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or Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Movie Review

kubrick stanley peter film

1964 – Stanley Kubrick –

Dr. Strangelove is a deliciously black comic look at nuclear annihilation, courtesy of Stanley Kubrick, with Peter Sellers in a three-role tour de force and Sterling Hayden as a mad general. The end of the world comes about not from complicated territorial disputes of geopolitics but from some all-thumbs general out to prove he's virile. General Ripper (Hayden), finally goes crazy in his paranoia and sends U.S. bombers to attack Russia because he is convinced that fluoridation is a Communist plot to taint our “precious bodily fluids.” He explains, in one of the most amazing speeches in 1960s cinema, to his second in command that this insight came to him “during the physical act of love. Yes, a profound sense of fatigue and feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily, I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you, it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence.” Another general, played by Scott, outwardly recognizes the dicey situation but underneath wants to trumpet Ripper's attack into an excuse to eliminate Russia.

The film is both howlingly funny and disturbingly scary. The slight but continual undercurrent of fear comes not so much from the plausibility of global destruction as from the film's pitiless point of view that seems to welcome the bomb as the ultimate suicidal joke. Kubrick lets loose characters who all but revel in genocide, and then he sits back and laughs as the final cataclysm gets nearer and nearer. Dr. Strangelove, one of Peter Seller's three roles, is a German scientist with a tendency to give the Nazi salute with his mechanical arm. He joins a War Room dominated by the bluster of Scott's general, who argues for a bombing to prevent future bombings, should anyone survive. The only characters who seem to have any sense, like the President and Mandrake (both played by Sellers) are rendered powerless and laughable by the nightmare spinning out-of-control. One of them tries to reason with the madman Ripper as bullets fly through the SAC office; the other tries to maintain calm in the War Room as fights break out. (The characterization of the President as well-meaning but ineffectual appears to be based on Adlai Stevenson, the U.N. ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Dr. Strangelove parodies Werner von Braun, rocket expert for the Nazis who later defected to the U.S.)

Cast: Peter Sellers (Group Captain Lionel Mandrake/President Merken Muffley/Dr. Strangelove), George C. Scott (General Buck Turgidson), Sterling Hayden (General Jack T. Ripper), Peter Bull (Ambassador de Sadesky), Keenan Wynn (Colonel Bat Guano), Slim Pickens (Major T. J. “King” Kong), James Earl Jones (Lieutenant Lothar Zogg), Tracy Reed (Miss Scott), Jack Creley (Mr. Staines), Frank Berry (Lieutenant H. R. Dietrich), Glenn Beck (Lieutenant W. D. Kivel), Shane Rimmer (Captain G. A. Ace Owens), Paul Tamarin (Lieutenant B. Goldberg), Gordon Tanner (General Faceman), Robert O'Neill (Admiral Randolph), Roy Stephens (Frank) Screenwriter: Terry Southern, Peter George, Stanley Kubrick Cinematographer: Gilbert Taylor Composer: Laurie Johnson Producer: Stanley Kubrick for Hawk Films; released by Columbia Running Time: 93 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD Awards: Academy Awards 1964: Nominations: Actor (Peter Sellers), Adapted Screenplay, Director (Stanley Kubrick), Picture; British Academy Awards, 1964: Film; New York Film Critics Awards, 1964: Director (Stanley Kubrick) Box Office: $5M (domestic rentals).

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