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Dr Strangelove or : How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb


‘…Dr Strangelove is a film for the ages, and a jet-black comedy that shows off Peter Sellers to his best advantage…’

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 comedy about the end of the world really shouldn’t work at all, but somehow it still does. Outside of the Pink Panther franchise, most Peter Sellers films are vanity projects tailored to suit the star, particularly when Sellers is encouraged to take on multiple roles. But while entries like Soft Beds, Hard Battles are justifiably forgotten, Dr Strangelove is a film for the ages, and a jet-black comedy that shows off Peter Sellers to his best advantage.

The director tinkered dramatically with the source novel Peter George’s novel Red Alert, while his fear of flying made the film’s largely airborne setting something of a nightmare to realise. And yet Dr Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a timeless classic, chilling rather than comedic, but with a mordant view of the futility of human existence. Sellers sends up British army intelligence as RAF Group Captain Mandrake, who attempts to stop a crazy US general from obliterating mankind. Meanwhile in the war room, Buck Turgison (George C Scott) tries to put a brave face on the crisis for the President Merkin Muffley (also Sellers) and his advisor, the mysterious Dr Strangelove (Sellers once more).

Ken Adam pulls off a genuine coup with the stunning War Room set that established a template for Bond film villians’ lairs for decades, while Adam’s experience as an RAF pilot helped with the authenticity of the action. Ultimately Kubrick is the big winner here, indulging his star but still pulling off a clinical, acerbic comedy that nimbly demonstrates how weapons can prove to be a danger to all humanity, and all living things. As with many of Kubrick’s visionary works, it’s not the hardware that’s at fault, it’s the human software that’s supposedly in control that provides the danger; Dr Strangelove’s manic style reflects a world emerging from too many cooks and not enough control of a escalating, apocalpytic scenario.

Since the pandemic started, it’s hard to think of any country where the leaders are covered in glory; many have been exposed as weak, grasping, corrupt or just past caring about or beyond understanding the world they supoosedly rule over. We search for a voice of reason or sanity, but what we get is the kind of ravings typified by General Jack D Ripper, the kind of bonkers-bunker viewpoint which we might recognise as a staple of today’s social media; ‘I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids!’ 



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  1. I have always shunned anything with Sellars in it, although the very first Pink Panther movie was great, (not the sequels) but I think I might give this a go if I can find it for free.

  2. On a secondary note, do you think Sellers is a good comedian or did he just fit the bill for the time he was in?
    I ask because nothing I’ve seen him in has been funny.

    • Most of his films are pretty awful. But This isn’t a slapstick film, and he plays the different roles well. But Sellers is secondary of Kubrick here, and the way the film takes down various subjects is arresting. It’s not a film to leave you rolling in the aisles, but it is chilling, shocking and says some pithy things about the lack of morality in the world.

      I like Sellers, but one in ten films he made work.

        • There was a custard pie fight, but it was cut out of the final film because it didn’t square with the tone. Sellers used funny voices and exaggerated mannerisms that can be off putting, but Kubrick reined him in tightly. Many people who love this film will never see another Sellers film; as I said, this shouldn’t work, but it does. I saw it when I was 11, and it still works today. Give it a spin when you’re in the mood; PG certificate also means minimal excess or offence.

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