Film Review: IMDBinge - Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Catherine's 2016 Challenge - watch all 250 of IMDb's top rated films. Today she reviews the dark comedy, Dr Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, now currently no. 50 on the list.
For me, the most recognisable reference to Stanley Kubrick’s dark war comedy appeared in The Simpsons episode ‘Homer the Vigilante’ in 1994. This was Homer's daydream about riding an atomic bomb down on some bongo-playing hippies in a similar manner that we see Major ‘King’ Kong riding to his gory end in Dr. Strangelove, whooping and ye-hawing the same way Homer did thirty years later. The image popped into my head as soon as I saw Kong mount the bomb wearing his cowboy hat. It struck me then not just how good The Simpsons is at sneaking in references, but how influential this black and white comedy really is.
The film revolves around the insane plot of the aptly named General Jack D. Ripper, who orders his men to drop nuclear bombs on Russian targets completely on his own whim, barricading himself in his base and refusing to listen to reason. The only person in the vicinity to dissuade him is his Captain, Lionel Mandrake, played by the often-hailed greatest ever comedian, Peter Sellers. Apparently not satisfied with only one role in Kubrick’s comedy, Sellers also appears in the contrasting scenes set in the pentagon, playing both president Merkin Muffley and the mysterious Dr. Strangelove (I kid, it was actually the studio who wanted him to do it as he had done so in a number of other films to great humour).
Despite having the title role, Dr Strangelove only really speaks up towards the end and is a comedic caricature that I’m not sure I fully understood, although having read a little it is evident that the character is steeped in film history references that my under-educated eye failed to spot. He is a wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi scientist who lacks motor control of one of his hands, which appears to want desperately to raise itself into the position of the Nazi salute, and at the same time the doctor has a hard time from refraining from calling the president ‘Mein Fuhrer’. When I went to the IMDb boards after watching this film, which I often do after a viewing, I found such threads as those entitled ‘Did you laugh?’, ‘How is this movie funny?’ and ‘Kubrick = Bad LSD Trip’. It is often the case that when we’re watching films from before our time, certain things go over our heads but I found a lot of things in this film both funny and poignant. The famous line spoken by the president, ‘Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here! This is the War Room’ is as funny and chilling now as it must have been back then. We still find the gross hypocrisy of our leaders hilarious, despite the dark overtones. With performances to die for, including a very young and slender James Earl Jones, this one is definitely worth checking out, if not for the political nuances, then at least for a few laughs.
Dr Strangelove is currently available to watch on Netflix.