Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George
Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, and Peter Bull
Brig. Gen. Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) initiates Plan-R and orders the American B-52 Nuclear Bomber wing to attack the Soviet Union. He orders his base to go into lock-down, go on radio silence, and confiscate all outside communication devices. He also informs his men, including Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), that the US has entered a shooting war with the Soviets, and the personnel are to defend the base at all costs.
Though initially skeptical of the Plan-R orders, Maj. Kong (Slim Pickens) alerts his crew of their mission and sets course for his target in the USSR.
While on the toilet Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) receives the call about the attack orders issued by Ripper with the authority of Plan-R. After verify the current state of affairs Turgidson meets President Muffley (also Peter Sellers) to brief him on the situation, as well as explain how Ripper exceeded his authority and was able to initiate an attack without the President’s authorization or knowledge.
Dr. Strangelove is a good entry film to Stanley Kubrick’s work if you are not familiar with it. While most Kubrick films are initially off-putting and only grow in appreciation after repeated viewings, Dr. Strangelove grabs & holds it after the first.
It is a dark comedy about nuclear war. The story is entirely believable, and the procedures shown to actually initiate & drop the bomb are meticulously detailed & accurate. But it is through the dialogue and absurd scenarios where the humor comes through.
Kubrick shows his talent by having Scott go over the top against Sellers’ subdued performance as the President, and then allowing Sellers to do whatever he wants as Dr. Strangelove. Sellers also provides the calm rational voice of Mandrake against the calm irrational voice of Sterling Hayden as Ripper.
Kubrick also decided to film in Black & White. The scenes in the War-Room are shot in high contrast and well composed. The scenes of the attack on the base are washed-out and filmed as if the cameraman was part of the action. The use of Black & White brings starkness to the movie.
Though the exterior B-52 shots have not aged well, it is the only thing that hasn’t. The story, acting, and cinematography are all top-notch, and well worth the time to watch this classic film.
Grade = A