April 29, 2004

Dr. Strangelove

Nuclear war and its prospect is an excellent premise for comedy. It is. Trust me. Stanley Kubrick proved it with this 1964 black & white classic. Dr. Strangelove is one of the most intellectually funny movies you will ever see. There isn't much slapstick, except that rendered by George C. Scott as Gen. Turgidson. Scott really struts his stuff. This was one of his first opportunities in a feature movie, and he didn't blow it. When seeing him do his thing I kept trying to picture his opening speech in Patton. I wonder how much of this role helped him get that one? Patton would have to rank as my all time favorite movie, but I digress.

I watched this on Turner Classic Movies, and they had Sydney Pollack introduce it. His description of the time that this movie came out was quite interesting. The general populace was genuinely frightened of the prospect of nuclear war, on a daily basis. The Cuban missile crisis was fresh in everybody's mind. The nation was still mourning the assassination of JFK. The Beatles were hitting. This was a turbulent time of uncertainty in the good old U.S.A. The release of this flick, at that time, must be one of the ballsiest, riskiest moves in the history of filmmaking.

Peter Sellers is brilliant, playing three roles. One British, one American, and one German, the title role of the wheelchaired former Nazi scientist who just can't seem to keep his right hand from erecting itself in heil hitler salute. His German guy is excellent, but what I like the best is his interaction with Sterling Hayden's psycho Gen. Jack Ripper, as the British exchange officer Lt. Mandrake. Sellers' depiction of Pres. Merkin Muffley is precious too -- the prez is very concerned as to how the destruction of the world is going to affect his image.

In fact, as Pollack pointed out, every character in this movie with at least 25 words of dialog is crazy. All of Sellers' roles are nuts, Turgidson is obviously certifiable; Slim Pickens' Maj. T.J. 'King' Kong, who pilots the aircraft with the bomb, is so out-to-lunch he decides to take one helluva joy ride; and craziest of all of course is Gen. Ripper who decides that the Russkies are poisoning our bodily fluids and decides to start the whole sequence of nutty events.

I had this saved on tape, and after the documentary I watched the evening before I felt this was appropriate as a follow-up -- a stark contrast to 60's seriousness.

But of course you have to relate it to our sitation today, 40 years after the release of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The Bomb. The Bomb. Most of us have forgotten about The Bomb. We're mostly worried about terrorist-type bombs that just take down office buildings. But what if Osama got a hold of....

Oh never mind. That'll never happen. Stop worrying.

Posted by Wayne at April 29, 2004 12:52 PM

DR. STRANGELOVE is one of my all-time favorites.

If Kubrick had been alive today, would he have made a comedy about international terrorism? The mind boggles...

Posted by: A.R. Yngve at April 30, 2004 09:56 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?