Dr. Strangelove or the mother of all dark comedies

The satire to end all satires, from the inventor of the words megalomaniac, perfectionist and recluse (Kubrick, if you still haven’t guessed, and if you ask me who that is, you should probably quit going to the cinema). Must see for those who consider cinema as more than mere entertainment, even though this was one of the best entertainers of its time.

Now, to poke fun at somebody in a an extremely clever and subtle way, not in a haha-in-your-face way, requires an appreciable amount of skill. To humiliate the Americans and Russians in one go, at the height of the cold war, needs magic and a great deal of courage. The quintessential elements of a Kubrick film, like names with double meanings, the silliest of sentences at the gravest of moments, and pushing actors to their limit to produce the best results, are present in Dr. Strangelove.

Kubrick and Rushdie, besides their physical resemblance(don’t you think so?) and an umpteen number of other similarities, are known for their characteristic boldness in taking up controversial subjects, yet turning them into extremely difficult to understand but thoroughly enjoyable works of art. Here, Mr.K chose the hottest(or should i say, radioactive?) topic in town, that of global annihilation, soon after the occurrence of the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, realising that it can’t be made as a serious drama, he decided to turn it into a comedy instead. The end product was something which could break your funny bone, but it also prompted the government to change their policies. A strikingly similar movie in terms of subject is The Great Dictator, where Chaplin satirised the nature of war and the German war machine.

Many actors were pretty uncomfortable with the self-humiliating nature of their characters, but I can’t imagine what this film would’ve been like, without the laugh-out-loud lines they spoke and the caricature like expressions and postures they sometimes made. Had they refused to play as such, it definitely would’ve not been a commercial success, a little better than Fail-Safe perhaps, but no more than that. Peter Sellers simply steals the show and despite of the heavy editing, you still catch glimpses of actors cracking up on seeing him perform. Improvised dialogues, the self chosen glove for Strangelove and accents all add to his stellar performances as three equally important and progressively funnier characters. George C Scott was principal among the ones who were unhappy with the way he was asked to act, but gave way to the director’s wish because he was repeatedly beaten at chess by Kubrick! Being a cowboy, Slim Pickens handles his role as Maj. Kong with ease, and when he first showed up at the set, someone actually thought he came dressed up for his part.

The creative genius of the set designer is evident on viewing the war room, and the B-52 bomber model, which some air force officers said was a  perfect replica. This was achieved with just one photograph of the cockpit, and access to a few other similar aircraft. The music, unlike in other films by Kubrick, is not moving or profound, but hilarious and funny, accentuating the situations’ tragically comic nature.

The deep paranoid beliefs and competitiveness of both parties are portrayed. Other than that, many insignificant stereotypes are played for laughs, like the compulsive bubble gum chewing American general, and the Vodka drinking Russian premier.

At a glance, this movie is good in so many levels, however, sadly, today, we can appreciate only the humor, and look upon it historically. The raised eyebrows, the gasping faces, the shock and terror it brought forth and the thousand and one denials of probable possibilities and repeated assurances from the government that followed, are no more (Not that I miss a cold war).

il buono.


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