Movie Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

 

Looks like somebody wants a hug. Any takers? Anyone? No? OK…

The race is on to prevent a nuclear crisis after an officer oversteps his boundaries.

Before I started my film journey a year or so ago, I watched this with the understanding that the comedy would be obvious. I was mistaken. I watched it again yesterday, ready for another go. I understand more of the humor, but not all of it without doing some serious research.

Some of the humor has aged well. I liked Peter Sellers explaining to the Russian premier about the crisis like a preschool teacher reprimanding a student. He just went and did a silly little thing, that’s all. For the context of the film, it’s fine but if it happened in real life, I’d be concerned.

What hasn’t aged well is how the crisis came about through General Ripper. Having someone in the armed forces go crazy is not funny, especially given some of the recent incidents involving military bases. I suppose for the time the film was made, the scenario seemed unlikely. I know the film is supposed to be a black comedy but the starting point isn’t funny.

The War Room is still impressive to look at. In one of the documentaries featured on the print I had, the table was colored like a poker table. The symbolism is lost in black and white but now you know (and knowing is half the battle).

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that war films are not my strong suit. This is one of the few that I like. I’m not saying that war films can’t be totally dramatic but once in a while, there need to be some light moments. This depends entirely on the intent of the director. I never laughed when I watched Platoon but I knew that humor was not Oliver Stone’s intent for that particular film. Here, the humor is needed to balance the seriousness of nuclear war.

I knew the ending song sounded familiar, other than the fact that I had seen the film a few times. It wasn’t until the line “some sunny day” that I realized where I heard it before: Pink Floyd’s The Wall. There is a more specific connection that I’ll discuss in another post that ties these movies together; if you’ve followed my posts for a while, you probably have a good guess as to what’s in store.

It’s a comedy, sure, but not all of it is tasteful, especially with the passing of time. I still like it but I do have one final question before we meet again. If I can’t fight in the War Room, where am I supposed to fight? I heard there’s a club for it, so I’m told, but I can’t talk about it.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

AFI Top 100 (1997): #26

AFI Top 100 (2007): #39

400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for both years

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