Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – Classic Review

0057012_bigIt’s difficult to fully grasp the meaning within some of Stanley Kubrick’s most famous works. What was the ending of “2001: A Space Odyssey” really representing? Why was room 237 so significant? What the hell is “A Clockwork Orange” about?!
1964 brought a dark war comedy that demonstrated the sophisticated, intelligent and unequivocal side of Kubrick’s repertoire. “Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb” is a topical picture that not only plays on the several aspects of war, but also exhibits arguably the best we ever saw of the great Peter Sellars.

Being met with incredibly positive critical acclaim, “Dr. Strangelove” is one of the classics that everybody seems to know about, even in the slightest of instances.
Receiving a perfect 4/4 from Roger Ebert, placing at number 26/500 on Empire’s ‘Top 500 of All Time’ list and a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, Kubrick’s seventh full length feature undoubtedly appears to be one of the “must-sees” for any film lover.

A series of phone calls, discussions and explanations ensue after Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) discovers Brig. General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is completely insane and has plans for an all out nuclear war.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 10.12.55 pmMeanwhile, a collective of politicians gathered within the Pentagon’s ‘War Room’ engage in deep but frantic discussion over the matter. Ultimately, for a film that centers on character interaction and conversation, it’s the instances within “Dr. Strangelove” where there is no such thing that sets the narrative in motion.

One of the greatest comic actors to grace the silver screen, the efforts of Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove” are monumentally impressive.
Embodying not one, but three separate characters, each as complex and unique as the next, Sellers’ performances are transformative to the point where you forget that the same individual is conversing with himself at points throughout the film.
Sellers plays Group Captain Lionel Mandrake; a proper and poised R.A.F officer, President Merkin Muffley; a stern, authoritative and rather stressed leader, and Dr. Strangelove; a wheelchair-bound, specialised, fidgety former-Nazi. Every one of Sellers’ roles is performed perfectly without fault.
There are elements of his comedic prowess to e found within each diverse character, however the underlying quality exhibited across the board by Sellers is his dramatic capabilities.

dr-strangeloveThey often say that comics are very sad people behind the goofy facade, and from what I’ve heard; I would definitely believe it to be true with Sellers. Nevertheless, multiple roles within a film aren’t too common, especially ones as impressive as Sellers’, so it’s a real treat to witness one of such caliber.

There are several iconic moments within “Dr. Strangelove”, mostly coming from within the War Room or towards the film’s conclusion. The classic shot of the politicians and leaders gathered around the circular table is one that has been seen again both through parody and creative influence.
Speaking of parody, it is now obvious how much inspiration “The Simpsons” has taken from “Dr. Strangelove”. Every now and again there was a moment, a phrase, a movement or a set design that made me think “Huh, I saw that in The Simpsons!”.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing from such a film in order to further the comedic strength of something; “Dr. Strangelove” is the type of film that lends itself to such circumstances.

Being darkly humorous across the board, it was ultimately the lighter comical moments that had the most effect on me. Perhaps it was due to my less equipped understanding of the matters at hand, or the fact that I grew up with Peter Sellers’ “Pink Panther” series.
Either way, the slapstick element, the goofy voices and an unceasing phone conversation with the Russian Premier, Dimitri, produced the most laughs for me.

dr_strangelove_wallpaper_by_m0ndos-d389bs5There is an obviously topical, serious underlying message to be taken from “Dr. Strangelove”, but in addition, it delves into satire, drama and an obvious sense of self-awareness.
For a war based dark comedy, “Dr. Strangelove” is above all, an intelligently crafted picture.

It’s a true quality of a film if it can still hold up over half a century after its initial release. The works of Stanley Kubrick are diverse and unique in their own right, and “Dr. Strangelove” certainly fits into the pantheon of his “great works”.
It may be one that you need to watch once over again to fully appreciate, however unlike some of his other more complicated pictures, “Dr. Strangelove” is relatively straightforward.
There is a lot of pressure on films placed within the higher spots on lists such as the Empire 500, but I’m happy to say that “Dr. Strangelove” did anything but disappoint.

4.5/5

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