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Saturday, May 14, 2011
Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), unintelligently orders the first nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), Ripper's executive officer, follows his orders, but once realizing the mistake he has made Mandrake tries to convince Ripper to give him the three-letter code to tell the bombers to back off of the mission. Meanwhile, in the "war room" General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) is explaining to President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) about Ripper's ill-advised decision, while they are coming up with a plan to stop the bombing. Muffley then sends troops to attack Ripper and try and get the three-letter code from him, and then he calls on Soviet ambassador, Alexei De Sadeski (Peter Bull) who contacts the Soviets to help them shoot the bombers down. But the ambassador has a secret that must be revealed, if the Soviet Union is bombed a doomsday device will be set off, destroying all life on Earth.
Dr. Strangelove is one of those gems that a movie buff like myself rarely ever comes across while watching films. Stanley Kubrick makes this film achieve on two entirely different levels, as a comedy that is sure to keep you laughing, and a movie that actually has a few interesting story elements as well. And of course the main reason this film works so well is obvious, the writing by Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George. We all know Kubrick as one of the greatest directors of all time, but something I have noticed recently is that his films succeed more so on the brilliant writing, rather than the direction. That is definitely the case with Dr. Strangelove. The script, and story, are absolutely fantastic. In my opinion, the film is more for older ages that lived during the time, but if you know your history I promise Dr. Strangelove will make you laugh. It is filled with unforgettable characters that are so uncommon to find on the screen in today's time. For starters, the character of Dr. Strangelove, who deserves to be on anyone's top film characters list, even though he does not have a big part. General Buck Turgidson was personally my favorite character, as he was perfectly written and amazingly funny. Dr. Strangelove is a film that works on many levels, characters and story are a few of them.
The acting was superb, enough said. This was only the third film I had ever seen of George C. Scott's, but after it I have now gained so much respect for him as an actor. He is incredibly over the top, so much that I even read Kubrick had to trick Scott into acting that way, forcing him to say he would never work with Kubrick again. And throughout the whole filming process the two never saw eye to eye, so they would always have their own chess matches, in which Kubrick would always end up being the winner. Peter Sellers, well what can I say? The man was going to play four parts, sprained his ankle, had to quit playing one of them and shorten his roles to only three, and what comes out of it? Indescribably perfect performances, completely and entirely deserving of his Oscar nomination. Sterling Hayden is an actor I am quite fond of, and the good news is well, he was great. All of the actors in the film were amazing, and I mustn't forget to mention Slim Pickens, who was straight up hilarious.
I may have said that the writing deserves more praise than the direction, but Kubrick's leadership and vision cannot go unnoticed in Dr. Strangelove. If you look up some of the movies he has made over his career, I think it is quite evident that the man had guts. I mean, some of the films he tries to accomplish, most notably this and 2001: A Space Odyssey, many directors would never even think of attempting. And if they did, they very likely would have failed in the process. I think it is safe to say Kubrick was an ambitious man, and his direction in Dr. Strangelove was undeniably Oscar worthy.
Overall, Dr. Strangelove is probably what I would consider to be the greatest comedy ever made, from what I have seen at least. It is lifted by unforgettable characters played by some of the best actors in the business, who do not disappoint. If someone came out and said they did not like this film, well maybe it was not their style, but coming from a very big film buff, for a regular viewing, I could not find a flaw in Dr. Strangelove.
Final Rating: 10/10