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Friday’s Favorite Flix – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

by | Aug 21, 2015

Dr. Strangelove

This week's Friday's Favorite Flix is the Columbia Pictures Corporation PG-rated film, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” This 1964 award winning (Writers Guild – Best Written American Comedy; New York Film Critics Circle – Best Director; Hugo Awards – Best Dramatic Presentation; BAFTA – Best British Art Direction, Best British Film and Best Film from any Source) film was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern and Peter George, based on the book, “Red Alert” by Peter George.

Released shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis (in 1962) and during the Cold War (from the 1940s to 1991), “Dr. Strangelove” takes on the very serious subject of nuclear holocaust and pokes fun at the political machine that controls it. Originally intended as a thriller, the film transformed into a dark comedy during production.

The film is both funny and terrifying at its core. It points out that we're just one lunatic away from total annihilation. That was true during the cold war and it's certainly true today during the war on terrorism. Knowing the theory of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction – coined by John von Neumann) goes a long way to understanding this movie.

Friday’s Favorite Flix are descriptions of those movies we love – We either own them or when channel surfing, we’ll stop when we find them and settle down to watch.

If you have a movie that you think should be in Friday’s Favorite Flix, let us know. We like discovering new favorites.

The Plot

U.S. Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper goes insane thinking that the enemy is poisoning his precious bodily fluids using fluoridation of the water supply. Because of this he launches a nuclear attack. It's then up to the U.S. President and his advisers to thwart the attack and to stop the deployment of a Soviet Union Doomsday Device.

The Cast and Characters

Peter Sellers gives incredible performances as three characters. As Dr. Strangelove, he plays a Nazi scientist that was brought over by the U.S. after World War II. This character is all about the slapstick. As Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, he plays a British exchange officer that must stop General Ripper (masterfully played straight by Sterling Hayden) in his mad attempt to destroy the Soviet Union. Finally, as President Merkin Muffley he plays the voice of reason character that tries to calm down all the loonies, both here and abroad.

Dr. Strangelove

George C. Scott gives his most over-the-top performance as General “Buck” Turgidson and it works. He's the war-monger in the group and can only see positives in letting the nuclear attack on the Soviet Union happen through to its grim conclusion.

Slim Pickens plays Major “King” Kong – A B-52 bomber pilot who gets the order to launch the attack and doesn't receive the recall order. Finally, there's Keenan Wynn as Col. “Bat” Guano, Peter Bull as Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky and James Earl Jones in his first film as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg.

All of the actors give remarkable performances. Others have said that for some of the actors, it was the best performances they've given before and since.

Dr. Strangelove

The Humor

“Dr. Strangelove” is filled with political satire and black humor – Some of it slapstick, but most of it subtle. An example of the subtle humor is the name of one of the key characters that Peter Sellers plays: President Merkin Muffley. There's nothing but subtle humor in that name. First, President Muffley is bald. Second, a “Merkin” is a pubic hair wig (if you didn't already know that was such a thing, now you do). Third is the last name: Muffley – A wordplay that is fairly obvious.

A second example would be the references to the Rand corporation and Herman Kahn who invented the concept of the Doomsday Machine in the early 1960s. In “Dr. Strangelove,” there's talk of a Soviet doomsday machine and the Bland corporation. Further, General Turgidson has a binder labeled “World Targets in Megadeaths.” “Megadeaths” was also a word invented by Herman Kahn.

These are just two of the many jokes you'll find throughout the movie – I didn't want to spoil it for you, so I picked out two of the really subtle jokes. You'll find a lot more, both subtle and in your face when you watch the film.

Conclusion

Along with all of the awards “Dr. Strangelove” garnered, it was also given many accolades from others in the industry:

Even discounting all of the awards and accolades, this movie stands up as a timeless classic that doesn't suffer from age when viewed decades later. Oh, and in case you ever find yourself in the Pentagon (President Ronald Reagan thought the war room was real because, after all, it was in a movie) – “Gentlemen you can't fight in here – this is the war room.”

Images by Sony Pictures


Steve Cooper

About Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper is an applications software developer who also builds custom home media solutions. His interests include reading, music & movies, guitar, woodworking and motor racing.
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