Stanley Kubrick’s scribbled brainstorm for what to name Dr. Strangelove, on display at LACMA.
Via William Beutler.

Stanley Kubrick’s scribbled brainstorm for what to name Dr. Strangelove, on display at LACMA.

Via William Beutler.

Dr. Strangelove (Part 1)

This is an episode we’ve been looking forward to a long time, and we’ll bet you have, too. In episode eight of KubrickCast we explore one of the films considered to be Stanley Kubrick’s finest: Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Actually, we’ll start doing so. As the (Part 1) above suggests, we talked for longer about this movie than any one to date, and so we’ve decided to go easy on you and make this episode a two-parter. In this first installment we investigate the pre-production, including: the departure of Kubrick’s producing partner, James Harris; the arrival of Peter Sellers and Terry Southern to the project; and early versions of the screenplay, which included an alien narrator (!). We also explore interesting details of the production, such as: the humping planes in the opening credits; the film’s unique (and spare) approach to the music; and the story behind the unique sets. We round out the episode by discussing the film’s characters, actors, and the story behind each performance: how Stanley Kubrick tricked George C. Scott; how Sellers delivered “3 performances for the price of 6”; how Slim Pickens wasn’t told the film was a comedy; and the basis for the character of Dr. Strangelove himself.  (1:32:39)

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Lolita

Episode seven focuses on Lolita (1962), Kubrick’s adaptation of the controversial 1955 Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same name. This was a transitional film for Kubrick: it followed his early pictures, including some very good ones like Paths of Glory, and his sole work-for-hire feature, Spartacus. In Lolita we can see Kubrick beginning to find his way toward a new approach to his pictures, which resulted in the classics we’ll be discussing in future episodes. Whether Lolita itself is a classic is a matter for debate: it received a mixed reception from critics at the time, and from your podcasters as well. In this episode, Bill and Renan discuss the many differences between the novel and film—including age-ing up of Lolita and dramatic changes to the central character, Humbert Humbert—the challenges Kubrick faced getting it made and distributed, the comedic stylings of Peter Sellers, the sublime silliness of a tune called “Lolita Ya-Ya”, comparisons with the 1997 remake, and even with Mad Men and Game of Thrones.

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Documentary Shorts

The sixth episode of KubrickCast represents a bit of a detour, as we take a pause from our primary project of exploring one Kubrick film per episode and revisit Stanley Kubrick’s early career and early films. Beginning as a freelance photographer for Look magazine in the 1940s, Kubrick made three short documentary films prior to the beginning of his feature film career. These were: Day of the Fight, chronicling a day in the life of a boxer before the night of a big fight; Flying Padre, following a priest in New Mexico who uses a single-prop plane to tend his 400-square mile parish; and The Seafarers, a work-for-hire project in behalf of the Seafarers International Union. (48:29)

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kubrickblogjp:

Stanley Kubrick’s fake and real letter.

Fun, but definitely fake. kubrickblogjp:

Stanley Kubrick’s fake and real letter.

Fun, but definitely fake.

kubrickblogjp:

Stanley Kubrick’s fake and real letter.

Fun, but definitely fake.

Spartacus

We’re not Spartacus (1960)! In our fifth episode we contemplate a big, ambitious and flawed Stanley Kubrick film which in most respects was not a Stanley Kubrick film. Hired by star and producer Kirk Douglas, buffeted by studio execs and cranky actors, subordinate to the expectations of a four-quadrant Hollywood epic, Kubrick made one last “one for them” in Spartacus. After a grueling summer-long shoot, he delivered a three-hour picture considered a classic by most but not one he was happy with—and not one of our Kubrick favorites, either. That said: this is a big movie with a fascinating background and plenty to talk about, including: the relationship between Spartacus and the Red Scare; how this film stacks up against later Hollywood epics like Braveheart and Avatar; Peter Ustinov: The World’s Most Interesting Man; plus, why Spartacus couldn’t have happened in the smartphone era. Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis and Charles Laughton. (1:07:55)

Links for Spartacus:

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Paths of Glory

The fourth edition of KubrickCast centers on Kubrick’s breakthrough picture, Paths of Glory (1957), a sharply effective anti-war morality play starring Kirk Douglas as a French military officer defending the lives of three of his men against the vindictive generals playing God to make a point. One of the least likely films you’ll see about the perils of middle management, Paths of Glory was a linchpin in Kubrick’s developing career and is still considered a classic today. Plus: where Adolph Menjou is really from, lots and lots of snare drums, and a new KubrickCast record for references to The Wire in one episode.

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The Killing

The third installment of KubrickCast focuses on The Killing (1956), a crime film and kind of proto-Reservoir Dogs starring alleged “Viking God” Sterling Hayden and a roster of well-cast character actors making the kind of decisions you think they’re all going to regret for a long time… if they have long to live, that is. Told from multiple perspectives with a disjointed timeline, The Killing sometimes feels like a movie ahead of its time, and indeed was a big step forward in his young Kubrick’s career. Plus: the unintelligible-yet-eloquent chess-playing wrestler, who might be cast in a remake that shouldn’t happen, and how much the big heist would be worth today.

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Killer’s Kiss

In the second installment of KubrickCast, Bill and Renan consider Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss (1955). Set in mid-century New York City, it’s the tale of a down-on-his-luck boxer, the fetching dancer who lives across the way, her tough guy boss, and a mannequin factory whose owner is about to file a big insurance claim. Plus: how it compares to Kubrick’s early documentary short, Day of the Fight; how New York has changed (and stayed the same); the fundamental enigma of Frank Silvera; and the now-forgotten feature film about the making of this film.

Afternotes: So, we were right about the film being shot in old Penn Station, or at least partly right, since we weren’t entirely sure. And apparently wrong about Grand Central. Or, Bill was.

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