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Dr Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
Director: Stanley Kubrick

review by Steven Hampton

"After all, well, let's face it, we don't want to start a nuclear war unless we really have to, do we?" A magnificent comedy about stumbling headlong into WW3, Dr Strangelove challenges the profound and trite myths of Cold War tensions, and the attendant global terrorism of its MAD (mutually assured destruction) thinking and protocols. Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece of b&w cinema fairly rages against presidential eccentricity and skewers the psychotic misjudgements that lead to military mayhem. In its own way, this is arguably the greatest SF comedy movie yet produced.

Cigar-chomping General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden, Asphalt Jungle, Battle Taxi) explores a chilling pathology with an overwhelming paranoia of communism, and he exceeds his authority and does "a silly thing" - launching a pre-emptive strike against the USSR. There's childish fun with other characters' names like Turgidson, Kissoff, Guano, Kong, and Zogg, but such outright playfulness in a political and moral satire is notably off-set by the grim authenticity for scenes aboard long-range B-52 bomber planes. The highly distinctive voices of Slim Pickens (not his first rodeo!), and Shane Rimmer (later to be cast as Scott in puppet-show Thunderbirds), lend the warplane's bomber crew a memorable aspect.

While strategic national defence in the American secret War Room bunker is cleverly although impolitely undermined by slapstick farce, the US president and the Russian premier try to upstage each other in the 'sorry' stakes. Cobalt Thorium G in the Soviet Doomsday weapon jinxes any probability of victory or even a possibility of surrender. At the USAF base, where Ripper orders a lockdown, the inevitable gun-battle occurs around the SAC slogan-sign that reads: 'peace is our profession'.

Peter Sellers tackles three roles in this classic movie. First, he's Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, with RAF moustache in perfect trim and respectful attitude intact, even in the face of insanity. Then he calmly plays President Merkin Muffley, a stifled package of quivering neuroses as the US Commander-in-Chief: "Keep your feet on the ground when you're talking to me." Finally, and most iconic of all, Sellers portrays US import and Nazi caricature Dr Strangelove, a wheelchair-bound quasi-obsessive who rambles almost coherently with ultimately hilarious results. Throughout this picture, symbolic or archetypal characters are keenly exaggerated for absurdly comical effect, but it's no surprise that the manically twitchy Strangelove simply reigns supreme here.

The wealth of bonus material on this superb hi-def blu-ray disc (from the Criteron collection) includes: retrospective making-of documentary Inside Dr Strangelove (46 minutes), a package of interviews - both from archives and some newly produced, plus a diverse batch of critical essays by film scholars. This is a formidably comprehensive edition that deserves your attention, whether you're a Kubrick fan or an aficionado of classic sci-fi.

Dr Strangelove



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