Whenever you think about all the groundbreaking and seminal works of film to have ever graced the screen that center around War, there are so many movies that immediately spring to mind. Some noteworthy examples include, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Saving Private Ryan. For today’s movie review, I’ll be talking about a film by Stanley Kubrick, A director who’s had a cinematic filmography spanning more than four decades, and a long-lasting influence that even continues on to this day. The film that I will be discussing with you today is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Dr. Strangelove is a dark comedy and political satire on the Cold War, and a loose adaption of Peter George’s nuclear war novel, Red Alert. This movie came out back in 1964, the questions of the negative environmental and sociological impacts that nuclear warfare would have on planet Earth, still loomed large in the minds of many individuals. To some viewers, this might seem like a bygone era since a couple of decades have passed since this perilous time in history had ended. But the fears that people had at the time when it comes to possible nuclear fallout and mass annihilation, is still an ongoing concern in the world that we live in today.
During the Cold War, there was a nuclear arms race going on between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both sides of this conflict held the idea and belief that if they stockpiled on a substantial amount of nuclear weaponry, the other side would be too petrified to even launch a calamitous attack due to the potentially irrevocable damages and repercussions that just one bomb can have on a society; it was more of a political squabble rather than a military one. On many levels, this notion that the U.S. and Soviet Union had was a robust idea. Since the opposing enemies were too worried about the downsides that would stem from their barbarous actions, the state of discord eventually ended in a mostly peaceful manner. In Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick humorously explored the scenario of what would happen if a war-hungry American general went berserk and decided to go ballistic on the opposition, even against the orders of the president of the United States.
Jack D. Ripper (played by Sterling Hayden), an Air Force Brigadier General, orders an offensive attack on Russia called “Plan R”. His trusty assistant, Captain Mandrake (played by Peter Sellers), tries to stop him from committing this atrocity since the president of the United States (also played by Peter Sellers *mind blown*) didn’t order for a bomb to be dropped on Russia, but is ultimately unsuccessful in dissuading the savage general. Jack D. Ripper justifies his attack against Russia by claiming that politicians aren’t suited to make war-related decisions when it matters most, and that Russia has been secretly contaminating United States’ water supply with fluoride, which he believes has ultimately polluted America’s “precious bodily fluids”. Those particular lines in my opinion definitely carry some sexual undertones or innuendo, but that’s certainly open for debate and discussion since I’m honestly not quite so sure of what to make of it. Maybe those words by Mr. Ripper might bear a completely different meaning and interpretation to you.
Another character that comes into the fray is General Turgidson (played by George C. Scott). Turgidson, gives dire news to the president in the “War Room” that Jack D. Ripper has acted on his own accord and ordered a bomb strike on Russia without anyone’s prior consent and approval. As you’d imagine, the president is not pleased. Peter Sellers executed this role (he plays 2 other roles in this movie, Captain Mandrake and Dr. Strangelove) brilliantly. Through the facial expressions and cadence of his voice, you totally get the impression that he’s absolutely livid and fuming with rage at the likely scenario that the U.S. would be potentially entering a dark period of strife and upheaval due to one stupid decision not approved by him. If this role had been played by a lesser actor, the performance would’ve felt phoned in and hollow. In addition, Sellers plays his other roles in the movie in an excellent manner. He’s loyal and trustworthy as Mandrake, and incredibly quirky and neurotic as Dr. Strangelove. If I hadn’t made myself clear in this review, Peter Sellers is a terrific and committed actor. Just portraying one character competently in any movie is hard enough, yet he’s able to pull off three without even breaking a sweat.
All in all, Dr. Strangelove is a terrific movie that I’d highly recommend. The entire cast acts phenomenally, which is led by the triple-threat performance of Peter Sellers. In addition, the themes and questions that arise from this film is just as relevant as it was when it first released. It satirically highlights the uncertainty that stems from dysfunctional political discourse, and deep-rooted terrors that people had throughout the Cold War and even think about in modern-day times and circumstances.