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Dr.Strangelove - Movie Review

Dr.Strangelove is a politically significant film even today, 42 years after it's release. The plot is quite light and the execeution so energetic that there is a chance you might actually take it on the face value and laugh at the comedy and go to sleep, that is, in case you aren't aware of the what some of the key decision-makers say in front of the camera today, like Trent Lott or George Bush, for example. The movie strikes a chord considering the current international political stage because it is all the more relevant with every country trying to gather nuclear technology and their leaders either appearing clueless or making outrageous statements in times of crisis.

A deranged US airforce commander, Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden), orders B-52 bombers under his control to strike their assigned targets in U.S.S.R. Though, usually only the highest in the chain, the President of the US has access to the nuclear codes, there is a 'Plan R', which authorizes officials in the lower rung to order a nuclear attack (deterrence). When this is brought to the attention of the Defense General Turgidson (George Scott), he appears, hmmm... I can't find the right word, may be 'smug', 'complacent' and 'optimistic' or a combination of these words. When the President (Peter Sellers) is informed of the bizarre proceedings he convenes a high level meeting, every effort is made to stop those planes from reaching their targets.

What happens in the war-room, as the meeting place is called, provides the crux of the commentary on politics. We expect diplomacy and statesmanship, but neither is found. Arrogance and ignorace rule the meeting. At one point, Turgidson says "(with such an attack) we might actually catch them with their pants down". The presence of the Soviet ambassador makes it all the more funny. When he mentions that the Soviet Union is competent and is not below the US in any category, he says: "the arms race, the space race, the peace race". Well, if it's going to be peace, then they want to be the first in giving the common man a chance to live in peace and claim credit for offering peace.

There is a certain amount of thrill as the plot unravels - all but one of the bombers are recalled. And the quality of comedy is such that the humour borders on suspense that you'd want to know what happens next and at the same time you'd want the situation to remain inert for some more time as it offers the foundation for funny moments. The lone bird which flies low to avoid the eyes of radar after being damaged by a missile finally finds it's target, an ICBM station, and drops a hydrogen bomb and along with it it's captain (which is an unforgettable scene and is a part of many classic montages). The climax, which is bizarre and difficult to paraphrase, results in a potential end to humanity where the leaders plan to construct a mine under ocean to transport the best brains - needless to say, the brains includes those in the war-room.

Beginning with the names of characters (Jack Ripper, Faceman, Kissoff, Turgidson,.... ) Kubrick targets political and military figures on both sides of Atlantic without mercy. Peter Sellers, who donned three roles has crafted each role to perfection. There is fine control in his performances as the President trying to be sane, as captain Mandrake (assistant to Com.Jack Ripper) trying to getting the recall code for the bombers to the Pentagon and an intellectual lunactic (oxymoroic, yet that's the best word to describe him) Dr.Strangelove. George Scott, who keeps contorting his face, trips over, raises his voice to high pitch and remains silent when asked a question offers genuine funny moments. In the middle of serious discussions, he chats with his secretary girl friend and wishes to finish off the Soviet at the cost of 20 million American citizens.

In his long and illustrious career, Stanley Kubrick didn't make another comedy. For a taskmaster with a bleak outlook on the future of humanity, he should have thought that this one movie must be enough towards his contribution for the 'satire' category... and as history has proved, Dr.Strangelove is still discussed in film classes, movie clubs and figures in many lists. The nations that are seen as potential threats to disrupt peace and the power of nuclear weapons have increased manifold, but the leaders (U.S, Iran, N.Korea) continue to amaze us with empty rhetorics. It's a sad fact that this movie is politically very relevant today - one can only hope that the relevance decreases in the coming years. But as a work of art Dr.Strangelove sparkles with dry wit dialogues and memorable performances and will continue to occupy it's lofty spot on the list of comedy classics.

1 Responses to “Dr.Strangelove - Movie Review”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I like that movie too...especially the closing scene where many nuclear bombs explode with mushroom clouds everywhere and a song in the background as a requiem on humanity's last moments...

    in 1964, when cold war was at it's peak, this movie was a bold move...when i watched it on DVD, I watched the Extra Features and it mentioned how there was a spelling mistake in the name of one of the crew members in the credit-roll and how Kubrick, with that eye for perfection, caught it...then I double-checked if it was infact there when the credits roll and it was there, ofcourse... :-)

    It seems that Kubrick also remarked during the making of the movie how technological advances kind of sexed up the the sense that more scientifically advanced products seemed to resemble genitals etc.. For example, an aeroplane or a missile or a tube train was always phallus-shaped, thanks to stream-lining aerodynamics...

    the movie was very entertaining...and the pants-down language that the general uses may have been shocking in 1964 but in hindsight, with the aura of perfection in political leaders dissolved these days, it does appear plausible...

    A great movie....


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