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

Dr. StrangeloveIronically, for me watching movies at home is not the same as the theater. I enjoy the isolation and darkness as I sit alone surrounded by strangers. Put another way, if I could get half of the emotional satisfaction in a house of worship that I get in a theater I’d be one of the world’s great holy men!

Regardless, here is the one movie to hunt down even if you have seen it before. While kids under 16 are likely to lose interest, relax in the company of your spouse and enjoy the experience.

Dr. Strangelove ranks at the top of my list of favorite films. Released in 1964 and directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, it tells a captivating story about an insane U.S. General who attempts to start a nuclear war with Russia. Unfortunately, disaster looms with the discovery that Russia has a secret doomsday device that will destroy life on earth if attacked.

While the performance of all the actors are Oscar worthy, let me begin with Sterling Hayden, who plays the madman, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper. The commander of Burtleson Air Force Base, Ripper secretly authorizes a group of B-52’s to launch a nuclear attack on Russia. Feeling that the Russians introduced “fluoridation” to poison Americans, he felt he could no longer allow the “international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

And then there was the great George C. Scott’s turn as General Buck Turgidson. From the time he is required to leave his half naked secretary/lover (“Bucky loves ya, Baby”) to join the President in the war room, Scott continually tries to explain the unexplainable. Hating the Russians (“your average ruskie doesn’t take a dump without a plan”), his answer to the President’s inquiry as to how his sole power to launch a nuclear attack was usurped, “Why I hate to judge before all the facts are in, Mr. President, it appears that someone has exceeded his authority.”

Yet as good as these two were, Peter Sellers shines in three roles. First, he appears as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a British Officer working under General Ripper. His puzzled reaction to Ripper’s madness reveals Sellers’ comic genius.

Sellers then plays the balding President Merkin Muffley. As Turgidson and the Russian Ambassador (Peter Bull) attack one another as Muffley talks to the Russian President by phone, he yells, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room.”

Finally, Sellers’ third character is Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair bound ex-Nazi serving as a scientist for the U.S. Government. Speaking with a thick German accent, wait until you see him refer to the President as “Mein Führer” as he tries to control his right arm giving the Nazi salute! I greatly admired Mr. Sellers’ talent, and his performance reminded me of my emotional despair when he died in 1980 at the age of 55.

No review of this sensational movie can end without noting the unforgettable performances of Slim Pickens and Keenan Wynn. Pickens plays Major T.J. “King” Kong, the pilot who rides a nuclear bomb like a horse to the world’s destruction. Keenan Wynn plays Colonel “Bat” Guano, who mistakenly thinks Mandrake is in league with Ripper. When asked to explain his conclusion, he responds, “I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts. Now Move!”

Strangelove had one of the best scripts in the history of film. I’ve outlined part of it so that you know why this film needs to be seen. And I mean more than once!

After all, we all need a bit of laughter right now, don’t we?