The next big title in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book, as I return to the war genre, is this Kubrick classic. This war comedy, filmed shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis explored the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, and the holes within it to chilling and hilarious effect.
An insane general, Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is going to lead to complete nuclear destruction, unless a War Room filled with generals and a variety of political types can find a way to stop it.
The cast is amazing, with Peter Sellers leading with way, crafting three hilarious performances – RAF captain Lionel Mandrake, the U.S. president Merkin Muffley, and the titular Dr. Strangelove. He is joined by George C, Scott as General Turgidson, Slim Pickens as Major ‘King’ Kong, as well as James Earl Jones and Keenan Wynn.
Darkly funny, filled with bureaucratic and political catch-22s, this film is still entertaining, and more importantly, still incredibly relevant. The script is brilliant, and the performances are perfectly on point. Sellers is gold, and Scott goes toe to toe with him, and watching these two trade dialogue is something to see.
Ken Adam, who long worked on the Bond films, was the film’s production designer, and you can see his touch on everything, but none more so than the incredible War Room. It has that grander larger than life feel, while still being grounded in reality.
Scott practically chews the scenery as he overacts, and Sellers turns in three hilarious performances each one with a different comedic style. Slim Pickens, as the pilot of the B-52 that launches the missile, also has the most iconic image in the film – riding the nuclear bomb down to its destination, yelling and swinging his hat about.
Like most of Kubrick’s film there is an objective coldness to the subject he is shooting, but the performances are so perfectly cast, that not only are you drawn in to the film, but you can’t help but laugh at the gallows humour that seems to permeate the movie.
This film is a classic, and is another example of Kubrick’s profound ability as not only a storyteller but a filmmaker.
But through it all I can’t help but come back to the fantastic trio of performances Sellers turns in, and Scott just raving.
It’s of note that the loopholes that are exploited in the film that caused the launch of nuclear weapons, was, shortly after the film’s release, closed.
I love this one, and its a welcome addition to my collection. Kubrick, like Hitchcock was a master, and all of his film’s are worth the revisit.