I’ve maintained for years that the proper aspect ratio for watching Stanley Kubrick‘s Dr. Strangelove at home is 1.33 to 1. The film was shown this way for decades on broadcast, cable TV and VHS but was delivered only once on DVD eight years ago.
Rare frame capture from the pie-fight sequence that originally concluded Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (’64) but which was cut for one reason or another and will apparently never be shown to anyone ever so forget it.
Kubrick shot his classic 1964 farce with alternating aspect ratios (1.33 and 1.66), but the 1.33 framing dominates for the most part, and it’s obvious that the film was composed with this in mind. The 1.33 framings are immaculate in my book because of the Hollywood Elsewhere extra-air-space and room-to-breathe headroom principle — i.e.,the more space around and particularly above the actors heads, the more pleasing to the eye. The various shots of the cavernous War Room are especially well served in this regard. And there’s really no room for debate on this. I’m right and that’s that.
Which isn’t to say that the forthcoming Dr. Strangelove Bluray is a blunder because it’s been cropped to 1.66 to 1 (as was the 40th anniversary two-disc DVD that came out in late ’04. It’s just regrettable. I want my boxy framings and so did pre-2001 Stanley. Grover Crisp, Sony’s restoration guy, knows the truth of this. I recognize that market forces expect a wider aspect ratio to accommodate widescreen highdef screens, and that Crisp probably had to fight certain parties who wanted the Dr. Strangelove Bluray to be cropped to 16 x 9.
The only other regret is that apparently the footage of the famous excised pie-fight finale will never be seen, although I find it hard to believe that Kubrick didn’t keep a reel of it somewhere.
Wikipedia notes that “the first test screening of the film was scheduled for November 22, 1963, the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination. The film was just weeks from its scheduled premiere, but as a result of the assassination, the release was delayed until late January 1964, as it was felt that the public was in no mood for such a film any sooner.
A portion of Dr. Strangelove that shows the fuzzily-defined and arbitrary 1.66 to 1 cropping that Kubrick used in sections of the film.
“Additionally, one line by Slim Pickens — ‘a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff’ — was dubbed to change ‘Dallas’ to ‘Vegas,’ Dallas being ‘ to avoid referring to the city where Kennedy was killed.” Note: If you ‘re any kind of lip-reader it’s clear that Pickens is saying ‘Dallas.’
“The assassination also serves as another possible reason why the pie-fight scene was cut. In the scene, General Turgidson (George C. Scott) exclaims, ‘Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!” after Muffley takes a pie in the face. Editor Anthony Harvey [has said] that the scene “would have stayed, except that Columbia Pictures [suits] were horrified, and thought it would offend the president’s family.”
I’m sorry I’m not in New York to catch the restored print that’s currently showing at the Film Forum.