Dr. Strangelove – Film Review

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Finally got to watch the classic Stanley Kubrick political satire/black comedy about that most hilarious subject, the global nuclear holocaust.

So, during the 60s Cold War, a demented US general Jack Ripper decides to bypass those pesky politicians, and launch an unauthorised attack on the no-good Commies who poison the American population’s bodily fluids by adding fluoride to the water supply. The whole film takes place in pretty much three locations: an office where Ripper is locked together with Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers), a horrified British liaison; the interior of the B-52 bomber on its way to drop some nukes; and the famous War Room, where the President of the United States (Sellers again) and his advisors frantically try to stop the impending nuclear wipeout, with the help of the Soviet ambassador and a former Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove (Sellers once again). The special effects of the plane “flying” over Russia are rather dated, but the War Room is honestly one of the most striking and iconic pieces of film set design, which most recently got a nod in Mathew Vaughn’s 60-s based X-Men: First Class.

I watched the making of documentary included in the extras afterwards, and incredibly this movie actually started out as completely straight and serious, before the writers turned it instead into a biting satire that finds the absurdity and humour in the most nightmarish and apocalyptic scenario, and the way a chain of seemingly logical decisions lead the humanity to a disastrous outcome. It’s a sort of comedy that elicits dry chuckles rather than laugh-out-loud reactions, but it’s undoubtedly filled with sharp writing and great comic performances. Peter Sellers’ triple turn is inspired, and Dr. Strangelove, who just can’t shake off his former Nazi habits, is a particularly grotesque creation. I had no idea that James Earl Jones was in the movie, and it was a bit disorienting to hear that instantly recognisable voice. If I closed my eyes, I’d be like, why does Darth Vader want to bomb the Soviet Union?

My only beef with the movie is, if Stanley Kubrick was such a total bloody-minded perfectionist, why is the Soviet ambassador’s “Russian” so godawful I could barely understand him when he supposedly speaks in his native tongue with the Soviet head of state? Alas, dodgy mangled Russian is everywhere, even in Stanley Kubrick movies.

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