Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He Made Me Watch It ~ Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

This is the first installment in a new short series called He Made Me Watch It. "He" refers to my beau Carlos who is coercing... errr I mean, encouraging me to watch some of his favorite films. Most notably, these are films that I have had no interest in prior to Carlos' recommendation. You may recall a couple months ago I wrote about The Hustler (1961). This is one of Carlos' all-time favorite movies and I was so impressed with the film that I was resolved to be open-minded and watch more films that Carlos recommended to me, regardless of any hesitance I had previously to said films. And because I have such a soft spot for the man, I'm even allowing him to take me to see It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - a film I've been avoiding like the plague - on the big screen around Christmas. So stay tuned for a post on that.


My viewing of Dr. Strangelove (1964) came at the perfect moment. I had just seen Seven Days in May (1964) (read my post about it here) and had been thinking a lot about the Cold War and how it has been represented on film. I've also been watching the 3rd season of Mad Men and had been particularly interested in 1960s America especially the political and social changes that our country faced during that time. And here enters this Kubrick classic.

Now everyone and their mother has seen this film. So I won't pretend to be an expert or to give you any new insight. I just want to say that I enjoyed how this film manages to blend farce and suspence into this witty film. George C. Scott is a hoot as General Buck Turgidson, a man so on edge and so sensient that he is just bursting at the seams. His facial expressions and mannerisms are hilarious!

My favorite line of his is quite a naughty one. He says the following to his bikini-wearing secretary: "You just start off your countdown and ole' Bucky will be back here before you can say 'Blast Off'". Oh my!

I also have a soft spot for Sterling Hayden (The Most Beautiful Man in Movies) who plays General Jack D. Ripper - great names huh? - a deranged General who has just ordered several B-52 to drop atomic bombs on Russian soil. Eek!

When I hear people talk about this movie, they usually talk about Peter Sellers who plays three roles: The President, Dr. Strangelove and Captain Mandrake. I can't say I was all that impressed with Sellers (I'm waiting for someone to throw tomatoes at me). He's okay. I think Hayden and Scott were much more interesting actors to watch on screen.

I think for me to truly appreciate this film I need to learn more about it. I want to spend sometime reading a few articles about it and watching the extras on the Special Edition DVD. If you have written a post about it on your blog or know of an interesting post or article online, please send me a link! I'd also really love to hear your thoughts on this film and if you have any tidbits of information to share or interesting observations, please please please leave me a comment. Speak!


  1. Incoming tomato!

    I totally agree with you about Scott. Turgidson is probably his best role ("I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed"). But c'mon, you must admit Sellers' phone conversation with Premiere Kissoff was pretty hilarious.

    "What happened is one of our base commanders ... well, he went a little funny in the head."

  2. Getting recommendations is of the best kind, especially from ones beau...

    I haven't seen this particular film in a long while, but I share your opinion about Hayden - a marvelously underrated actor, giving a memorable performance here.

    There's so many layers to this film that makes it an interesting film to come back to again and again - After reading your review, I think I'll re-watch it soon.

  3. This is a great film and it's nice to see it is still appreciated. I also agree that Sellars is a little stretched in this movie. His Dr. Strangelove is over the top even for this movie. However, I love Mandrake and his scences with Hayden - a wonderful actor. If you haven't seen him in The Long Goodbye, check it out.

  4. Swell post! I like when people don't particularly praise films that are thought of as classics by the majority.

    I'm no big fan of Strangelove either. I think it's awkward as a whole but with many good moments.

    Strangelove made Peter Sellers known outside the UK and made him the flavour of the 60's. I believe this isn't the only movie in which he had several roles, different postures and accents was his speciality. He was the Lon Chaney of the 1960's in a way.

    George C Scott is great as always but I think he's even better in Patton (1970) which is HIS film all together. I suspect he got to do Patton thanks to what he did in Strangelove.

  5. The Hustler, Seven Days in May, Strangelove... sounds like your beau has good taste in movies. :-)

    George C. is my favorite to watch in Strangelove, too. But the story I heard about it is that he wasn't happy with this performance, as Kubrick asked him to go over the top for practice and then used all those takes. (I think it's brilliant.)

    What's next on your Cold War list? Fail Safe?

  6. In context of 1964, Strangelove tried so hard to be "the" satirical, existential anti-establishment movie - and for many people it succeeded.

    Young radicals, of the intellectual kind, suspected the military and governments were run by irrational egotists and the film gave a view of that madness - in comic book form. But in terms of being something which pushed anti-war and anti-establishment values, it had marginal success.

    After a while, just using the film's title in conversation was a shorthand way of saying, "We live with violent nuts in charge of the world."

    My biggest complaint about the film was Sellers playing three roles. I suppose there was deeper meaning for doing this but I felt it was a gimmick which broke the continuity of the story line.

  7. Oh, I love this film! George C. Scott overshadows even Mr. Sellers, I agree. I haven't written anything about the film myself, but I know that the trivia section on IMDb can be really enlightening - just a tip ;)

  8. Argh, now, you are making me want to finally go and finish this one! ;-D

    Great review!

  9. "Ice cream, Mandrake? Children's ice cream?"

    One of my all-time favorite movie lines...and you'd be amazed at how many times I've been able to sneak this into everyday conversations.

  10. i had the good fortune of seeing this masterpiece on the big screen at Trinity college in hartford CT several years ago and the crowd went nuts when Sellers went into his Dr Strangelove character at the end. that is the best part as far as his performace goes, it is so sick and so hilarious, i die laughing every time i see it. but i too have a great admiration for Sterling Hayden (c'mon, Asphalt Jungle AND the Killing AND Johnny Guiatar??) and his speeches about commies and vodka and sapping and impurifying our precious bodily fluids are just a riot. the whole film is masterfully put together and the sets by Ken Adam (right name? I think he worked on the early Bond films too) are just awesome.

    "Gentleman, please, there's no fighting in the war room!"

    gotta love it!

  11. This movie is problematic for me. I've seen it a couple of times, and I didn't like it much either time, but something about it fascinated me enough that I'm sure I'll see it again. I haven't been able to figure out just what the attraction is, but it exists! Usually I love Sellars, but I have to agree with you that I wasn't blown away by his performance. I like him when he's more reserved and devious--as in Lolita.

  12. I'm glad you finally saw this film. It is my favourite comedy of all time. And as far as performances, I must point out Slim Pickens as well. Okay, he plays the usual sort of role he always does, but he does it well and with some of the best lines in the film! Speaking of great lines, Dr. Strangelove as to me what is one of the funniest lines in a movie of all time, "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

    You have never seen It's A Wonderful Life? I thought everyone had seen that! Do tell me, you have seen The Seven Samurai....

  13. Wow! That's a lot of comments.

    CrayolaThief - Yes that phone conversation had lots of great lines.

    Sebina - Do you and your fiancee share movies a lot? Carlos and I have movies going back and forth between each other all the time.

    Editor - I'll check out The Long Goodbye. Thanks for that one!

    Jonas - This movie doesn't really seem to be your sort so I can understand why you didn't like it. I haven't seen Patton! I'll have to watch it and compare.

    Wendy - So good to see you here. Actually, I got Carlos to watch Seven Days in May! We exchange films all the time. I don't have anything on my list. But I'll add Fail Safe.

    Bill Stankus - You always provide such insightful and informative comments. Thanks for that! I agree that maybe Sellers was stretched too thin in this one? 3 roles seemed excessive.

    Lolita - I've been to the IMDB trivia section for SO SO SO MANY movies. I always go there. But I like to hear from my readers too.

    Millie - Tell me what you think. Remember just power through when the going gets tough.

    Ivan - Oh that's great! I like that you put that into everyday conversation.

    KC - I know. I'm still waiting to like this movie. I like Scott & Hayden and a few things about it. But I'm not enamored like everyone else in. ::fingers crossed::

    Mercurie - See, I watch what I want to watch and I usually avoid the biggies. THat's why it's great that I have Carlos to breakdown my hesitance to watch some of these classic classics. And no I haven't seen The Seven Samurai. :-(

  14. I agree with KC...I am not particularly fond of STRANGELOVE. There are a handful of great scenes, but I always feel like Kubrick worked too hard to create a brand of offbeat humor and therefore it feels forced. Now, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is a terrific film and a personal favorite.

  15. Raquelle:
    We do - he has introduced me to some really great films as well.

  16. I'm excited for you to see "It's a Wonderful Life"! I also resisted this movie for many years, although I decided to bite the bullet long ago, when I was 15. I loved it and realized it is so beloved for a reason. I think you will enjoy it too!


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