How to start this? There was some thought of treating it like a stereotypical college essay, beginning with a word and quoting the definition.
timeless – “not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion.”
But doing that seemed like the amateur move, so I thought better of it. There is this weird association between black & white comedies and high quality. It’s as if they knew what they were doing… When I think the best my mind will always go to Chaplin and his slew of films, that’s just science, there’s really no other explanation. Also, I don’t really think “comedy” when going through Kubrick’s filmography, which in many ways made Dr. Strangelove such a wonderful surprise. And then again it’s hard to remember the last time I laughed so hard at my computer screen.
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb turns fifty this year. Don’t worry my math impaired friends, that means it came out in 1964. Quite a long time ago, almost two and a half of me’s. Comedy has changed drastically since then, that’s no surprise as things and change go together like peanut butter and jelly. Yet after giving this film a good watching I’ve come to wonder if comedies have changed for the best.
For some reason satirizing the government is a sure hit among the common populace, especially when the content resembles a more serious time in our pastime and well, when it’s done right. Dr. Strangelove is one for the black comedy history books as Kubrick takes on the nuclear scare during the Cold War. All aspects of the government and its military are brutally undermined, in fact the only characters that maintain a shred of sanity seem to be the ones taking orders. These portrayals stood for more than entertainment, they represented the frustration of a country on one hand and its sheer ignorance on the other.
Kubrick did it all. He directed, produced, and even wrote the screenplay with the help from another man. A man named Peter George. Now this name is interesting to me on account George was responsible for writing Red Alert, the novel upon which Dr. Strangelove is based. While it is not common for a writer to adapt his own work, it does happen here and there. Yet this case differs as the film and the novel end up being completely different genres with completely different endings. I’m sure Kubrick had the final say on most if not all creative choices, but it is rather impressive George became a willing participant to the adaptation process.
Peter Sellers is utterly amazing, notably for his three separate roles within the film: Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and of course Dr. Strangelove. Oddly enough Sellers was originally contracted to play four parts, the fourth being Major T. J. “King” Kong, but due to a sprained ankle and a case of not wanting to, actor Slim Pickens took over the role, and with force I might add. Sellers’s accents are a thing of beauty, ranging from British, to the perfect American, then back across the pond to German. His characters exhaustively spread across the entire spectrum, earning Sellers his first Oscar nomination for acting, but more importantly sealing his legacy for future generations.
Dr. Strangelove will be remembered for its more prominent moments: riding the bomb, “We’ll Meet Again” and mushroom clouds, no fighting in the war room, or “mein furer.” Other moments might be forgotten or cease to elicit recognition, which is a shame. Kubrick and comedy is an odd word pairing at a glance, I even find it a bit off putting, but when he delved into the genre this director created one for the ages. So, Kubrick and comedy might be weird in thought, yet one thing’s for sure, Kubrick knows comedy.
Dr. Strangelove (1964) directed by Stanley Kubrick