Doctor Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) is a classic black comedy that brilliantly skewers the insanity of the nuclear age. When a fanatical U.S. general (Sterling Hayden) launches an air-strike against the Soviets, they raise the stakes by threatening to unleash a “doomsday device,” setting the stage for Armageddon. The film excoriates the denizens of the military-industrial complex, exposing them as a collection of disturbed lunatics whose pathological urges translate into nuclear destruction. Much of it is hysterically funny, but overlaid with an ominous solemnity. The script’s satirical punch is so effective it gave birth to a slew of jocular, oft-quoted one-liners: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here; this is the War Room!” The film’s star-studded cast includes George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones and Peter Sellers, who steals the show and copped an Oscar nod playing three roles. George C. Scott epitomizes the soul we secretly suspect to be the military mind. Sterling Hayden plays intense insanity. Slim Pickens character, Major T. J. “King” Kong in his cowboy persona, does a bronco ride into oblivion and film history. The psychotic wing commander, Gen Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) who is concerned that the commies are attacking “the purity and essence of our precious bodily fluids”; and has unleashed his wing of B-52 bombers in a preemptive attack on the Soviet Union. George C. Scott, as Gen Buck G. Turgidson, as the over-the-top Air Force Chief of Staff. Kubrick tricked Scott into playing Turgidson more ridiculously than he felt comfortable doing, by telling him they were just practice takes. But the tour-de-force performance is by Peter Sellers, who plays three characters: the president, and a British captain who is executive officer to Gen Ripper, and also the title character Dr. Strangelove, the former Nazi and science advisor to the president, who is outrageously funny. Also watch for Keenan Wynn and James Earl Jones, in small but important roles. This Stanley Kubrick black comedy masterpiece may seem dated to many viewers today. But to those of us who were of age in 1964 when this was released (I was 20) this biting satire of the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear annihilation was all too real. So real that I and many of my friends had trouble laughing at some of this back then, but it is much easier to laugh today, watching it for the umpteenth time. For all cold war babies who were subject to the old duck and cover drill in elementary school, this movie is a great revisit. Four decades after Strangelove’s release, the film is still alive with the power of his audacious wit and intellect, and even after all the years carries a hefty combination of humor, powerful acting, and uniqueness. One of the best films ever made, one of the best comedies of all time; and probably the best of political satires. My highest recommendation. Dr. Strangelove still remains one of my top five favorites of all time. ‘Nuff said. Satire 1964 PG 95 minutes.


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