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05 August 2011

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Full Title:
Dr Strangelove or: how I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Comedy,
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Its 1964, with the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in viewers' minds, the Cold War at its frostiest, and the hydrogen bomb relatively new and frightening, Stanley Kubrick dared to make a film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button. This film has guts and is pure comedy genius written by Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern. To support this terrific writing is the three performances from Peter Sellers, which to this day seem to be his best roles. To enjoy “Strangelove” you do not need to be a war genius, just as long as you know that it is the 60’s and people were scared witless by the hydrogen bomb. It is timelessly funny and has plenty of laughs for sure.

A US Air Force colonel goes completely mad and launches a nuclear attack on the USSR. Since the Soviets previously announced a "Failsafe" device that will launch all their missiles if there is an attack on their soil, this could mean that World War III will kick off. The US president and his generals try to stop the bomb. However, the ante is upped considerably when Soviet ambassador de Sadesky (Peter Bull) informs Muffley and his staff of the latest innovation in Soviet weapons technology: a "Doomsday Machine" that will destroy the entire world if the Russians are attacked.

I think Sellers was just amazing in the film. The three roles he plays in the film where just brilliant. First, we have him play the Air Force Base, Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake who is a typical Englishman who ends up locked in a room with Jack D. Ripper who is unknowing of what might happen. Then back in the war room, he plays the president Merkin Muffley, who has an encounter on the phone with the Russian Soviet Premier Dmitri. His performance was originally to be serious but turned out to have comedy into it. Some of the scenes still show the serious side of this character.
Sellers as Lionel Mandrake.
Sellers as Strangelove.
Third and definitely not least, is the titular character Dr. Strangelove. This wheel-chair using Nazi nutcase was the best performance in this film beside George C. Scott as Buck Turgidson. Strangelove is the scientific advisor of President Muffley and his character has some of the most memorable scenes from the film. In one scene, Strangelove's arm (with the gloved hand) seems to have a mind of its own and he uncontrollably (as if he had touretts syndrome) hails shouting, “Hail Mein furor!” Sellers performance was remarkable, memorable and most of all, hilarious.
The names of the characters are funny alone (thanks to the book I have on Kubrick that tells you the more unclear joking names). The obvious one is Jack D. Ripper, which comes from the famous Jack the Ripper. President Merkin Muffley is a genius name because Merkin means wig, and the president is bald. Muffley means pudendum meaning someone’s external genitals. Buck Turgidson’s name joke is the most outrageous. It means male deer, son with a turgid penis.

George C. Scott as General Ripper.
The acting flare from Sellers where amazing no doubt, but the rest of the cast did an excellent job too. George C. Scott was unbelievably funny as the gum-chewing Turgidson who seems to be a patriotic numbskull. Then we have Jack D. ripper who is a general gone nutty played beautifully by Sterling Heyden. He was completely nuts and how he would smoke that cigar with such a serious look on his face as he explained the communist’s fluoridation that seems to have made him impotent is too much to ask for from a comedy. It was fantastic.

“Strangelove” has some of the greatest film quotes of all time and they are all outrageous. First, you have the moment when Turgidson is wrestling around a little with the Russian ambassador and the president shouts, “Gentleman you can’t fight in here this is the war room!” That line is very simple to see why it is funny. A long, but hilarious quote is when the president is on the phone with Dmitri “Yes, I can hear you know Dmitri. Clear and plain and coming through fine. I'm coming through fine too, eh? Well then, as you say, we're both coming through fine. Good. Well, it is good that your fine, and that I'm fine. Oh, I agree with you, it’s great to be fine. (laughs)” Another quote, which is probably the most memorable is when Jack D Ripper is talking about his impotence and communists fluoridating as he says “Precious bodily fluids”. This quote sits among the greatest line of all time next to ones such as “Use the force Luke!” and “You talkin’ to me?”

In the film’s final moments, we have a scene where one of the pilot’s are sitting on a bomb and rides it as if it were a bull right down to the ground in a psychotically comic way. The film’s dark satirical humour is nothing less than brilliant and is probably a style that later satire films would aspire. The edgy fact that it's a joke they're getting away with gives it that dimension and as a daring comedy satire it is brilliant. In the black and white glory, it is filled with some of the finest comedy performances and a screenplay more than satisfying; “Strangelove” is a comedy film that will definitely not die out from fatigue.

My Rating: 9/10


  1. Awesome review. Great job. This is my favorite satire of all time, and my favorite Peter Sellers movie. But you should also check out Kubrick's Lolita.

  2. Love this movie. One of my all time favorites. I'm glad you liked it.



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