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

Synopsis: An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/

Who chose it: Brent

Why I chose it: I’d seen it twice and my reactions were as follows: didn’t love it, didn’t hate it; thought it was hilarious. I wanted Leah to see it so she could say she could and I wanted to see if it got better with each passing viewing (spoilers: it did).

Brent’s Review:

“Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is an audacious satire poking fun at the Cold War and the men who “fight” it. The deranged Col. Jack D. Ripper makes use of a military loophole to launch a preemptive nuclear strike without presidential clearance, accompanied by radio silence and full defensive counter measures to protect the base from which the code was launched. In short, he pulls a fast one over the soldiers in his command while hoping to force the presidents’ hand into launching a full-scale attack on the U.S.S.R.

The film has three set pieces. The first is my favorite: Col. Jack D. Ripper’s office, in which he tells the distressed Capt. Lionel Mandrake his theory about the Communist plot to overthrow democracy through fluoridation and stressing the importance of maintaining the purity of one’s bodily fluids. The second is perhaps the most iconic: the War Room, which features 20-or-so men sitting around a table while the board of military targets looms in the background. The last: a B-52 bomber en route to a target in Russia. This set piece ends with one of the greatest single shots in film history: Major ‘King’ Kong (played wonderfully by Slim Pickens) riding a nuclear bomb as it plummets to Earth, swinging his cowboy hat as though he were riding a bronco.

“Dr. Strangelove” is full of great comedic turns. All are worth merit, but the film simply would not work without Peter Sellers. Consider: Director Stanley Kubrick was notorious both for forbidding improvisation and his solemn demeanor during filming. Given this, it’s notable that not only was Sellers given permission to improvise most of his lines, but Kubrick was often laughing audibly during his takes. The final scene of the film – easily a top-5 all-time comedy scene – features the titular doctor fighting with his bionic arm, which has malfunctioned and begins heiling Hitler and fighting with the doctor for control of his entire body. Sellers’ co-stars were laughing so much at his performance that it necessitated numerous edits to hide their laughter.

The world is on the brink of annihilation and its fate is left to the hands of idiots who are so concerned with their self-image, personal affairs, or their power plays that they allow a major global catastrophe. The characters react as though they had just committed a social faux pas. Satire is beautiful. Dr. Strangelove didn’t do it first, but it probably did it best.

Satire tells jokes that reveal truths about sad or scary things, hoping that the jokes won’t always be funny. More than 50 years later, “Dr. Strangelove” loses some punch. The fear of nuclear war and Communism are lost on my generation; I am more scared of homegrown terrorism than invasion. But I’m not too far removed from the Cold War to enjoy this film. If you haven’t seen “Dr. Strangelove,” I recommend you do it before the jokes aren’t funny anymore.

Leah’s Review:

Ever since I first watched the original “Pink Panther” movies when I was a kid, I’ve been hooked on Peter Sellers. His comedic timing is some of the best the film industry will ever see and his ability to take what “should” be a serious role and turn it into something of pure hilarity is perfection. So when I found out that “Dr. Strangelove” starred Sellers in not one role, but three- I was eager to watch the film.

I must confess, however, that I did not love this film. It has its moments, to be sure. Comedic scenes that stood out for me are when Captain Mandrake (Sellers) tries to call the President of the United States on a pay phone (but first he has to break into a Coca-Cola vending machine to get the change) or President Muffley’s (Sellers again) hilariously awkward phone conversations with the Soviet Premier.

The film fell flat for me because I personally didn’t think the “payoff” was worth the buildup to the punchlines. I kind of expected “Dr. Strangelove” to have more of a constant humor to it, much like “Airplane!” or “The Naked Gun” series. And while there are some genuinely funny sequences, there are also some long (and dare I say), boring scenes with no gags/jokes that make the film lag. From my perspective, there was just no balance to the sporadic comedy and I couldn’t tell what the movie was trying to accomplish.

Now, I know that “Dr. Strangelove” is a critically acclaimed comedy and is considered one of the best of its genre. From what I’ve heard, this is also a movie that needs multiple viewings for optimal appreciation. So perhaps, some day in the future, I will sit down and give “Dr. Strangelove” another watch and discover that I was grievously mistaken.

But for now, I will simply say: Strike two, Stanley Kubrick.

Up next: A star-studded cast and a multi-layered story-line take center-stage in Paul Anderson’s “Magnolia”. Let’s hope the three-hour run time is worth it.

Peace out, kids.


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