Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott & Sterling Hayden
I spent some time this week watching a few Kubrick films that I hadn’t seen. Until now I had only seen A Clockwork Orange (which I hate) and The Shining (which I hadn’t seen since I was very young). So I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, Barry Lyndon, The Shining and finally Dr. Strangelove. I realized two things when watching all these movies. First, how the hell had I not seen 2001 before this? Such a great film. And second, Kubrick might be one of my favorite directors now. I’m going to spend some time in the next few weeks watching the rest of his movies.
Moving on. I chose Dr. Strangelove because out of all the Kubrick movies I watched this week, this one felt very… relevant? It’s obviously a Cold War film which addresses the hysteria of the time and the fear of nuclear war. Now I don’t like to get political (lol I’m about to get political.), but right now we’re dealing with two world leaders, Trump and Kim Jong-un, who are in the worlds biggest dick measuring contest. It seems we can’t go a day without seeing Trump tweeting about how big his nuclear dick is compared to Korea’s nuclear dick and the whole thing seems like something straight out of… well Dr. Strangelove. So I suppose my reason for choosing this film is that I think a lot of people would watch this today and laugh at how absurd it is and then stop laughing because if you look at the news today you’d find that Dr. Strangelove isn’t absurd at all.
What’s it about? In Dr. Strangelove a mad war general approves the nuclear bombing of Russia which could lead to nuclear holocaust and war room lead by the President of the United States must try to stop that attack.
This is a satire, comedy and war film all wrapped up in one and it is such a blast to watch the whole mess unfold. Stanley Kubrick had quite a diverse career as a film maker. He strayed into pretty much every genre and in each film he absolutely kills it. I might end up writing about all his films as I’ve enjoyed the Hell out of most of them so far.
The Players: Peter Sellers. Peter. Freakin. Sellers. Wow… Peter Sellers plays three characters in this movie and I honestly didn’t notice until after the film was over. The first character we meet of his is Lionel Mandrake, a captain working under Sterling Hayden’s General Jack Ripper. General Ripper initiates the command that sends the world on a collision course towards nuclear war. Sellers also plays the fictional President of the United States, Merkin Muffley who is my favorite part of this movie. Finally Peter Sellers also plays the titular Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi scientist. The other great performance in this movie comes from George C. Scott who plays General Buck Turgidson. These performances are so over the top and hilarious at every turn and for a film about nuclear war it’s a bit odd, but it works on every level. President Muffley has a phone call with a drunken Russian “President Dmitri” about halfway through the movie and it is pure comedy gold. I can’t express how good of a job Sellers does in these roles.
There’s basically three scenes in this movie. The plane, the base, and the war room. The plane scenes follow the crew of the airplane that will drop the nuclear bomb. These are probably the weakest scenes Dr. Strangelove has to offer, but it also offers up the most iconic scene from the film. Seeing Slim Pickens ride a falling nuke like it was a rodeo bull. Pretty great stuff. The scenes at the base are pretty tense as they follow the films villain General Jack Ripper. He’s a paranoid crazy man who fortifies his base and defends it against his own countries military. The war room scenes are the best in my opinion. It’s complete frantic absurdity in that room at all times and I laughed out loud more than once. Peter Sellers delivers so many scenes that are full of irony and comedy that none of these characters are acknowledging.
The last thing I want to touch on here isn’t specific to this movie, but more about Kubrick in general. This guys movies are impressive as Hell. I still don’t understand how he made 2001 fifty freakin years ago. That movie looks like it could’ve come out last year. And the scope of Barry Lyndon is awe inspiring. The Shining still holds up as being one the scariest films ever made. I can’t imagine being in the theater in 1980 seeing that movie for the first time. Just a master who was always ahead of the curve.
For fans of: Mel Brooks, war films and laughing