A review of the newly re-released 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb” – to use its full title – was directed. co-produced and co-written by Stanely Kubrick with the other writing credits going to the author of the book on which it was based (“Red Alert” by Peter George) and noted satirist Terry Southern.

Coming so soon after the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, this black and white film was a brave piece of dark comedy that was commercially very successful in spite of military and right-wing critics. It is quite a wordy work but there are some wonderful lines including the injunction: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight here. This is the war Room”.

It posits a scenario in which all-out nuclear war is unleashed by some crazy individuals, sophisticated technology, and unfortunate occurrences. Following the success of “Lolita” in which Peter Sellers’ character assumes several identities, Colombia Pictures agreed to finance “Dr. Strangelove on the condition that this formula was repeated, so here the brilliant Sellers plays the British RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, the bland American President Merkin Muffley, and the mad German scientist Dr. Strangelove.

Other stand-out performances come from ex-communist Sterling Hayden as General Jack Ripper, George C. Scott as General ‘Buck’ Turgidson, and Slim Pickens as bomber pilot Major ‘King’ Kong, each of whom wishes to eliminate the Soviets. 

Another strength of the movie is the set of the War Room, a huge artifice designed by Ken Adam, fresh from his work of “Dr, No”.

An inevitable weakness of the film is representations of the B-52 bomber since the U.S. military was clearly not going to provide the sort of access and cooperation that it did for the 1955 work “Strategic Air Command”, so Kubrick was reduced to very obvious use of models although the cockpit scenes and crew procedures look and sound very convincing.


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