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Comedy - Black

Dr Strangelove (1964)

Duration1h 35m
RatingsUK: A, USA: PG, 
Source of storyBased on a book “Red Alert” by Peter George
DirectorStanley Kubrick
Writers/ScriptStanley Kubrick, Terry Southern
StarringPeter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Tracy Reed,  
RatingsIMDb: 8.4 by 448,388 people.  Rotten Tomatoes: 98% by 91 critics.

Elevator Pitch: During the Cold War the fragile peace is maintained on the basis of mutual respect. The American have a fleet of B52 bombers circling the planet, always in the air, with nuclear weapons on board and preselected targets. Who knows what the Russians have although it is revealed that they have a Doomsday weapon which will destroy the surface of the earth if they are attacked. A renegade base commander imitates the attack on the Russians and the bombers can only be recalled if a secret code known only to him can be imitated. When he commits suicide it is touch and go whether the bombers will be stood down, particularly since one has had its comms systems destroyed.

Content: The base commander is obsessed with Essential Bodily Fluids and the general has a bikini clad girlfriend. The joint chiefs of staff meet in what we assume in the Pentagon, many uniform clad guys with phones. The president calls the Russian president which could have been a Bob Newhart sketch. The renegade base commander and his executive officer gradually descend into chaos as the base is attacked (by American troops). The bomber with the defective comms flies towards its target. There are nuclear explosions.

A View: Well, this outing has been feted everywhere. IMDb has it at No 70 in its Top Rated Movies and it was nominated for four Oscars. I remember seeing it at a cinema in Glasgow in 1964 and thought then that it was very funny. It was a real poke in the eye for the fairly problematic era the world was in, an irreverent approach. But today I’m not so sure. We have forgotten what it was like, well, most of us were not even born. Even so doubtless all film buffs will need to see to keep up with their Stanley Kubrick folio, but don’t expect to laugh out loud.

Additional info: The studio required Peter Sellers to act out multiple roles. In this case the Base Exec, the President and the eponymous Dr Strangelove.  Peter Sellers was paid over 50% of the film’s budget for his roles.  

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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