Friday, 21 April 2017

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

"Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap."

This isn't the first time I've seen Dr. Strangelove, which is probably a good thing: this time I was able to look past the hilarious script and superb comic performances from, yes, Peter Sellers but the whole cast to Kubrick's superb direction and, perhaps, a slightly deeper context.

Still, it's worth emphasising that not only is this one of the funniest films ever but Sellers is utterly, utterly outstanding in all three of the parts he plays. Sterling Hayden deserves a mention, though, as does the utterly hilarious George C. Scott. And yet.... the Cuban Missile Crisis is less than two years ago and the film was made at what must have been the absolute peak of absolute nuclear annihilation. Strip away the comedy and this is a bleak and terrifying film (the concept of the Soviet doomsday device alone is existentially fearsome) which ends in absolute nuclear holocaust to the strains of Vera Lynn. And yet I think that both the humour and the underlying bleakness owe much to Catch-22 (the extraordinary novel: I haven't seen the film), another example of absolutely dark and horrible subject matter being leavened by a very mid-twentieth century absurdist style of humour which brings us back, again, to the existentialism which underpins this film, one of the greatest ever made.

Oh, and it's great, if weird, to hear the imperial tones of James Earl Jones in a film thirteen years before his signature role!


  1. Ironically the USSR did create a rather similar 'doomsday device' (the Perimeter system) and didn't tell anyone about it.

    Also, I gave up on the 'Catch-22' film. Not good at all.

  2. I probably won't watch it then. Don't want to spoil the memory of the novel!