In 1964, with the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in viewers’ minds, the Cold War at its frostiest, and the hydrogen bomb relatively new and frightening, Stanley Kubrick dared to make a film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button — and played the situation for laughs.
Dr. Strangelove’s jet-black satire (from a script by director Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, and Terry Southern) and a host of superb comic performances (including three from Peter Sellers) have kept the film fresh and entertaining, even as its issues have become (slightly) less timely. Loaded with thermonuclear weapons, a U.S. bomber piloted by Maj. T.J. “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) is on a routine flight pattern near the Soviet Union when they receive orders to commence Wing Attack Plan R, best summarized by Maj. Kong as “Nuclear combat! Toe to toe with the Russkies!” On the ground at Burpleson Air Force Base, Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) notices nothing on the news about America being at war. Continue reading
Based on Kubrick’s pictorial for Look Magazine (January 18, 1949) entitled “Prizefighter,” “Day Of The Fight” tells of a day in the life of a middleweight Irish boxer named Walter Cartier, particularly the day of his bout with black middleweight Bobby James. This 16-minute short opens with a short (about 4 minutes) study of boxing’s history, narrated by veteran newscaster Douglas Edwards in a no-nonsense, noir tone of voice. After this, we follow Walter (and his twin brother Vincent) through his day as he prepares for his 10:00 P.M. bout. After eating breakfast, going to early mass and eating lunch, he starts arranging his things for the fight at 4:00 P.M. By 8:00, he is waiting in his dressing room, where he undergoes a mental transformation, turning into the fighting machine the crowd clamors for. At 10:00, he faces James, and soon, he comes out victorious in a short match which was filmed live on April 17th, 1950. Continue reading
Kubrick’s own critique of his second feature reveals the director’s future marriage of lofty philosophical themes with nuts-and-bolts genre movies. “Killer’s Kiss” is a stepping-stone to grandeur, a youthful nod and wink to the peerless older genius that is waiting later through the stargate of “2001″ and beyond.
Today we can shoot a film on our phones, edit it on our Macs and upload it to YouTube in a matter of hours. Back in 1955, the 27-year-old Kubrick was filming guerrilla style on the streets of New York with a $40, 000 budget loaned from his pharmacist uncle with no guarantee of distribution and financial return. Continue reading
In Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” war is viewed in terms of power. This mesmerizing, urgent film about a true episode in World War I combines the idea that class differences are more important than national differences with the cannon-fodder theory of war, the theory that soldiers are merely pawns in the hands of generals who play at war is if it were a game of chess. The result of this amazing film has been the emergence of one of the great talents in contemporary cinema, the master whose greatest work was yet to come. Continue reading
Review from the Criterion website :
Stanley Kubrick directed a cast of screen legends—including Kirk Douglas as the indomitable gladiator that led a Roman slave revolt—in the sweeping epic that defined a genre and ushered in a new Hollywood era. The assured acting, lush Technicolor cinematography, bold costumes, and visceral fight sequences won Spartacus four Oscars; the blend of politics and sexual suggestion scandalized audiences. Today Kubrick’s controversial classic, the first film to openly defy Hollywood’s blacklist, remains a landmark of cinematic artistry and history. Continue reading
“How did they make a movie out of Lolita?” teased the print ads of this Stanley Kubrick production. The answer: by adding three years to the title character’s age. The original Vladimir Nabokov novel caused no end of scandal by detailing the romance between a middle-aged intellectual and a 12-year-old nymphet. The affair is “cleansed” ever so slightly in the film by making Lolita a 15-year-old (portrayed by 16-year-old Sue Lyon). In adapting his novel to film, Nabokov downplayed the wicked satire and sensuality of the material, concentrating instead on the story’s farcical aspects. James Mason plays professor Humbert Humbert, who while waiting to begin a teaching post in the United States rents a room from blowzy Shelley Winters. Winters immediately falls for the worldly Humbert, but he only has eyes for his landlady’s nubile daughter Lolita. The professor goes so far as to marry Winters so that he can remain near to the object of his ardor. Turning up like a bad penny at every opportunity is smarmy TV writer Quilty (Peter Sellers), who seems inordinately interested in Humbert’s behavior. When Winters happens to read Humbert’s diary, she is so revolted by his lustful thoughts that she runs blindly into the street, where she is struck and killed by a car.
Description: Narrated by Tom Cruise, “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” goes through each one of his movies and talks to various participants about their memories of working with Kubrick. For those who know very little about Kubrick, the documentary is an excellent career overview. Continue reading