Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

1963, Movie, NR, 102 mins

Review

DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
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Easily the funniest movie ever made about global thermonuclear holocaust, DR. STRANGELOVE seems to grow more relevant with each passing year. Obsessed with the idea that Communists are trying to rob Americans of their "precious bodily fluids," General Jack D. Ripper (Hayden), commander of Burpelson Air Force Base, goes completely mad and sends his bomber wing to attack the USSR. US President Muffley (Sellers) meets desperately with his advisors, including blustery Gen. "Buck" Turgidson (Scott) and wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove (also played by Sellers). Left with little choice, the powers that be formulate a plan to have the Russians shoot down the American bombers. However, the Soviet ambassador (Bull), informs the president that the Soviet Union has constructed a "Doomsday Device" which will automatically trigger buried nuclear weapons if their country is hit. Meanwhile, British officer Lionel Mandrake (also Sellers) busies himself with trying to trick Gen. Ripper into revealing the code that will recall the bombers. Eventually, all of them are shot down or recalled, except for one flown by Major T.J. "King" Kong (Pickens), a crafty pilot who manages to evade Russian fighters and missiles as he heads for his target deep inside the USSR. One of the film's final images, that of Kong riding the phallic bomb like a bucking bronco, is unforgettable.

Expertly directed by Kubrick, who deftly intercuts the events at Burpelson with the War Room conference and the action on Kong's B-52, DR. STRANGELOVE is the ultimate black comedy, one that makes unthinkable horror unbearably funny. The film is a model of barely controlled hysteria in which the absurdity of hypermasculine Cold War posturing becomes devastatingly funny--and at the same time nightmarishly frightening in its accuracy. (The Burpelson motto, "Peace Is Our Profession," is not so absurd; consider the labeling of the Strategic Defense Initiative as a "Peace Shield.") While at times Kubrick seems to strive a bit too hard for laughs (Keenan Wynn's being sprayed in the face after shooting a Coca-Cola machine comes to mind), other effects, especially the cinematography and Adam's brilliant production design, potently enhance the film's satirical vision.

STRANGELOVE also contains some truly remarkable comic performances, especially from Sellers in his triple role and Hayden as the mad general, and genuinely priceless dialogue ("Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"). A prophetic look at the insanity of superpower politics which, like George Orwell's 1984, has entered the lexicon of modern political discourse. leave a comment

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