, John Boorman, William Friedkin and frequent Kubrick collaborator Sydney Pollack as they discuss Kubrick's themes and methods on his films.
The Visions of Stanley Kubrick (HD, 15 Mins.) - This bonus feature is an overview of Kubrick's films, and not really specific to 'The Shining.' It also feels a bit like a digest version of the more substantial documentary found on the 'Eyes Wide Shut' Blu-ray, so if you're picking up all the Kubrick titles, you may find some redundancy.
The Making of 'The Shining' (HD, 35 Mins.) - Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivian Kubrick, herself a documentary filmmaker, shot a 35-minute making-of special for the BBC at the time of the film's release. Included here, "The Making of 'The Shining'" is a somewhat haphazard but nonetheless fascinating time capsule. Obviously, the younger Kubrick had complete access to the set, which gives a you-are-there intimacy quite rare for even the best behind-the-scenes documentaries. We get the rare chance to see Kubrick at work, both behind the camera and staging a few of the film's most famous scenes. Most revealingly, we also see evidence of the famed on-set tension between Kubrick and Shelley Duvall, with the director at one point berating the harried actress in front of the whole crew for failing to open a door properly. Duvall seems to both delight in and resent Kubrick's perfectionism, and it's this kind of candidness that makes "The Making of 'The Shining'" a must-watch. (Note that as the doc was originally shot on 16mm film for television, it is presented here in 4:33 full screen 480p/MPEG-2 video only. Vivian Kubrick also provides optional audio commentary throughout the duration of the entire doc, and offers a few more revealing recollections about her father's work on the film.)
Wendy Carlos, Composer (HD, 7 Mins.) - This extra is basically a sit-down chat with the legendary electronic composer. She talks specifically about her approach to the material, and affectionately recounts her warm relationship with Kubrick.
Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - The trailer for the film.
FULL METAL JACKET
Audio Commentary With Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, and Jay Cocks - It's great to have a commentary with three actors from the film and the author and screenwriter, but they were all recorded separately and the track never really gets off its feet. All four people seem to have had a different experience on the set of the film and working with Kubrick, but after the boot camp sequence, two of the four people are no longer heard. Not the best commentary track, but decent.
'Full Metal Jacket': Between Good and Evil (HD, 31 Mins.) - Here are tons of interviews with Matthew Modine and the rest of the cast, discussing the making of the film, working on location, Kubrick, the themes, and characters. Excellent stuff here.
Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
EYES WIDE SHUT
The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and 'Eyes Wide Shut' (HD, 44 Mins.) - Here is a three part British documentary about Kubrick. The title implies that this feature will be about 'Eyes Wide Shut', however that would be wrong. Instead, this is more or less about the film 'A.I.', the film he never got to make, but Steven Spielberg directed for him and all the pre-production that went into it. There is also some excellent footage of Kubrick and his family members on their estate being interviewed, which is very rare. This is must-see, but if you're looking for some insight on 'Eyes Wide Shut', you'll need to look elsewhere.
Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick (HD, 21 Mins.) - This excellent bonus feature is narrated by the head droog himself, Malcolm McDowell and discusses the movies Kubrick wanted to make, but never did. His Napoleon biopic and Holocaust film are talked about here.
DGA D.W. Griffith Award Acceptance Speech from 1998 (HD, 4 Mins.) - Here we have Mr. Kubrick accepting an award via satellite as he discusses a conversation between him and Steven Spielberg, and his own filmmaking. Not to mention some thoughts on Icarus. Interesting indeed.
Interviews (HD, 36 Mins.) - Here are three separate interviews with Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Steven Spielberg on their collaborations with Kubrick. They discuss working with the director, some behind the scenes information, and some of Kubrick's methods.
Trailers (HD, 6 Mins.) - Two TV spots and the theatrical trailer for the film.
Bonus Disc #1
Here are two feature length extras from past Kubrick releases.
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (HD, 143 Mins.) - This is the ultimate documentary that chronicles Kubrick's career and life. There are tons of interviews with famous actors, writers, producers, and directors as they discuss his work and working with the iconic director. Everything is touched upon here, including his childhood, family and each one of his films in great depth and detail. This is a must-see.
O Lucky Malcolm! (HD, 87 Mins.) - Like the above documentary, this is basically "A Life in Pictures' for the actor Malcolm McDowell, who played Alex De Large in 'A Clockwork Orange'. This discusses through narration and tons of interviews with McDowell, actors, and directors over his childhood and acting career through present day. It's an excellent documentary.
Bonus Disc #2
Here are three NEVER-BEFORE-RELEASED Kubrick documentaries. Enjoy.
Kubrick Remembered (HD, 84 Mins.) - This is an excellent new documentary on the famous late director. There are tons of interviews with his family, friends, and actors from his film who discuss what it was like working with him. This is a new documentary and was only made recently, so seeing these aging actors recall what it was like working with Kubrick is quite fascinating. We see that some of the theories on Kubrick being a reclusive person was not all that factual and instead, he was quite a jokester on set. This also dives into his methods as a director and the themes he used in so many of his films. A must-see.
Stanley Kubrick in Focus (HD, 30 Mins.) - This is a very cool extra where the biggest filmmakers and directors today discuss how Kubrick influenced them as artists and directors, as they discuss each of his films and what they meant. Fascinating.
Once Upon a Time...'A Clockwork Orange' (HD, 52 Mins.) - This is a French documentary on the film 'A Clockwork Orange', which was made recently. The cast and crew including Malcolm McDowell discuss making the film, the characters, and working with Kubrick. Excellent documentary.
Hardcover Book - Also included in this set is a 78-page color hardcover book with images from each of Kubrick's films, storyboards, artwork, and production stills.
Artwork - A reproduction of Christiane Kubrick's painting 'Stanley'.
It comes down to now whether you want to purchase these films again or not. My suggestion is that you do re-buy these magnificanet films in this excellent package. You get every film from 'Lolita' through 'Eyes Wide Shut', not to mention each extra on every previous release. Plus, yo uget three all new documentaries. The video and audio presentations are top notch and these are some of the best extras out on the market, let alon on Kubrick himself. And the films speak for themsevels. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and this is one of this best box sets of 2014!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.