Classic Pick: Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is probably the best comedy about nuclear apocalypse ever made. Insane General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) succeeds in launching the go-code for a first strike nuclear attack that would surely result in World War III, but unbeknownst to him, the Russians have created a Doomsday Machine set to go off if they’re ever attacked (they’ve kept it secret, though, because the Russian Premier loves surprises). If even one of General Ripper’s planes actually drops its payload, they will inadvertently cause total nuclear fallout and the destruction of the world. Shifting between the Pentagon War Room, the airbase where Ripper makes his last stand, and the crew on one of the airplanes, the film builds to a dark, funny, and oddly satisfying conclusion.
Based around real-life characters and events, Dr. Strangelove develops the comic underbelly of a Cold War terror, as a series of unfortunate coincidences means that the clock ticks slowly down while politicians and generals argue about the future of the human race. The film pays visual homage to the likes of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, marrying the grotesque mis-en-scene of German Expressionism with a Cold War thriller to create a satiric take on serious events. The over-the-top performances from Peter Sellers (playing three different characters, including the titular doctor and the President), George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, Sterling Hayden, and Peter Bull highlight the inherent ridiculousness of paranoia and national rivalries in the midst of worldwide destruction. The film is a vicious indictment of the Arms Race, a brilliant black comedy, and a tense Cold War thriller whose basis was all too real in 1964.
Given that Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has been available on Netflix Watch Instantly for quite awhile now, there’s really no excuse for not seeing this film – so go!