Dave Kehr in the NY Times now finds Strangelove
the work of a man with "no discernable sense of humor":
Speaking of Kubrick, his 1964 cold war satire “Dr. Strangelove: or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” has been given an excellent high-definition video restoration by Sony Pictures and is now available on Blu-ray in its proper 1.66 aspect ratio. Because the original negative was lost or destroyed some years ago, it’s been difficult to see “Strangelove” as the maniacally meticulous Kubrick intended, but this new version, based on the best surviving theatrical prints, restores the tonal range of Gilbert Taylor’s black-and-white cinematography and reveals new details in Ken Adam’s brilliant production design.
For all of his technical brilliance, Kubrick had no discernable sense of humor and many of the gags in “Strangelove” — from the broad puns of the character names to the overdrawn figures of Peter Sellers’s Strangelove and Sterling Hayden’s Gen. Jack D. Ripper — seem less funny as their audacity has drained away. Lines like “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” now seem more labored than deliciously droll.
Steeped in the improvisational ethic of the early ’60s (Nichols and May, the Second City) the film may be at its best in those low-key moments when Sellers, playing the American president Merkin Muffley, chats nervously on the hot line with the unseen Soviet premier — moments that owe everything to Bob Newhart’s classic telephone routines. “Strangelove” is a rare case of a film that has become a classic more for marking the end of an era (of high cold war paranoia) than initiating a new one.