Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb review by crosshairs

Thrilling and completely hilarious.

Story Summary

In the middle of the cold war era, an Air Force base commander looses touch with reality, launches his entire B-52 fleet against the Ruskies, and places his base under lockdown. The U.S. “War Room” is assembled and the game is played out. The military forces attempt to persuade the President to let the fleet go and annihilate the Soviets in an attempt to win the war. The Soviets on the other hand have developed a secret device which will automatically detonate nuclear blasts around the world if the motherland is attacked with “the bomb” thus ending the world as we know it. The President does not wish to have nuclear war break out on his watch, so the game is to recall the fleet, before any planes arrive at their targets.


This masterpiece is a humoresque take of the unimaginable. In the time of complete chaos in our country with Kennedy’s assassination, Cuban missile crisis, Gary Powers’ incident, and unfathomable amounts of nuclear ordinance being aimed at the USSR and America, only one man could ever be so bold as to poke a stick in the eye of the US and USSR’s MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) policy. Only one man could be so technically focused as to catch the FBI’s attention not once, but twice. (The first time was when making a set for a movie and the second when shooting background scenes.) And only one man could hit the nail on the head so completely as to the stupidity of the whole situation. That man was Stanley Kubrick.

Of course entire volumes could be written about the ramifications this movie has had on the cinema of today, as well as the foreign policy of the present, so this account will be short. To sum up how influential this movie truly was, when Ronald Reagan became President, one of the first things he asked to see was the War Room. He was amazed to find out that it didn’t actually exist.

What makes this movie so good? Is it the technical brilliance, wonderfully written script, realistic sets, or just the captivating performance of the actors? I would argue that the reason this movie was such a big hit was mainly because of the fresh perspective on the whole crazy scenario. To my knowledge there are no plans that would enable a base commander to give an order to release an entire nuclear assault unless the entire command structure of the country had been destroyed (which is similar to what was being simulated in the movie). This should cause warm fuzzies to exist in the hearts of the American populous. The important factor to note is that even in today’s political environment, it is fairly difficult to ensure the same predictability from current adversaries. This movie plays on this inherent fear of Americans.

In the beginning, Kubrick opens with a phallic scene of B-52’s mid-air refueling. I find this very fitting, since the entire cold war seemed just like an old-fashioned “urination” contest, and the primary tools for employment for both sides were bombers and missiles. (Granted many people realize the B-52 is the premier bomber in the US inventory, but to give one a sense of magnitude, this aircraft is capable of carrying 108 - 500 lb dumb bombs or 12 nuclear cruise missles, or pretty much whatever other mayhem you would like to load.) From the start I fell in love with the seemingly fake models of the B-52 in flight. In all actuality, the B-52 (Buff, as known to the enthusiasts) is not a smooth flying aircraft as one may believe. When airborne, its aerodynamic characteristics actually are fairly similar to the model representations used in the movie. The plot unfolds to inform the audience of Strategic Air Command’s (SAC) 24-hour alert policy. (Since this movie, SAC has been dissolved, and we no longer have entire squadrons of B-52’s airborne at any given time.) As this seemed disconcerting to many people, this was reality. Shortly after unsettling the audience, Kubrick jumps into having Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper declaring plan R. This secret plan unleashes the fury of the B-52 fleet on targets deep within the Russian motherland without any prior Commander In Chief approval. This is to only be employed if the US has been annihilated and the President can not issue the order because he is no longer alive. This sets Peter Sellers up to begin his reign in the multitude of roles to include the President of the United States of America and the arch nemesis of humanity, the German scientist, Dr. Strangelove.

Even though the film includes many “new-to-the-silver-screen” actors to include James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, one might argue that Peter Sellers stole the show. In fact Sellers would have continued to play the Slim Pickens’ role if he hadn’t broken his leg during the film. I personally feel the chemistry of the entire group is quite magnificent. In any matter, it might be the story, it might be the actors, or it might be the controversy, but I think the best part of this entire movie is the complete and utter satire throughout. It is beautiful in that the fears of yesterday, even though partially resolved, have once again reared their heads and we must again sit back, look at the world, and ask ourselves how silly we are as an entire race. All in all any movie enthusiast should watch this movie and walk away with their own sentiments. I only pose this review as an aperitif to wet the mouth of other movie “Buff’s”.

DVD features

This DVD offers a few cool interviews with the various crewmembers of the film. They are most definitely must see items, however, the movie is still the utmost reason to rent the flick.

Final Thoughts

This movie is by far the funniest movie concerning the cold war era. Sublime casting, acting, and writing have made this film what it is today… a paragon for future filmmakers to strive towards. To paraphrase a quote of the film, “A guy could have a pretty good time in Vegas with this”. I feel the same way.

10 out of 10 Jackasses
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