Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Reviews
The film concerns the fallout from General Jack D. Ripper, Sterling Hayden, choosing to launch a nuclear attack on Russia without warning his military superiors or the Government. The majority of the film is then spent with the President, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, Dr. Strangelove, all Peter Sellers, and General Buck Turgidson, George C. Scott, as they attempt to stop those on the aircraft holding the nuclear weapons from deploying them. Onboard the aircraft Major T.J Kong struggles to make a decision with the mixed signals he is receiving leading to a supposedly darkly hilarious final shot.
Firstly I have to admit that I have a problem with the film's star Peter Sellers. I have never found his slapstick style particularly funny in films like Only Two Can Play (1962) and his "I'm a comedic actor giving a dramatic performance" role in Being There (1979) just irked me. I think he is awful in the eponymous role of Dr. Strangelove, his German accent and failure to keep in his Nazi tendencies didn't elicit any laughter from me and it all seemed like something you would find on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. His American accent as the President slips to reveal that he is British, he is perfectly acceptable in this role but not particularly funny and after the shock of him playing multiple roles wears off we spend an awful lot of time with a performer that I feel no particular affection for. This is considered his signature film though and his portrayal of Dr. Strangelove with his reflective glasses is highly praised.
George C. Scott is an actor whose performances I have enjoyed in Petulia (1968) and Jane Eyre (1970) but here he gives a performance reminiscent of Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds (2009), this film probably inspired Pitt, another performance that I think is just bad acting instead of being an entertaining pastiche. His relationship with his secretary could have created some interesting comedic material but it all felt like the same old tired jokes about unprofessionalism and two immature dummies being in a relationship. The character makes the crucial mistake that drives plot but he never feels like the center of the film as we spend so much of our time with an array of Peter Sellers characters and Slim Pickens, who is giving one of the few good performances in the film.
Slapstick humor is meant to be the primary source of laughter throughout with Sellers' struggling to hold himself back from performing a Nazi salute and the various political figures in the war room having physical scraps over the conflict at hand. Maybe this killed at the time with this style of comedy being more popular with mainstream audiences but with my modern comedic sensibilities I found it very difficult to enjoy a style of comedy I saw as outdated and it failed to make me crack up the way it did my Father, who was alive and well in the 1960s and appreciates modern slapstick like Dumb and Dumber (1994).
I would not recommend this film but it's part of the Kubrick filmography so it is considered a classic no matter what it's actual quality is. I know that this emotionally affected many audiences and is seen as intellectually brilliant by most critics. Maybe I will get it when I am older and all of the commentary about cold-war era politics will have me cracking up and terrified in equal measure because I will have better knowledge of the tense situation that it is commenting upon. Maybe in ten or fifteen years I will re-watch this this and realize I got this totally wrong but for now I will not be watching this film again.
I can't justify what anyone could see in this film because it is really boring. Why the plot just stops when the planes get in the air and there is no more action is anyone's guess at this point.
This one will put you to sleep if you try watching the whole thing. It a clear demonstration of why television is a better medium than film because so many films are garbage, and you can always turn the garbage TV shows off.
It was very difficult to find good films in the 1960s, something that could not be said about Hollywood's Golden Age of the 30s and 40s.
Stanley Kubrick tried his hand at a dark comedy with Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) with hilarious results. This movie is filled with military nonsense jargon and political hyperbole that kept me constantly laughing.
Kubrick's direction is immaculate as ever with his long steady panning shots as characters walk towards the camera or down a hall. While his few close ups reveal astonishment or fear, the majority of Dr. Strangelove is shot with far wide shots and aerial viewpoints to demonstrate the enormity and insanity of the situation when you step back and look at it all. Kubrick uses many clever tricks to keep all three roles of Peter Sellers off screen from one another with very effective results. His experimental and sleek style made Kubrick's films a pleasure to watch and Dr. Strangelove is no exception.
The script from Kubrick is stuffed with the manic reactions and hysteria that nationalism brews in a sweet drink to choke on while you giggle away. Dr. Strangelove takes on nationalism, pride, command, stupidity, rank, power, and consequence with a grim sense of humor and an explosive finale. You have to see it to believe it.
The acting within Dr. Strangelove is even more fun than the silly script. Peter Sellers plays 3 separate men with 3 unique accents, namely: English, American, and German. Sellers brilliantly portrays Group Captain Lionel Mandrake as a shy, stuffy, and cowardly man of meek will and ridiculously calm demeanor giving his poor situation. Sellers mastered the art of pretending to be relaxed. while his character goes through some impressive mental gymnastics trying to reason with a madman. It's absolutely delightful to watch Sellers as Mandrake. Similarly, Sellers plays fictional American President Merkin Muffley as stern, thoughtful, and fastidious to the point of hilarity. His overly hurt tone is so funny to listen as he tries to comprehend the situation at hand. Lastly, Dr. Strangelove is Sellers going nuts as an ex-Nazi scientist with a lisp and an uncontrollable fascist hand. It's as funny as it sounds. Sellers makes the movie, but he is joined in good company.
Speaking of which, George C. Scott gives the funniest performance of his otherwise serious acting career. He displays fervent warmongering and manic desperation as he chews gum and give advice. Scott is so passionate and hysteric, his acting is all the more believable. He is probably my favorite role in Dr. Strangelove as Scott is essentially parodying his most character type in his other films as the commanding angry commander. George C. Scott is just hilarious as General Buck Turgidson.
Finally, I must mention the furious insanity and raving lunacy in the very funny role from Sterling Hayden as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper. Hayden starts out calm and collected issuing his mad orders with a presence of total confidence. As Dr. Strangelove goes on, Hayden perfectly demonstrates Ripper's obsession with conspiracy and paranoia over Communists with a nervous haze and a vigorous zeal. His speeches are both concerning and hilarious. He just keeps on ranting about Communists with such passion and fervor with no basis in anything he says that Dr. Strangelove just keeps getting funnier as you watch.
The madness will get to you eventually as Dr. Strangelove is one of the few comedies that is not only amusing, but also a brilliant display of filmmaking from Kubrick. Give it a watch if you can get your hands on The Criterion Collection restoration.