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

Dr Strangelove

Director: Stanley Kubrick Cast: Peter Sellers (x3), George G. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Peter Bull, Slim Pickens, Keenan Wynn, and a very very young James Earl Jones

After an American Air Force general goes mad and triggers a nuclear stand-off between the US and the Soviet Union, it is up to the President and his advisors to try to stop total destruction. The arrival of the Soviet ambassador and the ramblings of an unhinged former Nazi and now American nuclear scientist, Dr Strangelove, add to the complications.

Dr Strangelove is an excellent piece of satire. Apparently, the story goes that Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film about nuclear armageddon but given the ridiculousness of the situation, there was no way that he could not make it into a comedy (albeit rather dark). This film is without a doubt pretty weird and the scenario is completely ludicrous- but then that’s the point. Peter Sellers plays three of the main parts, which are all quite different but he nails every one: the restrained British Air Force Captain, the camp President, and the completely mad Dr Strangelove (of whom the highlight is his nervous twitch in the form of a Nazi salute, which he struggles to control).

A lot of the satire is quite subtle, which may go over the heads of some viewers particularly if they’re not aware it’s a comedy to begin with. There are some classics though: “You can’t fight in here, this is the war room!”; paranoid soldiers suspect each other to be “commies” and start shooting at each other surrounded by posters stating “Peace is our Profession”; the purpose of the doomsday deterrent is completely defeated by the fact that they didn’t tell anyone about it. It’s not a laugh-a-minute but if you pay attention and listen carefully there are some comedy gems.

Although ultimately it is a comedy, like I say you do have to watch carefully to catch everything so it’s probably not recommended if you’re looking for something light and trashy. Additionally, a lot of it is quite strange and some viewers may not quite get it if it’s not usually their sort of thing. If it is your thing however, you can’t fault it- the acting is on point, the plot is creative and the jokes are clever. It’s a classic and is considered one of the best movies ever, so absolutely worth a watch for film-lovers.

5 stars

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