Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]

a review by the Crow.

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OPENING THOUGHTS

Some years ago, this crow was flipping through channels on the telly, Picky by his side, when he came across a black and white movie that had just started showing.

He watched, along with his best bud, and he wondered what in the ever-loving hell was going on. He kept watching, and in time, ended up on the floor, grabbing his sides and rolling around, while Pickpocket the Sir went into hysterics.

Of course, the movie was Doctor Strangelove or: How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Based on the novel Red Alert and directed by Stanley Kubrick, this 1964 movie might just be one of the best things ever.

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This crow and his mum watch it religiously every year. Her favourite part is the phone call (that phone call, Dmitry), Pickpocket’s are all the scenes involving the B-52 (he loves scenes of flight in movies so!), but this crow loves all of it.

Endlessly quotable and marvellously executed, it almost makes no sense for this crow to handle Dr. Strangelove in the manner that he has dealt with movies in the past.

That said, we do have a format, so to keep everything corvid-feather-perfect, let’s break Dr. Strangelove down.


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HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A RUSSIAN DRINK WATER?

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SOME [MINOR] SPOILERS

Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (I know) issues an order to the elements of the 843rd Airborne division to attack Russia. And that’s the set-up.

You remember that old saying about icebergs? Well, apply that same logic here.

Everything goes tits-up in the War Room (with the “big board” looming in the background as President Merkin Muffley and his advisers scramble to settle things and avoid nuclear war, including aiding the Russians with the defence of their country.

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Running parallel to the events in the War Room, Major Kong leads a crew of dedicated servicemen into Russia in a B-52, hell-bent on carrying out their orders, and Jack D. Ripper explains to Group Captain Lionel Mandrake what his motivations are before Burpleson Airforce base comes under attack.

The movie isn’t excessively long, and that’s all down to tight pacing. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the humour is delivered to perfection, and the scenes of jingoism/ultra-nationalism are hilarious.

For those of you who take the “Doomsday Machine” in jest, this crow will just mention the name Dead Hand, here. Litvenko shall not have died for nothing.


4

WAR WHEN LEFT TO GENERALS

Stanley Kubrick is, as always, masterful. And Doctor Strangelove showcases his tight control over his team to a certain degree. However, the performance by Peter Sellers is the best thing about the movie.

One of the conditions the studio had set for Kubrick to receive the budget he wanted was to have Sellers play four characters. Sellers only played three in the end: Pres. Muffley, Group Captain Mandrake, and the titular Dr Strangelove. There’s stories about how Sellers dodged out of playing Major Kong by possibly faking an ankle injury on set, but it very well might’ve been a legitimate injury. The story goes that Sellers had managed to master the accent expected from Major Kong, and it certainly would’ve been wonderful to see Sellers play Kong, but Pickens does a great job with Kong.

The scenes where Sellers goes off on his own, ad-libbing his way through the movie are incredible. Kubrick even chose to keep the scenes in which Sellers’ performance cracks Peter Bull’s Soviet Ambassador up, and the touch helps the movie along by adding an innocent touch of charm to the movie.

George C. Scott flies off the handle as Turgidson. Kubrick in essence tricked the performance out of Scott by beating him at chess over and over to get him to do comic rehearsals, which he then used for the final movie. It’s a shame that Scott decided never to work with Kubrick again (in true Scott fashion), since his portrayal of old Buck is one of the best things about the movie.


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CLOSING THOUGHTS

Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is one of his crow’s all-time favourite movies. Parts cold war drama, parts social critique, and funny all the way through, it is a high point for cinema all by itself.

Even its flaws are turned into adorable monents. Peter Sellers delivers an incredible performance, and George C. Scott’s being played by Kubrick all adds up to set the movie high above most others.

This is legendary stuff right here.

Final rating: 9.5/10

Here, have this funny image (not part of the movie) here:

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2 thoughts on “Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]

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