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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Dr. Strangelove

the hot-line suspense comedy

Directed by:

Stanley Kubrick

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

US Certificate: GP UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

Whether you love or loathe the films of Stanley Kubrick, you’ve got to hand it to the man – he certainly Whether you love or loathe the films of Stanley Kubrick, you’ve got to hand it to the man – he certainly wasn’t afraid of trying his hand at different genres. You want sci-fi? You’ve got it with ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. An epic? Check out ‘Spartacus’. Horror? The Shining. War drama? ‘Full Metal Jacket’. Or perhaps you’re just after a bit of good ol’ violence? Well look no further than A Clockwork Orange.

But it’s comedy that’s often the hardest genre to get right. Anyone can make people feel fear, or contempt, or tension, or sadness – but making your audience laugh is another matter entirely. ‘Dr Strangelove’ may not be Kubrick’s most eye-catching film from a purely directorial point of view, but it is the film with which he proves he can rise to the challenge of making a genuinely hilarious comedy. For that reason, this is arguably his finest hour-and-a-half.

Based on Peter George’s novel ‘Red Alert’ (which wasn’t actually a comedy story), it’s the tale of an American General (Sterling Hayden) who decides to exploit a loop-hole in the military chain of command to launch a nuclear strike on Russia. You see, he’s as mad as a lorry, and has convinced himself that the Commie swines have contaminated the whole of the right-thinking world’s water supply. So, with the planes beyond the point of no return and “the Rooskies” promising swift retaliation, it’s up to the President and his posse of advisers to do some seriously quick thinking.

Aside from the accomplishment of Kubrick in piecing together such a fine slice of satire, the film’s also memorable for the inch-perfect comic delivery of star-man Peter Sellers. Of course Sellers made a habit throughout his career of popping up in films as multiple characters, and ‘Dr Strangelove’ is no exception. As well as playing the title character (a wheelchair-bound Nazi who, strangely, appears in only a couple of scenes), he fills the shoes of President Muffley AND Captain Mandrake, the English RAF toff intent on saving the day with as stiff an upper-lip as possible. In fact, he was also originally supposed to play the part of Major “King” Kong, but broke his leg after filming his first three parts and had to hand over the reigns of that one to Slim Pickens.

This is an intelligent film with lots to say if you’re prepared to listen. It’s a jab at Cold War politics, the US military, and Government in general. But, perhaps even more importantly than that, it’s silly and it’s funny – so agree with its message or not, you shouldn’t take it too seriously.

It's Got: A mechanical arm that just won’t lie down.

It Needs: A few extra scenes for the Doc? He does have his name in the title, after all!!

DVD Extras A couple of featurettes (one behind-the-scenes of the film, the other looking at ‘The Art of Stanley Kubrick’), an interview with stars Peter Sellers and George C. Scott), a theatrical trailer, press kit, and flimographies. It’s an impressive collection of extras when you consider how old the film is. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Catch-22, Fail-Safe, Full Metal Jacket, M*A*S*H, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

Summary

You’d never think impending nuclear disaster could be so much fun!

Image Gallery

Dr. Strangelove - DVD Cover (UK) click for full size image Dr. Strangelove - DVD Cover (US) click for full size image Dr. Strangelove - Special Edition DVD Cover (US) click for full size image Dr. Strangelove - Movie Still (Peter Sellars) click for full size image Dr. Strangelove - Columbia Pictures Original Poster click for full size image Dr. Strangelove - Movie Still (Slim Pickens) click for full size image
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