Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. This movie is officially classified as a Suspense Thriller. From mouths I don’t like to listen to, I’ve heard Stupid and Boring. For me, the words Witty and Masterpiece come to mind.
Before the movie even starts, a little disclaimer comes up, basically telling the viewer not to freak out over nuclear war breaking out because of the situation ahead. They claim that it could never happen, so just relax and have fun.
General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has just over exceeded his authority and ordered his air troops to drop nukes on Russia. His aid (Peter Sellers) must now figure out the three letter code to terminate the bombers mission. Meanwhile, the President (Sellers again) is meeting in the War Room and trying to explain over the phone to Russia’s president, who’s probably drunk, that what’s about to happen was just a silly mistake. Even if Russia was to understand, it will do no good, because they now have a Doomsday Device that will destroy all man kind!
Yes, this plot looks very grim, but the way it’s told is not. The film is full of colorful characters that brighten such a stark reality. General “Buck”(George C. Scott) gets a call from his secretary/mistress in the War Room is so fun to listen to and delivers some side splitting lines. You can’t help but giggle when the President is trying to apologize with the drunk Russian president. And let’s not forget the pilot of the B-52 who puts on his cowboy hat when they get the call to drop bombs.
The character who tops them all, is the titled Dr. Strangelove (Sellers yet again). He’s a paraplegic ex-Nazi scientist who helps explain the Doomsday Device and all its inconsistencies. Everything from the way he talks through his eerie grin to his involuntary Nazi salutes is fun and fascinating to watch. His shining moment is right at the very end, so don’t miss it.
There are thousands of things to praise about Dr. Strangelove. Among many awards, it’s ranked third in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest comedies. The music and image choices at both the beginning and end are legendary in the realms of dark comedy. Hilarious situations, like the pay phone and Coke machine, are so relevant they’ve actually raised concerns from the government. And the depiction of the War Room and its big board have become well known and recognizable throughout our culture.
Here are some fun things to look for throughout the movie. Many shots are cut away from characters, mostly when Dr. Strangelove is speaking, because everyone in the background was cracking up. Most of Sellers lines were improvised and Scott’s hilarious spill was done so well within character that Kubrick kept it in the film. Another fun thing to look for is a young James Earl Jones, making his film debut. Can you find him?
Dr. Strangelove is a movie everyone should see. It’s clean enough for kids and everyone will have something to laugh at. If you plan a party around it or turn it into a drinking game (I have heard some great stories) make sure you all stand up and sing along at the end.
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”
***To pick one favorite from ’64 is not right. Mary Poppins and Dr. Strangelove are so opposite and equally wonderful, what one lacks in the other brings forth. I’d like to call it a tie.***