Sunday, September 2, 2007

Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb


Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Satire, UK, 1964; D: Stanley Kubrick, S: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones

Crazy US General Ripper hates the Communists and the Soviet Union. Suddenly, he barricades his military base and orders a fleet of war planes to bomb the USSR with nuclear bombs, which shocks his assistant Mandrake. The president of the US, Muffley, orders the soldiers to capture the base and Ripper while he contacts Dimitri, the premier of USSR. But Dimitri reveals to Muffley that the USSR has invented a doomsday machine that will activate if any bomb falls on it's territory, creating an even bigger pressure. Ripper commits suicide but Mandrake manages to call the fleet off. But one war plane didn't get the message and drops an Atom bomb on USSR. The doomsday machine destroys the world while Dr. Strangelove leaves with the president into a bunker in order to attack the surviving Russians.

Stanley Kubrick once again pushed the envelope with "Dr. Strangelove", his only comedy, a biting satire on the madness of paranoia and militarism and the ultimate consequence they can unleash, in this case the end of the world. The movie was nominated for 4 Oscars (best picture, director, screenplay, actor Peter Sellers) and won a BAFTA for best film, which only strengthened the cult status of this ambitious grotesque, even though it's at moments a little bit too dreadful to be funny at all. In the opening credits, a "disclaimer" pops up on the screen stating that the story is fictional and how "The real governments of the world would prevent this kind of scenario", but Kubrick elaborately creates the antagonism between the USSR and the USA, with recognizable allusions to the Cold War and the Cuban crisis, and the bitter details (drunk prime minister of the USSR) only display the doomsday finale as something critical.

Sellers is excellent and plays not one, but actually three roles - the bald president Muffley, clumsy Group Captain Mandrake and the bizarre ex-Nazi Dr. Strangelove who can't control his right hand, and who is actually a supporting character. Among the crazy scenes that exchange a childish and serious dark tone is the one where the US president calls the Soviet prime minster and informs him that an American General lost his mind and ordered the nuclear bombing of the USSR and tries to calm him down and persuade him to not counter attack the US; a war plane flying only a few fet above the ground to avoid getting noticed on the radar or the legendary scene where Slim Picken's character is riding on an Atom bomb slowly falling to the ground while madly cheering. "Dr. Strangelove" is a real Kubrick film, from the unusual visual style, gorgeous black and white cinematography and misanthropic view on mankind that kept the caveman aggression despite all technological progress. But it's still a little bit too cold and occasionally unfunny to turn into a real masterwork.

Grade:+++

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