The Essential Movie Library #69: Dr. Strangelove (1964) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #69: Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The film is replete with a memorable performance by Sterling Hayden as an air force general who’s lost his marbles in this satire of nuclear holocaust

It can’t be overstated what a bold affront to general sensibilities this satire of nuclear holocaust was when released three months after President John Kennedy’s assassination and 15 months after the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The public imagination already had been forced to confront what it constantly tried to push far away, and here writer-director Stanley Kubrick compelled a reconsideration of the unthinkable in comedic terms; half a century later, the spectacle of Slim Pickens rodeo-riding a bomb to not just his doom but the world’s (“toe to toe combat with the Rooskies”) pulls the film in his wake from comedy to a horror from which there’s no going back (a pie fight in the bowels of the Pentagon, planned as the movie’s climax, was left on the cutting room floor). With Kennedy’s murder, a reference by Pickens to “a pretty good weekend in Dallas” had to be changed to “a pretty good weekend in Vegas”—but what made the scripters write the line as Dallas in the first place? 

Dr. Strangelove is replete with memorable performances by Sterling Hayden as an air force general who’s lost his marbles and George C. Scott as a Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman a marble away from losing it. But the picture’s tour de force is by Peter Sellers, of whom Kubrick was so enamored during the making of his previous feature, Lolita, that he let the English actor keep getting in the way and nearly sabotage the outcome. By contrast, with his brilliant improvisations constantly bringing the shoot to a halt when the crew kept breaking up, here Sellers lives up to his genius reputation in three roles—as a befuddled Adlai Stevensonian president, an increasingly desperate RAF second-in-command, and the lunatic scientist gliding his wheelchair in from the Third Reich to the paradise of mutually assured destruction, with the prospect of years in a bunker surrounded by a harem chosen to perpetuate the species. The craziest part of the plan, of course, is that under such circumstances anyone could believe there would still be a species to perpetuate.  

Read them all:

The Essential Movie Library #68: The Bicycle Thieves
The Essential Movie Library #67: Pulp Fiction
The Essential Movie Library #66: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Essential Movie Library #65: Caché
The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day's Night
The Essential Movie Library #63: The Searchers
The Essential Movie Library #62: The Conformist
The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie & Clyde
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her
The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L'Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2
The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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