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


"Dmitri?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... *Of course* I like to speak to you!... *Of course* I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri..."

Genre: Apocalyptic Drama Comedy

Starring: Peter Sellers (The Pink PantherCasino Royale (1967)), George C. Scott (PattonThe Changeling)

Directed By: Stanley Kubrick (The ShiningPaths Of Glory)

Overview: When a general decides to go ahead and launch a full-scale nuclear assault, the men in charge scramble to undo the deed.

The first time I saw Dr. Strangelove I was just starting to think about film as 'film' rather than just going around watching movies, and knowing that Dr. Strangelove was a classic, important contribution to American cinema. I found it slow, I found it dry and I didn't find it all that funny.

Giving it a second chance was bound to happen, especially since it's in 1001 Movies and #26 on the AFI's Top 100. But what made it sooner than later for me was the venue.

The Diefenbunker

Yes, Canada's best bunker, and best kept secret while it was being built until a reporter saw a truck delivering a full load of toilets to an empty hill in the middle of nowhere. It's ok, the military asked politely and he didn't spill the story. That's Canadians for ya. Either way, Cold war comedy and bunkers certainly go hand-in-hand.

It's a comedy, but it's not funny. Ok, it's funny, but some dramas coined as Drama before Comedy have more laughs than Dr. Strangelove. What makes this different is the kind of funny that it is. The laughs aren't usually 'laugh out loud' funny, but funny in that "this is all too real and we were often on the brink of total annihilation and that's not funny" funny. Which is hilarious.

The idea of Peter Sellers playing three roles in this film was not Kubrick's idea. In fact the condition was forced by the studio to have Sellers play four parts including Major 'King' Kong, finally played by Slim Pickens. Yes, the multiple roles played by Peter Sellers did enhance the film.

Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Depending on the breaks.  - General "Buck" Turgidson

Simply put, when one man kicks a full scale nuclear assault into high gear without authorization, the men in charge scramble to undo the deed. Of course, Russia reveals all too late that their 'mutually-assured destruction doomsday device' would retaliate should they be attacked. The press conference declaring the existence of this device was, of course, planned for next Monday... Funny, see?

The only regrettable thing about Dr. Strangelove is that the end is one of those that everyone knows about before going in. As we were sitting there, in the bunker, waiting for the film to start, we overheard twice someone mention how great the ending where [SPOILER] happens is. As with Citizen Kane, if you don't know how it ends, rent it rather than seeing it at the theater, because someone's bound to blurt out how Darth Vader is Luke's father... I really hope you knew that already...

"You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"
"You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 84% (Odd, But Lovable)

Above all things, I walked away with the knowledge that man is all too human: fallible, poor in foresight, selfish, sexually-driven, macho, insane, cowardly and blind. Having the biggest gun just makes you the funniest, but in the "that's-not-funny" kind of funny that's all too funny.

Also, if you ever get to see The Passion of Joan of Arc in a church with a choir and organist, a Cold-War film 70 feet underground in a bunker, or even Top Gun in an airport hangar, do it, it's all the better story for your friends.

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