Archive for May 18th, 2008

What a long title.

Anyways, my mother, upon discovering that I was sitting down to watch Dr. Strangelove, promptly admonished me that I really needed to see Fail-Safe to get Dr. Strangelove one hundred percent, but I saw the remake with George Clooney and that’s what counts, so there.

I guess you could sum up Dr. Strangelove very appropriately with the phrase “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”.  (Thanks, John Lennon.)

A military commander gets all crazy-like and decides the Russians need to be eliminated during the heart of the Cold War and orders his bomber group to execute “Plan R” – a plan that will deploy thousands of megatons worth of nuclear bombs upon the unsuspecting Soviet Union.   As the insane Ripper comments, the President and Joint Chiefs will have no choice but “total commitment” since the planes are already at their fail-safe points.   What follows is a blackly humorous look at what exactly would happen if the bombs were on their way and there was no way – or sheer human idiocy prevented a way – to stop nuclear annihilation.

Peter Sellers is a major part of this movie.   Playing three characters (Dr. Strangelove, Captain Mandrake and President Muffley), Sellers did it before Eddie Murphy inexorably ruined it for the rest of us.   (Norbit should be considered a crime against humanity, Mr. Murphy, and you should be brought up in front of The Hague for it.  NO EXCUSE.   I say, sir, you are no Peter Sellers).

George C. Scott is outrageous as the uber-patriotic, Commie-hating General Turgidson but I think what most people remember is the iconic image of Slim Pickens riding the bomb down towards its intended target.

While the threat of nuclear holocaust looms over the world, the most powerful men in the world sit in the War Room and dream up plans.  Instead of doing anything proactive, they merely plot to be proactive and Dr. Strangelove is their guide, of sorts.   With every posed question, Dr. Strangelove has an exacting, rational plan devised to cover this sort of possibility, but the absurdist humor in the whole charade is that the formation of “Plan R” was to cover alternate possibilities of defending the United States against nuclear attack.   While the world comes closer and closer to complete destruction, the top men in the U.S. sit and plan, plan away.

Sellers is awesome in this movie.   Strangelove is creepy yet rational; President Muffley is a quiet voice of reason and Captain Mandrake is an uptight Englishman trying to do his best to recall the bomber units from their positions.    Scott’s no slouch either, as the bombastic General Turgidson is a war hawk in every sense of the word.

The dialogue itself has injected itself into pop culture quite nicely already — “Gentlemen, there is no fighting in the War Room!” — and Dr. Strangelove on a whole is a darkly funny look about the worst of what we can do to ourselves.

I feel a certain sort of tension with Stanley Kubrick.   I certainly don’t like all of his movies; some of them I find highly overrated, but then again, I think you don’t get much better than The Shining as far as direction and overall concept goes.   I’d add Dr. Strangelove in there to the mix with The Shining, as Kubrick does a masterful job with the scenes, especially those in the War Room.

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