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United Kingdom 1964
Directed by
Stanley Kubrick
91 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

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

Controversial in its day in the setting of the Cold War, as a ridiculing of military, machismo, paranoia and incompetence Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb still works although its reputation has outstripped its inherent merits, which are nevertheless considerable. The script was adapted from a 1958 British novel, Red Alert by Peter George who is credited as a scriptwriter, along with Kubrick and Terry Southern, although the latter two are responsible for changing the original script which kept to the book's thriller format into a satirical comedy.

Peter Sellers plays three characters in one of his most creditable films. Also slotted to play the bomber captain Major "King" Kong , Sellers broke his leg and tired of Kubrick's exhausting working methods he withdrew, leaving the role to Slim Pickens who ended up with one of the most memorable scenes in modern cinematic history as result. There was also another ending shot involving a cream pie fight in the war room that was abandonded, partly because it didn't work and partly because President John Kennedy was assassinated shortly after filming was finished and it was felt that showing the filmic President (played by Sellers) getting a cream pie in the face would offend public sentiment (the film's release was delayed until 1964 in order to appease possible backlash).

Whilst as a satire the script sometimes, particularly thanks to Sellers comes across as Ealing Studios material, Kubrick's meticulous direction and the wonderful performances by the American members of the cast, Sterling Hayden, George C. Scott and Keenan Wynn lift the film into a different, more acerbic league. It also benefits from being originally written as thriller, being surprisingly tightly-plotted and well-paced for a comedy as we inexorably approach the climatic moment..


 

 

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