Monday, August 20, 2012

421. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Terry Southern, Stanley Kubrick, from the novel Red Alert by Peter George
Main Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens
Click here to view the trailer


Hello?... Uh... Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine.

I really shouldn't like this film. When you take into consideration the film's plot - dealing heavily with nuclear warfare, politics and the Cold War - all signs would lead me to believe that this isn't my cup of tea when it comes to cinema. However, it's quite the opposite, as I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions and having heaping amounts of fun.

The film begins with General Jack D. Ripper (Hayden) giving orders for a group of thirty-four B-52 bombers to strike against Russian targets, which will subsequently lead to all out nuclear warfare. When the orders are received by the bombers, they take precautions to ensure that the orders are legit and when they are, they prepare themselves to drop bombs. When Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Sellers) realizes that there is no cause for alarm and that the orders were given out in haste, he confronts the General and comes to the realization that Gen. Ripper has gone a "little funny in the head". It seems that the General issued the orders under his own volition and is the only one who knows the recall codes. Word of General Ripper's actions eventually reach the Pentagon, where President Merkin Muffley (Sellers), along with members of his staff, including General Buck Turgidson (Scott), go over ideas on how to avoid the orders being carried out. It seems that the attack plan that was put into place was a plan that was only supposed to be used if the normal chain of command was out of commission. Therefore, no radio interaction or normal abort methods are able to be utilized. President Muffley gets on the phone to Russia and order their premier to shoot down his own U.S. B-52 bombers, to avoid a nuclear war from occurring. Back at the base, Gen. Ripper has locked himself in his office with Mandrake, going on and on about "precious bodily fluids" and the communist conspiracy concerning water fluoridation. Outside the base, U.S. Army forces are attacking their own men, because Gen. Ripper instructed them that attack could come from enemy soldiers in U.S. uniform. In the air, Major T.J. "King" Kong (Pickens) leads his boys in their bomber, readying for attack. At one point they're attacked by Russian forces, having their console damaged and unable to receive any recall codes.

Frequently, when I finish a film, I'll find myself perusing the IMDB message boards, reading other people's opinions and browsing transcripts of conversations that fans of the film have had. Several threads caught my eye today, as certain individuals were either asking if they'd be able to understand this movie if they decided to watch it or, for people who had already watched, citing that they didn't understand the movie. I didn't leave any replies, but I found myself scratching my head over the quandaries of these individuals. I myself am no history buff. I have very little to no knowledge of the Cold War, nor do I know too much about nuclear warfare. I don't concern myself with politics or military affairs, so if anyone should be asking whether or not they'll understand "Dr. Strangelove", it should be me. However, I had absolutely no problem deciphering this movie. All the vital information is given to you and really, it's more of a movie to laugh at than one to try and decipher the meaning of. If you know what nuclear bombs are and that, for many years, there were tensions between Soviet and American powers, then you've got nothing to worry about.

It's amusing because the film actually pokes fun and satirizes the Cold War in a way that didn't leave me, someone who really doesn't know much about it, out in the cold. I understood that the film used heightened concerns over the use of nuclear warfare, computer intelligence and the nonchalant attitudes of those in charge, as it pertains to casualaties - "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops, uh, depending on the breaks" - to it's advantage in providing a comic masterpiece. I'm not sure any of that made sense to you, but I understand what I'm trying to say and hopefully you're following along.

Then you have the basics: the cast, the performances, the sets and all that stuff, which was all top notch. How about that War Room set huh? It was pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself. And remember:

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

The cast, most notably Peter Sellers, were at the top of their game. If I had to choose a favorite character, I'd, without a doubt, choose President Muffley, as he easily had me laughing the most. I also quite enjoyed George C. Scott and it was amusing to see him having fun out there. Usually when I watch a George C. Scott performance, I'm usually conscience of his supposed cranky demeanor and wonder what he was really like on the set. Here, he was having a blast and making jokes and it was really fun to watch him here. The whole affair is just a lot of fun and if you watch it, try not to take it too seriously. There are very few classic comedies, that are remembered or revered as much as "Dr. Strangelove". Usually the films that history tends to remember are the serious efforts and comedies are usually left out in the cold. This is a comedy through and through and it's just a formality that the film deals with such serious matters.

RATING: 9/10  I can't go the full monty and a '9' may be too high still, but I'm going for it. If need be I'll revise it come RECAP time. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "2001: A Space Odyssey".


August 20, 2012  4:04pm

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