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


There’s nothing funny about nuclear war. Unless you’re Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, and George C. Scott and then, okay, it’s hysterical. Director Stanley Kubrick opts this time for a darkly satirical and often menacing film about American politics and what happens when the wrong orders are put out that will eventually bring the world to its knees. When America’s officials retreat to “The War Room” to sort out this nagging problem, Buck Turgidson and President Merkin Muffley attempt to find a course of action that will please all parties.

Hell breaks loose when they learn that Russia may help incite the Nuclear winter by blowing itself up with its own Nuclear Device. A comedy dependent on its slew of performances, Kubrick elicits an often wacky and dark tone without ever really resorting his characters and actors to blatant comedy props. Characters like Jack Ripper and Buck aren’t so much funny in that they’re wacky, but in the notion that they’re insane, and are willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy their political goals in the face of world destruction.

It’s a rare and tough feat, but George C. Scott holds his own as the maniacal and gruff Buck Turgidson who is prepared to cut his losses, while frantically warning of Russian commie interference in America’s plans to prevent destruction. What ensues is President Merkin Muffley attempts to smooth things over with the Russians, while trying to calm down poor Dimitri. Kubrick instills a sense of contradictory atmosphere by painting the film in a stark black and white, which plays well against the rapid fire subtle jokes and clever dialogue that is shot from the characters at such a swift consistency, you really have to keep up with their double entendres, and utterly ridiculous solutions to the increasingly tense situations between the countries.

Often times, the battle in the war room involves Turgidson trying to win over Miffley, and Muffley trying to work around the ensuing destruction of civilization that is just around the corner. Peter Sellers is magnificent in a foursome performance, playing the most crucial roles in “Dr. Strangelove” as the crux of the premise, as well as the villains. Each performance from Sellers is seamless, and Sellers offers a variety of accents an mannerisms with each character he’s assigned to tackle. As Miffley, he’s an inept and monstrously moronic president who can barely manage to finish a conversation without stumbling, let alone keep the world from exploding.

As Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, he’s a barrage of laughs as a man who has to alert everyone that this invasion is not a drill, while the psychotic Jack Ripper traps him on the base. As the iconic Dr. Strangelove, Seller is a force of comic nature, who is sent to advise with Muffley about plans to bounce back from the Nuclear winter, and can barely restrain his idol hand that snaps, smacks, and bounces in to a Nazi salute without his knowledge. As the wheelchair bound Nazi scientist, Sellers is a madman of genius improve, and wonderful physical comedy, and dominates the duration of “Dr. Strangelove” with his menacing and incredibly maniacal scientist who may or may not have his own motives for his fuhrer aka President.

Kubrick builds on the hysteria of the American public, by picturing a world run and ruined by a group of men that can barely get together and form a cogent thought. All of which is centered on a wonderful iconic set of the secret “War Room” where all meetings are held, draped in pitch black along with talking heads, all of whom sit at a massive round table. In the end, most of what occurs is botched by an inept politician, a blood thirsty general, a hillbilly Jet pilot riding a bomb, and will likely be rebuilt in the image of the very communists we were horrified of then. Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” is a slick satire of the cold war, and one that succeeds in brilliantly lampooning the hands that guide the world. Decades later, “Dr. Strangelove” is a brilliant jab at the government, and one that captures the shocking ineptitude of hired hands of the military who are quick to pull the trigger in times of crises.