Dr. Strangelove

by Will on September 5, 2010

There are movies that I enjoy watching every year or so. One of those is Annie Hall. The Godfather films are two others. Still another is Dr. Strangelove. It’s worth doing because they’re expertly crafted pieces, and each time I notice different things. We watched the latter movie last night, at Jen’s request.

This viewing, I was struck by how much it’s a straight drama for the first half-hour or so. There is some funny back-and-forth between George C. Scott and Peter Sellers in there, but it’s still sort of overshadowed by the seriousness of the impending nuclear strike. Only when Sterling Hayden first utters the words, “our precious bodily fluids,” do we say “huh?! Something’s off here.” Then we come realize it’s all a farce: we’re laughing at how easily a little stupidity could end the world.

As in the past, I think the scenes I liked best were those with Hayden and Sellers as Gen. Jack Ripper and RAF officer Mandrake. Hayden’s performance is brilliantly deadpan, and he seems to enjoy skewering the paranoid, off-kilter personality type he is portraying. I would like to do a post juxtaposing his tirade “exposing” fluoridation as a Communist conspiracy with a clip of Glen Beck doing his paranoid historical theorizing. Sellers as Mandrake is also his most “straight” performance of the movie. The result is very funny.

I also appreciated the scene where the soldiers on Gen. Ripper’s base are fighting off the Army guys trying to reestablish the chain of command, and there’s that big billboard behind them that says: “Peace is Our Profession.” Kubrick had a great talent for ironic touches of that sort.

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