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

dr_strangelove.jpg Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) of Burpelson Air Force Base gives the order for a fleet nuclear bombers to bomb sites in Russia. Obviously deranged, Ripper explains to a very concerned Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) that he believes the US is having it's “precious bodily fluids” poisoned by the red menace. The president (also Peter Sellers) convenes a meeting in the Pentagon's war room to stop the imminent nuclear attack and doubtless retaliatory response that will follow though he faces the inscrutable logic of war-mongering General 'Buck' Turgidson (George C. Scott). As the clock tickets down to Armageddon, military forces converge on the Air Force Base to stop Ripper and the bombers get ever closer to their targets.

This classic (ironic) comedy by Stanley Kubrick is a satire on the futility of nuclear war. Created in the height of the cold war, Doctor Strangelove is filmed in black and white deliberately mimicking public information films of earlier decades, imparting a cool and inhuman feel to the story. Interestingly, the film is based on the rather more serious novel “Red Alert” by Peter George which Kubrick decided to twist into a comedic “tour-de-farce”.

Doctor Strangelove features iconic (multiple) performances by Peter Sellers, most notably as the slightly-unhinged German scientist Dr. Strangelove whose right arm seems to have a life of it's own. Also notable is Slim Pickens as the gung-ho bomber pilot Major 'King' Kong (whose image riding a nuclear weapon towards the end of the film is equally memorable). George C. Scott as the rough-and-tumble General Turgidson determined to make the best of a difficult situation, incredulous at the president's determination to stop nuclear war entirely. The actors cynically paint their characters in a comedic light that accentuates the insanity of nuclear war.

The effects are laughable (even at the time) which is doubtlessly deliberate, indeed, most aspects of this film appear to have been deliberately done to accentuate the central message such as the use of the song “We'll meet again” played over scenes of nuclear Apocalypse and the insanity of the US military machine. The film does take a few minutes to hit it's stride but as it gets going the irony builds and builds to a deafening (and spectacular) crescendo. Indeed, those unfamiliar with it will likely be blindsided by the picture which on first glance appears to be perfectly serious.

Drily entertaining and, of course, horrific at the same time, despite portraying a world we have since forgotten “Dr. Strangelove” still manages to powerfully drive it's point regarding the futility of war home.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-04-17

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Year: 1964

Length: 95 minutes

Genre: Comedy

Other reviewed films by Stanley Kubrick: