For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!
Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” is the equivelent to an inappropriate joke- perceptive and scathing, funny, accurate- but you don’t know whether to laugh or hide. The ability to take subject matter like nuclear annihilation and the communist scare and present it in a darkly comic way makes this film what it is – a bit of a marvel in filmmaking. It was released in 1964- while the Cold War was still rolling on with momentum. It accepts the seemingly insane policies of the time and illustrates the absurd logic that results when arms policies based on fear are allowed to grow unchecked.
The story begins with General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) calling on Wing Attack Plan R, ordering the aircraft to attack their targets in the USSR. He places the military base on lockdown and orders a communication freeze. Major “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) flies his route near the border of Soviet Russia and when he receives his orders he prepares himself and his men for what they have to do. He trades in his flight helmet for a cowboy hat. Clearly a more appropriate choice for delivering a 40-megaton payload. With the planes and their nuclear payload on the way to their target, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), a visiting officer from the British Air Force, discovers the order to attack may have been made in error. He confronts Ripper, demanding the recall codes, and the true nature of Ripper’s intent unfolds. Ripper’s stone-faced recitation of his belief of a communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids is great- it is a stark and hilarious moment.
The President and his generals convene in the Pentagon war room to find a solution to the developing situation. General Turgidson (George C. Scott) suggests that an all out attack on the Soviet Union could be the best option. The President tries to get the Russian Premier on the phone. It is an overly polite and formal phone call- with the President referring to Ripper’s order to attack Russia with nuclear weapons as “a silly thing”. So funny. The final conflict arises when the Ambassador tells President Muffley of the Soviet Doomsday device. It would be triggered automatically when a U.S. nuclear strike occurs and would end all life on earth. Enter Dr. Strangelove.
The eccentric Strangelove discusses the Doomsday device with apparent glee. The string of absurd logic and implausible situations continues until the inevitable conclusion, which involves Kong riding the hydrogen bomb into its target. This film explores the ridiculous behavior of the Cold War politicians and military leaders- and is a bundle of laughs along the way.
In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns: