Dr. Strangelove (1964)

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Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Post  BoG on Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:05 am


Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is Stanley Kubrick's zany version of Fail Safe (also 1964), about the imminent threat of nuclear war. Only, "zany" is a simplistic description. I first watched this in high school, when someone brought in a print to screen for the students. I found some of it funny but much of it went over my head. Back then - the late seventies - I wasn't very familiar with the mindset or zeitgeist of the fifties & sixties in America concerning the Bomb, the Cold War and Communism.
The film is a curious mixture of near-slapstick and wry commentary. It's curious mostly for the fact that Kubrick is known for serious, almost solemn films. This was his only foray into dark comedy.  But, as a teen, the commentary wasn't apparent to me: the lengthy rants and diatribes of the crazed General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), for example. Yes, his name sounded funny but his almost endless commentary about communism and bodily fluids was just weird and incomprehensible. It took me a few years of growing up to finally get in on the joke (in my defense, Kubrick filmed Hayden's scenes in such a way - such as the low angles - that many of them are more sinister and frightening than funny; the same holds true for scenes inside the bomber plane - a style that usually fits something dramatic rather than comedic).
The joke - a very dark joke - is that the two most powerful nations on Earth could stoop to mutually-assured destruction over ideology. The joke's on us, also: it all might happen by accident, unplanned, due to one key military man going nuts.  The joke is that even though Communism might be an abhorrent, uninspired way of life, if we let paranoia rule us, it will only backfire on us - we will be our own worst enemy, not the enemies from behind the Iron Curtain. Or so this film seems to be saying. As with several Kubrick films, this points out the dangers of advanced machinery: in this film, the machinery is set up to blow up the world; all it takes is one little slip-up to put it all into motion and it's out of mankind's control.  It shouldn't be funny... but Kubrick managed it somehow.
The structure of the film divides the story into three concurrently-running plotlines: the first concerns General Ripper snapping at his base of command, ordering  bombers to attack the Russians and the efforts of a Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) to bring some sanity to the situation. The 2nd one all takes place aboard a bomber on its way to drop a nuke on a target in the Soviet Union; it's commanded by Major "King" Kong (Slim Pickens). The 3rd involves the U.S. President (Sellers again, in bald make-up) and the top brass in the War Room dealing with the escalating situation.  This includes a war hungry General played by George C. Scott and the titular character (also played by Sellers), a crazy scientist in a wheelchair who used to work for the Nazis.  
Probably the more disturbing scenes in this film, even though it's a comedy, take place in the War Room; this is where we would expect to see the most rational voices, those being our leaders. But, combined with the President's weak, ineffectual attitude, one also gets the impression that many in this room wouldn't mind a nuclear holocaust. Mostly, some see this as a chance to wipe out the enemy - the Soviets - with the USA getting only some of the blowback (mostly voiced by Scott's uber-aggressive general). Towards the end, the conversation shifts to wild post-war survival scenarios, including the infamous 10 women for every man set-up. It spells out that the leaders only really think of themselves in such a situation. The Chicago Sun-Times review summed it up best:
Dr. Strangelove's humor is generated by a basic comic principle: People trying to be funny are never as funny as people trying to be serious and failing.
>>>>>>> "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" - President Muffley.  scratch  BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10

Strange Trivia to Love: first film role for James Earl Jones as a Lieutenant, one of the officers inside the fateful bomber plane.
The script, based on Peter George's book, Two Hours to Doom a.k.a. Red Alert, started out as serious, similar to Fail Safe; but,
over time, Kubrick modified it to black comedy; the witty dialog was handled by Terry Southern; Sellers improvised some of his lines.

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Strange Behind-the-Scenes to Love

Post  BoG on Sat Nov 15, 2014 7:50 pm


Rare shots of Kubrick and George C. Scott behind-the-scenes for the pie-fight scene
------------------------------------------------------------in the War Room which was deleted...





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