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