After the insane General Jack D. Ripper initiates a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a war room full of politicians, generals and a Russian diplomat all frantically try to stop the nuclear strike.
Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film <i>Dr. Strangelove</i> is a hilarious film about the nuclear annihilation of the human race. Its plot combines three strands that lead inevitably to this doomsday. In the first, an Air Force base commander (Sterling Hayden) goes insane and launches the go-code for his B52s to drop the bomb on their targets in Russia, while a British captain on an officer exchange program (Peter Sellers) tries to reason with him. In the second strand, we see the crew of a B52 commanded by the cowboyish Major Kong (Slim Pickens) as they prepare to drop the bomb. Finally, there are the scenes from the Pentagon war room, where the American president (again Peter Sellers) harangues a general (George C. Scott) about how this could have happened, until the mysterious German scientist Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers yet again) offers a solution.
Originally meant to be a straightforward adaptation of a political thriller novel, <i>Dr. Strangelove</i> became a madcap comedy. The characters' sexual quirks, anti-Communist hysteria and nonchalance about the coming apocalypse and are exaggerated to the point of farce. No other Peter Sellers film shows off his range of talents so well: he segues effortlessly between Captain Mandrake, a nervous fellow with a British accident already antiquated at the time the film was made, the staid American politician President Merkin Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove, one of the Nazi scientists that the USA brought over after World War II.
Filmgoers must have perceived this film somewhat differently, when the threat of nuclear annihilation felt very real. Contemporary audiences won't fully get how black this black comedy is. Nonetheless, this film remains perennially funny, and even after numerous viewings over the last 15 years or so I still laugh every time.
Hawk Films, Columbia Pictures by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George.
Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn.
Keywords: u.s. president general cold war strategic air command nuclear missile satire dark comedy cult film war room bomber pilot nuclear weapons ex nazi doomsday device absurdism
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