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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> August 2000 >> Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
August 2000
IMDB Name:
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Stanley Kubrick
MPAA Rating:

Kubrick Comedy?

As the story goes, Stanley Kubrick did not set out to create a comedy when he began writing Dr. Strangelove from a Peter George novel. He realized later that scenes were funny, and he discovered a new interpretation of the material. Kubrick gets a lot of mileage out of terrific performances and a situation so bizarre and yet so utterly believable. The humor is mostly understated, and the quiet desperation of the President and Group Captain Mandrake weigh against the soft- spoken madness of General Ripper and the overblown antics of General Turgidson in a most amusing way. The story shifts only infrequently between the threads of the story, leaving room to let scenes develop in that wonderful Kubrick style. This is additionally effective because the three threads are also sealed off from communicating with each other in the story. The black and white photography is also terrific, with frightening shots of Ripper and Turgidson delivering speeches in the wildest of lighting and angles. The War Room in the Pentagon is a spectacularly mood-inducing set with the ring of lights casting an eerie glow over the proceedings.

Crazy Cast

Dr. Strangelove puts Peter Sellers into three guises: one American, one British, and one German. As Group Captain Lionel T. Mandrake, he's the perfect English gentleman, doing everything in his power to keep his cool in the face of utter insanity of Sterling Hayden. Hayden's Jack D. Ripper is a chilling character who drones on about the evils of flouridation. As President Merkin Muffley, Sellers is all control again, but facing down a different threat entirely. That threat is the marvelous General Buck Turgidson, a man who gets a little carried away in his pride. George C. Scott has called Turgidson his favorite role, and I don't doubt that he had a blast making the movie. Seller's third role, as the title character, is possibly the least entertaining part of the movie. His attempts at physical humor leave a bit to be desired. I can't help but think about Kenneth Mars's similar but funnier schtick ten years later in Young Frankenstein.

And then there are the men on the plane. Slim Pickens was apparently never told that he was in a comedy, and his scenes play funnier because he's so sincere. The situation and the other two plot lines serve to recast his role in another light. As he demonstrated in Blazing Saddles a few years later, Pickens can do intentional comedy, too. James Earl Jones also puts in a small appearance as the bombardier. If you're not watching for him, you might not recognize him until near the end when he applies his trademark voice to an increasing amount of dialogue.

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Copyright 2000-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.