With the new exhibition on Stanley Kubrick opening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I decided to make one of Kubrick’s films my Blindspot selection for November. The film that I decided to go with, and saw theatrically at the Bell Lightbox this afternoon, was the cold war comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Crazed and paranoid Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders his executive officer Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) to put Burpelson Air Force Base on high alert and give 'Wing Attack Plan R' to the B-52s patrolling Russia, giving them clearance to drop their nuclear weapons. With the United States on the brink of nuclear war with Russia, President Merkin Muffley (also Peter Sellers) has a high stakes meeting in the Pentagon war room, which includes General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) and wheelchair-bound nuclear expert and ex-Nazi Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers yet again).
Produced at the height of the Cold War, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a satirical cautionary tale of what could have gone wrong if a crazed general ever decided to pull the trigger on a nuclear war. Apparently the film lead to actual changes in policy, so that the events depicted in the film could not really happen in real life. Dr. Strangelove has a fairly simple structure to it, with the film switching between three different groups of people, dealing with this one big and possibly catastrophic event. The majority of the film takes place in the Pentagon war room, which showcases some great comedic performances by both Peter Sellers and George C. Scott.
Dr. Strangelove is very much a showcase for Peter Sellers’ abilities as a comedic actor, since he appears in the film as three completely different characters. Lionel Mandrake, a British RAF exchange officer, is probably the closest of the three to Seller’s actual persona. I actually didn’t initially recognize Sellers as the balding American President and I actually had to confirm in the credits that it was indeed him. Probably Peter Sellers’ most memorable and showy performance in the film is as the titular Dr. Strangelove, even though the character does not show up until about two thirds into the film. There is some great physical comedy late in the film as Dr. Strangelove struggles against his gloved hand’s desire to give Nazi salutes. It was definitely a great moment in the film.
Even though it was a Cold War era film, I would have have to say that many of the themes present in Dr. Strangelove are still relevant today, especially when it comes to paranoia about foreign enemies. I can see why this film is considered to be a comedy classic and I very much enjoyed myself watching this.9 | REALLY LIKED IT