Dr. Strangelove (1964)

“You can’t fight in here! This is the war room!”

Alright, so it’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been kind of swamped with school and work this last weekend. Working at a movie theater gets pretty crazy in the summer with all of these movie releases. Also, I planned on starting Kubrick month off with Paths of Glory but coincidentally I am writing my Film class term paper on Dr. Strangelove and that is due this week so I thought I would shift things around. I’m sure none of you really mind actually, but I guess that was just in case any of you were wondering.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is probably the most well-known political satires in movie history. Kubrick actually set out to make a serious film regarding the Cold War based on the novel “Red Alert” by Peter George. However, in constructing the film, Kubrick found that the subject was actually so ridiculous that it came off as satire so he turned it into a black comedy…and that is how Strangelove was born.

The film starts out with General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) putting into action “Plan R” which involves a group of B-52 bombers dropping hydrogen bombs all over Russia. With Ripper and his executive officer, Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), locked in his office, the President of the United States (Sellers again) and his advisers try to warn Russia of the impending attack. This is much to General Turgidson’s (George C. Scott) dismay; he believes that all there is left to do is go ahead with a full force attack.The Russian Ambassador (Peter Bull) however, informs them that Russia has a “Doomsday Machine” that will bring all of civilization to an end if it goes off. Also, even worse, that it is programmed to go off if an attack on Russia ever occurs. What ensues is much debate between generals, the President, and Dr. Strangelove (Sellers once again), who is a former Nazi, over the appropriate course of action.

In it’s context, Dr. Strangelove was a bold move at satirizing the political moods that were occurring in the 1960’s. This film was released not long after the Cuban Missile Crisis and at the height of the Red Scare in the America. I can only imagine what sort of effect this film had on the public when it was released. Apparently this film was eerily accurate to real-life events, with many of the characters based off of actual government figures, including Dr. Strangelove and General Turgidson. Dr. Strangelove was supposedly based off of Herman Kahn, a nuclear strategist who wrote a book called “On Thermonuclear War”. The ending of the film is even take right from that book.

The characters in this film are really enjoyable to watch. Peter Sellers is genius in his roles, as I couldn’t even tell it was one person playing all of them. Each one had very distinct characteristics, accents, and mannerisms that brought the characters alive. From Strangelove’s weird, gloved hand that will seemingly go into a full Nazi salute against his will to Turgidson’s trademark cigar-chomping, each character was a goofy caricature that brought humor but also horror to this film because of the subject matter.

With a tone that is so gritty and dark but humor that starkly contrasts that, there is no wonder this film is considered both wildly entertaining and memorable. You can tell Kubrick had a lot of fun making this movie and that the actors really loved being in their character. The best scene of the film though is the what has come to be classic scene of Slim Pickens’ iconic exit of the airplane straddling a big ole’ nuclear bomb.

Really though, this is a movie that everybody should watch at some point, especially if you are fan of Kubrick since it is probably one of his most well known and renowned films. It is such a blatant mockery of the anti-Communist feelings of that time that it’s interesting to think about what if a movie like Dr. Strangelove was made regarding the present war attitudes of today.

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