johnlink ranks DR. STRANGELOVE… (1964)

I’d say that this movie is an example of when comedies used to mean something, but that would be both pretentious and untrue. There is a sense among those critical of today’s comedies that they used to do it so much better. I think comedy is a product of its era. I find comedies of today less funny then the comedies of the 90s. Just as those several years older than me think the 80s were the true era of comedy. When it comes to STRANGELOVE however, I am not so sure that it is merely a product of its time (though it certainly is also that), but that it is quite simply one of the best comedies ever made, in any era, ever.

DR. STRANGELOVE… is the story of a crazy general who initiates a nuclear war at the height of the Cold War, the people who try to carry it out, and the people who try to stop it.

I watched DR. STRANGELOVE, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964) on 8.5.09. It was my third viewing of the film.

NOTE: THIS RANKING UTILIZES THIS SITE’S ORIGINAL SYSTEMIC ARTICLE WRITING METHOD. THE METHOD BY WHICH THE RANKINGS WERE ARRIVED AT, HOWEVER, REMAINS THE SAME.

FILM

This is a film about men and war. The opening image is of one jet fueling another with its phallic hose. One of the last images is that of a man falling with a giant nuclear weapon between his legs. In between they smoke thick cigars, talk about their precious bodily fluids, and compete in figurative big dick contests. Amid all the imagery, the message is that unchecked masculinity will leave reason in its wake. It is interesting to note that one of the few voices of reason in the film (Peter Sellers as President Muffley) was originally to be played as effeminate, before Kubrick decided he’d rather the President be one of the few straight-men (no pun intended) in the film.

The film is also about paranoia, made in the midst of the Cold War. Some of the most poignant messages come once the fate of the world is decided for the worst.  General Turgidson (George C. Scott) is still quibbling about how many bombs the few nuclear holocaust survivors will be able to smuggle down the mine shafts to thwart the Russians from invading. Meanwhile, the Russian Ambassador (Peter Bull) is steal sneaking pictures of the War Room. The battle of countries continues, even as the world is clearly ending. SCORE: 10

MOVIE

This is not non-stop hilarious Peter Sellers (i.e. THE PARTY) but, rather, thought-out subtle Peter Sellers. The movie entertains, provides laughs, and never slows. Yet the humor is more satirical and less belly laugh. Definitely a movie which rewards repeat viewing. SCORE: 7

ACTING

Sellers plays three roles with ease. He was to play a forth before an injury (and his difficulty grasping a Southern accent) forced the bomber pilot to be recast. But I can’t imagine anyone but Slim Pickens playing that role. Rumor is he played it straight, tried to be serious, and this is what came out. George C. Scott is a marvel and Sterling Hayden’s performance as Jack Ripper always gets overlooked in this movie.

But, for me, the defining amazing moments of this movie are Sellers doing his thing. His two conversations with the Russian President (whom we never see, but we know intimately thanks to Sellers monologue phone calls) could go on for hours and I would not stop being entertained. And any Sellers as Strangelove stuff kills. Especially the closing scene when his Nazi arm takes over. Truly, the acting in this film is unbeatable. SCORE: 10

WRITING

I know Sellers was big into improv, and it shows here. For me, though, the best written stuff is the scenes of repetition in the jet. The tedium and soullessness required to launch a nuclear weapon is fascinating (and it’s fun to hear James Earl Jones as a young man). Ripper’s paranoia about his precious bodily fluids is a limitless source of funny. It is amazing that this movie started as a serious script by Kubrick before he realized it was all just way too absurd to not be an all out comedy. SCORE: 9
FINAL TALLY

FILM: 10; MOVIE: 7; ACTING: 10; WRITING: 9

10+7+10+9+0=36

FINAL SCORE: 9

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~ by johnlink00 on August 5, 2009.

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