Anthony's Film Review
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Dr. Funnysatire, or how I learned to stop worrying and love this film...
In recent years, Hollywood movies have become increasing boring, unfunny, and unoriginal. I found myself wanting to watch some older films, particularly those considered great films or classic films. As I searched through the Internet Movie Database's Top 250 Movies list, I came across this film with an unusually long title. The plot seemed interesting, so I put in my mental list of movies to see. It just so happened that, in 2004 at the time, Roger Ebert's web site posted a review of this film since it was being replayed at the Music Box Theater in Chicago to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary. I took the opportunity to see the movie there.
I really enjoy the message behind this movie: nuclear war is never a good thing, especially when one crazy man triggers a series of events leading up to it. That is all it takes. It is certainly what happens when General Jack D. Ripper, who is extremely afraid of Communists contaminating "precious bodily fluids," orders Wing Attack Plan R to bombard the Soviet Union's defense system with nuclear weapons.
That's not all. Ripper also closes the Air Force base and refuses to reveal the three-letter recall code that could order the planes to abort their mission. As a result, there is an intense meeting in the Pentagon War Room, which includes the President and a Russian ambassador whom one general fears may be there to spy instead of negotiate. There is talk about not just the attack but also the Soviets' Doomsday Device that could destroy the world if set off by a nuclear attack.
Besides a gripping plot that is very appropriate for its time, and even for the years to come, many of the characters are quite funny. It is a shame that the original novel from which the film is based is a no-nonsense war thriller and may be forgotten as a result of the critical acclaim of this movie. Still, the gist of the story is there.
Peter Sellers plays three characters: a captain under the command of General Ripper, the President of the United States, and the ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove. He delivers memorable performances for each of the characters, especially the silly Dr. Strangelove. Meanwhile, the President is not a silly character, but he is funny simply because he is a stressed-out political leader who has the utmost responsibility of averting a nuclear war. Other memorable characters include the cowboy pilot Major King Kong (Slim Pickens), who has an undeniably unforgettable death scene, and the hyperactive General Turgidson (George C. Scott).
The whole film is in black and white and set in four places: Ripper's office, the outside of the Air Force base, the war room, and the inside of a B-52 bomber. The events at each location represent both sides of the conflict: Ripper and the bomber trying to annihilate the Soviets while the base and the War Room has people trying to stop it. All throughout the film, I found myself wondering which side was going to win. What was going to happen next? Will the war be stopped, or will nuclear war break out and destroy us all?
I definitely understand why Dr. Strangelove is a classic. It is funny in its own unique way while maintaining suspense and making us question the purpose of war and destruction. For someone like myself with no memories of the Cold War, it can still be a lesson about war and politics in general. The same questions arise later on. Would declaring war on rogue nations solve any problems or create new ones? My only complaint is that I wished the film were a bit longer, like two hours instead of one and a half. I liked the dialogue, suspense, and humor so much that I wanted to see more.
But that's OK. The point is that Dr. Strangelove is a funny satire about war that makes us think. It is definitely one of director Stanley Kubrick's best works.
For more information about Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, visit the Internet Movie Database.