Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy Rated: Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb (1964)

Rated: Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb (1964)

As you can probably tell from the title, Dr. Strangelove is a bizzare movie. It deals with such abstract topics as bodily fluids, the importance of cigars, and at one point a Coca Cola machine that stands between salvation and total world destruction. But beyond all the rediculousness you find a movie that is, in reality, important.

Kubrick essentially invents dark humor with this film. It takes a serious topic at the time (the Cold War and the Nucular Arms Race) and makes it funny; the tag line is perfect, “Laugh at fear”. And indeed, you will laugh, even if you were never alive to experience the Cold War firsthand because the movie’s messages still do apply today. Not only will you be immensly entertained with this film, it’ll make you think as well. Few movies are as impassioned and universally applicable as Dr. Strangelove, and that is what makes it one of the greatest movies of all time.

Synopsis: When General Jack Ripper becomes obsessed and paranoid about the soviets destroying the purity of American’s bodily fluids, he decides to launch  a preemptive strike by sending the US nucular arsenal to take out Russia. Ripper’s second-in command, a liason from the RAF, Lionel Mandrake, is doing his best to get the situation under control and reverse Ripper’s orders, but this just increases the determination of the General to continue with his quest. When Washington learns of the situation, an emergency meeting is called in order to scramble together some sort of solution. But the government doesn’t work as smoothly as it should and conflicting views from the President, an excitable General ‘Buck’ Turgidson, and the Russian ambassador only help to ignite the situation and make it even more desperate. Eventually we meet Dr. Strangelove, an ex-nazi who is somehow head of weapon’s research, who warns the President that the situation might be even more dire than it already seems….

Acting: Arguably the most interesting thing about this movie is the acting. The veteran and legendary actor Peter Sellers (Pink Panther) plays not one, but 3 of the main roles (Mandrake, the President, and Dr. Stangelove). And really he does such a great job portraying each character’s personailty and physical demeanors that if you didn’t know you wouldn’t notice. This isn’t some Mike Meyers Austin Powers-like facade, this is real acting and it is real high brow humor, Strangelove’s character is pure Sellers and pure genious. Supporting Sellers is Sterling Hayden (Zero Hour!) as General Ripper, who is very believable in his delusion and impressively humourous in a tongue-in-cheek way with the manner in which he fumbles his cigar. George C Scott (Patton) plays Buck Turgidson, and plays him perfectly, almost over-the-top but still believable. Other notable supporting cast members include Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles) as a seriously patriotic cowboy-bomber pilot, Peter Bull (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) as an Orwell-like Russian ambassador, and an early role for James Earl Jones (Star Wars). (25/25)

Direction: Although not as artistic as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Dr. Strangelove is nevertheless impressive. Shot entirely in black-and-white, the lack of color helps to add a serious and bleak tone that is played off of well by the dark humor. Kubrik mostly leaves the camera stationary and alternates between distant and close shots. This works well for a dialog-driven movie and even when there is action Kubrick keeps the camera focused and steady without giving a lot of detail. This helps to make some of the fighting scenes more realistic because really the movie isn’t concerned with individual conflicts, we’re just supposed to be aware of them occuring. (25/25)

Plot/Script: The plot trades off between 3 main locales, and is effective in just those three locations to demonstrate the impact a nuclear scare can have on the world. More importantly, the script is easy to follow, even if much of the reasoning behind what happens is ubsurd. But after all, that is the point of this movie, to show how easily things can go bad and how trying to predict something in order to prevent it(WMD’s anyone?) is a futile action. The dialog is top notch and the story flows well, keeping you interested at all times, even when it is serious and when it is not so serious. (25/25)

Special Effects/Music/X-Factor: Perhaps the weakness of this movie is the poor special effects, especially the home-made-movie-like bomber-on-a-string cut shots. However, consider this movie was made in 1964, in a time when the Red Scare and the Cold War were SERIOUS issues, you can easily overlook any questionable visuals for the x-factor; the fact that it is a movie that manages to be funny when it is about something that, especially in the 60’s, that was NOT funny. Last, besides the ending montage, the only music in the entire movie is a military march theme, and helps to separate the portions where the action is serious. (22/25)

The Verdict:

What Kept Me Watching It: Amazing characters, hilarious dialog, a straightfoward plot and legendary direction make for an unforgettable movie.

What Kills It: Some may say that nothing happens (its long). Some may say that its not funny (the humor is definately NOT lowest common denominator). Some may say that it is pointless (it is ubsurd at times). But then I would say that you have no taste in movies if you said such things.

Final Rating: 97/100 = A

Summary: It takes guts to make a funny movie about something that isn’t funny in reality. It takes talent and determination to pull it off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post