Review 9: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
I had planned to watch a documentary this week, but after all the more serious films I watched this week I thought I could use a break with a comedy. However, I decided to find a comedy that was well regarded and more than just a funny film, but one that contained strong direction and cinematography as well. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (even the title is cleary comedic) seemed like a great pick as Stanley Kubrick tries his hand at comedy. This film has an 8.5 out of 10 stars on IMDB and 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I didn’t know much about the film until I started watching it. Set at the beginning of the communist threat, General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) takes it upon himself to get rid of the threat via nuclear strikes. The threat heightens as it is revealed that if a nuclear attack occurs on Russia, that a doomsday device will trigger wiping out all human and animal life on earth. This dark topic is set with comedic characters hitting on some archetypes pretty hard.
Peter Sellers is the highlight of the film and really brings in most of the comedy. He is on triple duty playing the president, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, and, the title character, Dr. Strangelove. His on screen performance, especially since Dr. Strangelove is always speaking with the president, is hilarious and a clinic in comedic acting. I’m avoiding going into spoilers, even though this film is from 1964, but my favorite aspect his Dr. Strangelove fighting with his mysteriously gloved hand. It reminded me of Evil Dead II and Bruce Campbell’s struggled with his possessed hand.
I was honestly distracted for the first twenty minutes of the film, but I did find myself pulled in by Sellers performance. The revelation that I was looking at a young, thin James Earl Jones was also a bit of a shocker. In my head, he has always looked as he did in the Sandlot. Whenever I pictured him working on Star Wars, I had just pictured the same man who had entered my memory in my favorite baseball movie.
One interesting bit that was played out multiple times was that of one-sided telephone conversations. The film has one early and uses it at least three other times where we are only able to hear the person on our end of the telephone. The conversation is relayed to us in a variety of ways, but the side of the conversation we hear is quite comical. Even though all of the references aren’t clear to me, the film is still very accessible to today’s audience. I think I’ll revisit this film at some point so my rating may change, but as of now, it’s a solid 6 stars out of 10.