I think I first viewed “Dr. Strangelove” a few years ago. I remember finding it very funny and not frightening even in the least, even though we have been standing on thin ice at certain points in history regarding nuclear war. I actually find quite a bit of wisdom and humor in the movie, and maybe that’s a bit messed up, or perhaps it was because Stanley Kubrick obviously meant for the movie to be humorous. Not to mention, there is not an alternative way to see Peter Sellers in three roles, including the quirky, crippled German scientist named Dr. Strangelove. George C. Scott definitely played his quirkiest character throughout his career; Slim Pickens as a cowpoke of a fighter-pilot was classic. For example, Sterling Hayden infused his role as the psychotic air force general with a fetish for bodily fluids with deliciously crazed bravado. Kubrick and Terry Southern gave us characters with such improbable names as President Muffley, [Soviet] Prime Minister Kissoff, General Jack D. Ripper, Colonel Bat Guano and T.J. “King” Kong, telling us in no uncertain terms that this movie will not tolerate a serious moment.
The plot is pretty basic. A general (Sterling Hayden) who believes water fluoridation is a Russian scheme, orders an entire fleet of bombers to go forth and drop their bombs on the then-fearsome Soviet Union. Once his commanding officer (George C. Scott) finds out what has occurred he informs President Muffley (Peter Sellers) and the whole of the presidential “War Room.” They rush to discover the code to make the bombers retreat. In the meantime, Cpt. Mandrake (Sellers again), an English officer assigned to Ripper as part of a fictitious “officer exchange” program with the Royal Air Force, has noticed that Ripper has gone insane, and he, also, tries to get the code. Hanging over the heads of all the participants in this black comedy is a fabled “Doomsday Machine” – a secret device created by Soviet scientists that will destroy all life on planet earth if they are attacked.
Kubrick does an amazing job turning up the suspense, even for those of us who have seen the movie. I always find myself getting concerned for the people in the fighter plane (including Pickens and a pre-Darth Vader James Earl Jones), and for the unfortunate President Muffley and Cpt. Mandrake, who vainly try to do the moral thing. With the Doomsday Machine shadowing their future, it honestly does not make a difference if they are wonderful people or utterly mad or pure evil, however I am always chewing down my finger nails being concerned for their well-being nonetheless.
For a movie lampooning the stupidity of those sad souls who place exorbitant quantities of faith in machinery, “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” still fleshes out brilliant, satirical, and even sympathetic Vonegutian characters. It is satire on humanity. One guy and the machine he instigates can totally annihilate the Earth, however the nukes didn’t launch themselves, did they?
In order to celebrate this fantastic movie, you can don our World Jerseys Nuke ‘em cycling jersey and be glad that Dr. Strangelove was only a movie…so far. Cheers!