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

Dr. Strangelove

  • Absurdist and farcical, Dr. Strangelove remains an effective satire.
  • Mostly because it is still remarkably funny. Consider: General Buck Turgidson’s (a terrific George C. Scott) endless supply of chewing gum; General Jack D. Ripper’s (an even better Sterling Hayden) bodily fluids conspiracy; the doomsday machine;  Soviet Premier’s Kisov’s drunkeness; a mineshaft gap; Major Kong (Slim Pickens) riding a nuclear missile; and so many more examples.
  • Not the least of which is Peter Sellers’ three performances. The comedian is scene-stealingly good in all three roles (President Muffley, Captain Mandrake and Dr. Strangelove), so good, in fact, that he delivers many of the film’s best moments.
  • Writer/director Stanley Kubrick also shines, especially in the script he co-wrote with Terry Southern and Peter George. Their comedic timing is terrific, outpaced only by their sense of satire. The three writers accentuate the stupidity of the arms race and the impossibility of nuclear destruction. It would have taken this many people being this stupid, which is exactly why it never happened.
  • Kubrick’s sets are equally exceptional, including but not lmited to Captain Kong’s plane and the Pentagon war room.
  • Dr. Strangelove is so funny that its undeveloped characters never reduce its effectiveness.
  • Indeed, when it was first made, the film would have been flawless.
  • Now it is slightly less resonant, but only because the current world is different from that of the early 1960s. The Cold War is over, and so nuclear bomb induced anxiety is not problematic anymore. Modern audiences, then, can laugh at Dr. Strangelove as an historical relic, but it will not impact us as much as it must have effected 1960s viewers.
  • Final Grade: A-

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

  1. Brilliant stuff from Kubrick – a pure cinematic genius. I can’t decide which one of his great films is the best but Dr. Strangelove is right up there.

      • Strangelove, 2001, Shining and A Clockwork Orange all vying for top honors. I think you’re right though – 2001 was a game-changer; even after all these years it looks fresh.

      • Amen on that last point.

        I will give you that A Clockwork Orange and The Shining are both remarkably well made, but as I say in my review if 2001, I don’t like either, really. I think them evidence of Kubrick’s genius, without question, but they are not re-watchably entertaining the way 2001 and Strangelove are.

  2. Interesting eh? Comedy that stands the test of time! In other news, that poster kills many of the posters for the current day. I do not understand how that it is. We have *crappy* posters yet the old films get all the awesome ones….

    • Older movies certainly do have their share of awesome posters. Although I don’t know if this particular one was part of the original release or it’s fan produced. I just found it on Google Images.

      And yeah. This one still works very well. Have you seen it?

      • Fair enough! The fans usually create superior ones even in the current day!

        Nope! My viewing of movies in the 50’s is quite…..non-existent. Godzilla is the only one that I can list off the top of my head.

      • I have always had a similar experience. I see so many recent movies that anything before 1980 just didn’t happen. I’ve only recently decided I should change that. 🙂

  3. Great pick man, I can’t believe I still have yet to watch this. I have several close friends here that quote it on a regular basis, and I just can’t wait to join in on that fun. Everything I’ve heard about Strangelove is super positive. An A- grade on here is a VERY good sign, consistent with all other hype. And I did a double-take when I saw that Kubrick directed this. Had no idea comedy was in his repertoire.

    • I didn’t know Kubrick was capable of such comedy either, until I out the disc in the player (one of my friend’s loaned me the movie. As per out habit, we didn’t discuss it before he handed it to me – we talk after I’ve seen it). 🙂

      And I have to say Kubrick does comedy unbelievably well, so well that this would be an A+ if the Cold War were still ongoing. Other than being dated, it’s flawless.

  4. The Cold War may be over, but the threat of attack in this Post 9/11 world is just as imminent. Although the players may have changed the game is still being played. I think the satire is even more relevant today.

    I agree the script really shines. It is a bit talky but for those who are prepared for verbose monologues, they will be rewarded.

    • Amen on the script.

      I take your point on potential attacks against nuclear powers. Attacks from terrorist groups and the like. The difference is in retaliatory strikes. There are no longer two superpowers on the verge of destroying the world, because current attacks don’t have quite so obvious a source. The current wars are more nebulous, which means possible retaliatory strikes have less obvious targets. Therein, I think, is why we’re no longer running to bomb shelters semi-frequently, like folks were back in the ’60s.

      Obviously, it’s a small disagreement, though. I think this flick darn exceptional.

  5. Kubrick is one of my favourite auteurs if not my all time favourite! I remember seeing this a thinking it was great, one I need to see again! Great review and glad you enjoyed!

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