DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick
May Contain Spoilers!
Stanley Kubrick was smack dab in the middle between his director for hire gig, Spartacus (1960) and his tour de force 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Here, what began life as a more serious drama/thriller about cold war nuclear annihilation became the black comedy which we all know as Dr. Strangelove. Famous, for Slim Picken’s riding the bomb to his doom and Peter Sellars playing three parts, British exchange officer Mandrake, President Muffley and the eponymous Dr. Strangelove himself, this is truly one of the most witty and expertly executed satires of the cold war era, cutting deep into the heart of the matter, or the ludicrous concept of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction), the main deterrent of the cold war threat.
This threat is summed up here, with the fictitious “Doomsday Device”. This is a Russian device, which would rain down a nuclear storm across the globe in order to wipe out all life in the event of a U.S. nuclear strike on the U.S.S.R. The only problem is that this was designed to be the ultimate deterrent but they hadn’t told anyone about it yet so instead, due to the treasonous act of a rogue U.S. colonial, who has taken it upon his self to launch a strike on Russia, we have a doomsday device which cannot be stopped unless the U.S. B-52’s can be turned back.
The plot is clever, simple and complex in equal measure but its execution, though dated by today’s standards of comedy, is as sharp as they come. The performances from those besides the poly-role Sellars, who excels as all three of them, are pitch perfect. The B-52 crew which include the likes of Slim Pickens and James Earl Jones are played seriously, whilst George C. Scott is wonderful as the epitome of the American gung-ho attitude, or at least the international perception of it. But Scott in his prime plays this for both laughs and tears, as he delivers a real yet overblown performance.
It’s the style, tone and performances which rule this film and take it to the top-level of satire. This takes itself seriously enough to see the true humour of the devastatingly futile and stupid situation, focusing of the fine line between devastatingly effective weapons, the threat of using them and the good sense to be too afraid! But when the fail safes fail, you end up with armageddon with no reasonable or logical recourse. Dr. Strangelove tempers these very serious and, in the 1960’s, very REAL points with some well crafted comedy, at times, timed to perfection.
Outdated politics, but for those who like 60’s comedy and want to stop worrying about the bomb, then this is a must see.