Saturday, March 28, 2009

85. 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 (1964)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

In what many critics may feel is an absolute shame, Dr. Strangelove is my first and only Stanley Kubrick film on my list. While I enjoy most of his films (The Shining and Paths of Glory especially), Dr. Strangelove is the only one that I have responded greatly to. Without denigrating any particular political parties, Dr. Strangelove is able to garner huge laughs as well as raise a few cautions by accurately satirizing the perilous situation when fallible human beings have access and control of nuclear arsenals.

Dr. Strangelove is odd in that Kubrick chose to film the story as if it were a straight military drama about the cold war (something akin to Fail Safe), while inhabiting that drama with some of the best military and political caricatures ever captured on film. The actors chosen to fill the roles of those caricatures deliver some of the best comedic performances I’ve ever seen.


Front and center is the great Peter Sellers who takes on three major roles in the film and knocks each one of them out of the park. Mandrake, the President, and Dr. Strangelove himself are all intricate performances full of tics, idiosyncrasies, hilarious accents, and great dialogue. Surprisingly though, it’s George C. Scott who steals the show for me.

Scott’s General “Buck” Turgidson is an absolute clown. There is no reason that a caricature this broad should work in a film that is shot so seriously, but due to Scott’s all-out performance (there is even a moment he tumbles to the ground like a vaudevillian actor), this character works perfectly. He’s my favorite character in the whole film and his back and forth dialogues with the president zing like an expertly written comedy routine from Abbot and Costello. Along with Sterling Hayden’s General “I deny them my essence” Ripper, I think these are the two most underrated aspects of the whole film.

As it will be with most of the comedy films on my list, the central reason for their inclusion on my list is that they make me laugh, moreso than your typical comedies. That the laughter comes from well-acted characters, great dialogue and hilarious set-ups differentiates it from your everyday sitcom laugh, and makes me not want to live without it.



4 comments:

8rent said...

What? No mention of a very young James Earl Jones in the bomber?

One of the very first movies I ever owned, Dr. Strangelove is just epic satire. In perspective, when I first saw The Godfather--far too late, in my opinion--and heard McCluskey's voice for the first time, I immediately shouted aloud, "It's Jack Ripper!"

Fluids. Classic.

Kyle Leaman said...

I didn't catch the Mclusky-Ripper connection until my last viewing of Strangelove (just a few days ago). I honestly think his line, "I don't deny myself women, but I do deny them my essence", should be just as popular as "Hasta La Vista" or "Rosebud". It really is that classic.

8rent said...

Are you telling me that this is your personal credo?

Kyle Leaman said...

Wow...game, point, match to Brent

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