×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

With:
Peter Sellers George C. Scott Sterling Hayden Keenan Wynn Slim Pickens James Earl Jones

Producer-director Stanley Kubrick has with skill and daring fashioned a sharply satirical comedy on a subject as sensitive as Top Security–a nuclear holocaust–in the Columbia Picture release, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” This is an ideal vehicle for exploitation, and should do very well at the b.o.

Nothing would seen to be farther apart than nuclear war and comedy, yet Kubrick’s caper eloquently tackles a “Fail-Safe” subject with a light touch. While there are times when it hurts to laugh because somehow there is a feeling that the mad events in “Strangelove” could happen, it emerges as a most unusual combination of comedy and suspense.

Screenplay by Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern, based on the book, “Red Alert,” by Peter George, is imaginative and contains many an offbeat touch. Some of the characters have a broad brush in their depiction, but this is the very nature of satire. Kubrick also directed the film by his own production company, and successfully captured the incongruous elements of “Strangelove” with a deft, professional touch.

It all begins when a Strategic Air Command general, a right-winger whose similarities to persons still living is more than passing, who on his own initiative orders bomb-carrying planes under his command to attack Russia. He immediately seals in the base, so that there is no way for the President or anyone else to contact him, nor to countermand his orders, since he has given them in a top-secret code only he knows. From here on it’s a hectic, exciting series of events, alternating between the General who has started it all, the planes en route to the USSR, and the Pentagon’s war room, where the Chief Executive is trying his best to head off the nuclear war.

Again it would seem no setting for comedy or satire, but the writers have accomplished this with biting, piercing dialogue and thorough characterizations. The climax is one with a grim post-script, as the Pentagon begins worrying about the mine-shaft gap in the post-nuclear era, while the Red envoy snakes some pictures of the War room. The moral is obvious.

Peter Sellers is excellent, essaying a trio of roles – a British R.A.F. captain assigned to the U.S. base where it all begins, the President and the title character, Dr. Strangelove, a German scientist aiding the U.S. whose Nazi mannerisms overcome him.

George C. Scott as the fiery Pentagon general who seizes on the crisis as a means to argue for total annihilation of Russia offers a top performance, one of the best in the film. Odd as it may seem in this backdrop, he displays a fine comedy touch. Sterling Hayden is grimly realistic as the General who takes it on his own to send our nuclear bomb-carrying planes to attack Russia. He is a man who blames the Communists for fluoridation of water, and just about everything else. As the cigar-chomping General, Hayden emerges a tragi-comic hero.

There are uniformly fine supporting performances from Slim Pickens, Keenan Wynn, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Shane Rimmer, Paul Tamarin and Tracy Reed, latter the only femme in the cast, very good in a bit role, as the Pentagon General’s mistress.

Production is handsomely mounted, with fine work by art director Peter Murton; Wally Veevers, special effects; Laurie Johnson’s music, and excellent photography by Gilbert Taylor.

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

UK

Production: Columbia/Hawk. Director Stanley Kubrick; Producer Stanley Kubrick; Screenplay Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George; Camera Gilbert Taylor; Editor Anthony Harvey; Music Laurie Johnson; Art Director Ken Adam. Reviewed at Directors Guild Theatre, Jan. 12, '64.

Crew: (B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Original review text from 1964. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: Peter Sellers George C. Scott Sterling Hayden Keenan Wynn Slim Pickens James Earl Jones

More Film

  • 'Gemini Man' First Trailer Drops With

    Will Smith Faces Off Against Himself in Ang Lee's 'Gemini Man' Trailer

    Will Smith battles a recognizable antagonist in the official trailer for Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” — himself. The actor plays an elite assassin in the sci-fi drama. Things get tricky when he finds out the man he’s assigned to track down is a younger version of himself who can predict his every move. “He knew [...]

  • Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japan-Set

    Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japanese Film 'Family Romance'

    London-based sales house Film Constellation has boarded Oscar-winning director Werner Herzog’s Japanese-language film “Family Romance,” which will have its world premiere in the special screenings section at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Herzog, the movie was shot last spring and summer in Tokyo and Aomori, Japan, with non-professional actors (Yuichi Ishii, Mahiro [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Box Office: Can It

    'Avengers: Endgame' Expected to Shatter Box Office Records

    “Avengers: Endgame” has its sights set on world domination. Disney and Marvel’s upcoming superhero epic should light the box office on fire when it launches this weekend, with the hopes of setting domestic, international, and global records. In North America alone, “Avengers: Endgame” is expected to earn between $250 million and $268 million in its [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million on [...]

  • Reed Hastings seen on day one

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' Compensation Jumps 48% to $36.1 Million

    Netflix chief Reed Hastings is being handsomely rewarded for calling the shots at the streaming giant. His compensation package, which is largely in the form of stock options, climbed 48% in 2018 to $36.1 million. That’s up from $24.4 million in the previous year. Hastings’ salary is a relatively modest $700,000, but his stock options [...]

  • Emma Thompson to Star in Extinction

    Emma Thompson to Star in Extinction Rebellion Climate-Change Satire (EXCLUSIVE)

    Emma Thompson will play a climate-change activist in “Extinction,” a timely satirical short film that will include footage of the Extinction Rebellion group’s ongoing wave of action in London. Two-time Oscar winner Thompson has herself been involved in the high-profile London-based protests. She addressed crowds over the weekend from Extinction Rebellion’s signature pink boat, which [...]

  • First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’

    First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’ Feature Documentary

    Diego Maradona waves to raucous Napoli fans before heading into a media scrum and press conference in the first clip from the feature documentary about the soccer superstar. “Diego Maradona” is the third film from the team behind the award-winning “Senna” and “Amy,” with Asif Kapadia directing and James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin producing. They [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content