How could Stanley Kubrick see so far into the future to realize that nearly fifty years later we would still be worrying about the bomb? After watching this film for the second time in my life, thanks to the great film series at MoMA and Target’s Free Fridays, I am surprised that we are still here.
This film has so many possible situations that could happen at any moment, the surprise is that we still exist. Sadly, Mr. Kubrick does not. Neither does Mr. Sellers who turned in three of his finest performances in this film. If you walked into this movie without knowing the background, you would not know him in any of his roles.
The quick synopsis of the film is that a loony general, Sterling Hayden in his best role, third down from having control of “the button” has made a move that is irreversible, even by the milquetoast president who should be in charge but is more concerned with being polite to the drunken Russian Premier. General “Jack Ripper” is concerned about the Russkies taking our “precious bodily fluids” in a most uncomfortable scene that comes together at the close of the film. Another loony general, superbly played by the late George C. Scott, seems to be the only sane person in this crew – and this is just after he put his sexcapades on hold for his country. Scarily, he reminds me of Glenn Beck in more ways than one. He makes some kind of sense but you still know he is nuts.
The film was released during the early days of the LBJ reign and before we had gotten to the point of blaming the innocent men and women in uniform for the sins of this country’s fathers. In other words, the men in uniforms below generals come off as just following orders – even if they are dispensing destruction, they are still heroic. It is an amazing piece of filmmaking when a director can make you feel a bond between nameless men in a tough situation. Slim Pickens and James Earl Jones in key roles leave more of an impression than you would expect.
The Dr. Strangelove of the title is probably the most minor role in the film but one that is at once funny and scary. I recommend this film to everyone who has a sense of sarcasm but not to those who feel the “America wrong or right” sentiment that seems pretty tired right now. In the honor of full disclosure, the final scene will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Director: Stanley Kubrick Released 1964
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, James Earl Jones, Slim Pickens, Sterling Hayden
Museum of Modern Art, NYC film Series