Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
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Psychotic Air Force General unleashes ingenious foolproof and irrevocable scheme sending bombers to attack Russia. U.S. President works with Soviet premier in a desperate effort to save the world.
This second DVD edition of Stanley Kubrick's film is anchored by two new documentaries. The 15-minute look at the early Kubrick is rushed and covers no new ground for fans. The 45-minute "Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove" is more insightful despite having only a few players still alive in 2000 to talk about the production (including Kubrick's partner James B. Harris and actor James Earl Jones). The featurette does a good job of chronicling how a thriller about the end of the world became a comedy. Some publicity material has been added, including posters, the trippy trailer, and some oddly comical "fake" interviews with the two leads. --Doug Thomas
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Even if you've never seen this movie, you've probably seen scenes from it. Slim Pickens as Maj. King Kong riding the missile like a bucking bronc is used everywhere. Scenes with Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) in a wheelchair are also commonplace. You might also recognize the closing scenes of bombs exploding to the song "We'll Meet Again."
My favorite scene is between Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) and Col. Bat Guano (Keenan Wynn) and the Coke machine. "You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company."
The one-sided phone conversations between President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) and Soviet Premier Kissoff reminds me of Bob Newhart's hilarious telephone bits.Unless you want to do a spit take, I suggest not drinking or eating during these scenes. For that matter, I would avoid eating during the whole movie.
This brilliant satire should be required viewing by all.
But it’s not just the film’s newfound currency that makes me return. It’s a welcome opportunity to rediscover Stanley Kubrick as he came into his own. While I took pleasure in Spartacus and Lolita, those were Hollywood productions that (very sensibly) employed the budding director. By contrast, Dr. Strangelove was distinctly a Kubrick film with his thought and vision wholly intact.
It is fascinating to watch him deal with humor. (This would be his only comedy.) He’s careful in parceling it out. I especially love the exquisite restraint in the scenes between Sterling Hayden’s soberly off-the-deep-end General Jack Ripper and Sellers’ oh-so-upright Lionel Mandrake. I don’t know how the actors kept straight faces — would that there were outtakes here — but they did and their scenes are splendidly insane for the effort. Less is indeed more.
And that’s the rule for most of the distance: fly just under our radar. There are outright laughs, to be sure. Keenan Wynn whips out one of the film’s few overt punchlines and it’s hard not to smile at the clearly comic antics of George C. Scott’s riled-up, sputtering General Buck Turgidson.
But Sellers’ president, Slim Pickens’ bomber pilot and the ethos are conceived within this same essentially stoic spirit — effectively setting us up for Sellers’ (yes, again!) climactic appearance as Dr. Strangelove.
Arguably, the doctor is overdone. Arguably, he’s not even that funny. But I suspect that’s missing the point. He’s strategically overdone — a metaphorical bomb to roil the script’s placid surface at the critical moment. And at least at this level, it’s successful. The film detonates just ahead of the bomb and we’re on our way home.
This film is a dark reflection of the insane politics of the cold war. The strange and humorous antics portrayed in the film were not as bizarre as they seem now as seen in the light of the mid-twentieth century mind set. As a school student, I was made to practice hiding under my desk in the case of a nuclear attack. No kidding! There was a US Air Force general whose foreign policy suggestion was to bomb China back to the stone age. So sending US strategic bombers to destroy the USSR, and vice-versa, was the reality of daily life of the time that Dr. Strangelove was filmed.
Peter Sellers is at his best in this film as Dr. Strangelove. He also played two other roles. The best line "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." An interesting note is that one scene of a US bomber flying over the Arctic Ocean was reused by Kubrick as part of the star gate sequence in 2001 - A Space Odyssey,