30 July 2016

THE CRITERION COLLECTION PRESENTS: DR. STRANGELOVE. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE CRITERION COLLECTION PRESENTS: DR. STRANGELOVE, OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY STANLEY KUBRICK. SCREENPLAY BY STANLEY KUBRICK. BASED ON THE NOVEL 'RED ALERT' BY PETER GEORGE.
STARRING PETER SELLERS, GEORGE C. SCOTT, STERLING HAYDEN, KEENAN WYNN, SLIM PICKENS, JAMES EARL JONES, PETER BULL, TRACY REED AND SHANE RIMMER.

'You can't fight in here, this is the War Room...!'

That's my favourite line from this wacky political satire that's still considered today to be one of iconic director Stanley Kubrick's best films. It's a Cold War film, usually not my favourite kind of war movie. I've always preferred films about the two World Wars to Cold War flicks, but this one is hilariously funny and sharply-scripted so all is forgiven, if you know what I mean.

This is the film in which the wonderful Peter Sellers famously plays three roles. In fact, he was meant to play a fourth, but I'm actually really glad that Slim Pickens ended up playing Major T.J. 'King' Kong instead, the pilot of the aircraft that's bringing the bomb to the Russians, who presumably don't want it. Well, would you? I'm sure I wouldn't, heh-heh-heh. I'd have nowhere to put it, for one thing. I'm stuck for space as it is.

The first role in which we see Peter Sellers, who's also known for playing the oafish French policeman Inspector Clouseau in the PINK PANTHER series of films, is that of Group Captain Lionel Mandrake of the UK Royal Air Force.

His English accent is spectacularly cut-glass. It speaks of tea with the Queen at a posh garden party at which wafer-thin cucumber sandwiches are served on bone-china plates. You know the type of thing. Very posh, certainly too posh for us common peasants...!

Anyway, Mandrake is horrified to discover that the United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper has ordered several of his aircraft to attack Russia without the necessary nod from the Pentagon. Such an attack could, of course, trigger a nuclear retaliation from Russia which could conceivably bring about a world apocalypse. Naturally, this must be prevented at all costs.

Sellers also plays the President of the United States, the bald, bespectacled Merkin Muffley. Muffley spends the whole film in the Pentagon's extremely imposing War Room with his aides, discussing the implications of the impending nuclear disaster. We get the impression that he's not the most dynamic of world leaders...!

His telephone conversations with 'Dimitri,' the Soviet Prime Minister, in which he tries to convey the seriousness of the situation to his Russian counterpart, is side-splittingly funny. It's hard to know which of the two Premiers is 'sorriest' for what's happened...!

Peter Sellers's third role is, of course, that of the titular Dr. Strangelove, the President's scientific advisor. Probably the most bizarre and eccentric of all the roles Sellers plays here, Strangelove is a curious, German-accented, wheelchair-bound fellow whose right arm has to be restrained from constantly breaking into the Nazi salute. I think we can work out what that means, haha.

Dr. Strangelove's vision for an underground mineshaft Utopia, in which it will be up to the President and his surviving aides to repopulate the Earth with only the most sexually desirable of women, certainly goes down well with President Muffley and General Buck Turgidson, brilliantly played by George C. Scott complete with an Army buzzcut you could set your watch by.

Turgidson is involved in one of the funniest scenes of the film when his secretary/girlfriend phones him in the War Room right in the middle of the nuclear crisis, seeking reassurance that he doesn't just want her for the sex. Let's face it, folks, women do do that. I once phoned an ex of mine about a leaky tap when, as it turned out, he was driving his wife to the labour ward to give birth. Well, how was I to know? Needless to say, that tap's still bloody leaking...

Slim Pickens, a brilliant character actor and veteran of numerous Westerns, is probably the star of the show after Peter Sellers himself. As the cowboy-hatted pilot of the aircraft that's actually carrying the bomb, he sounds exactly the way he does in comedy Western BLAZING SADDLES, in which he plays a crooked cowboy who's in league with the dastardly Hedley Lamarr to drive the good folk of the town of Rockridge out of their homes. By which I mean, he sounds just like himself.

'Dang near lost a hundred-dollar hand-cart...!'

I love his description of the airforce-issued emergency pack for the men which includes a combination Bible-and-Russian-phrasebook, one issue of prophylactics and three issues of nylon stockings, presumably for any women they might come across in their travels. It's all in his pristine comic delivery.

The image of Slim Pickens 'riding the bomb' and 'yee-hawing' his way down to Earth on it has been much parodied, for example in THE SIMPSONS, when Homer fantasises that he's riding the bomb himself. Herman, the one-armed owner of HERMAN'S ANTIQUES, has had to put up a sign on his own example of nuclear weaponry that reads:

'PLEASE DO NOT RIDE THE BOMB...!'

THE CRITERION COLLECTION are releasing this magnificent old comedy classic on Blu-Ray this July (2016), complete as always with lashings of simply spiffing extra features including interviews with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott and new interviews with Stanley Kubrick scholars Mick Broderick and Rodney Hill.

There's a whole load of other great stuff on there as well, and the film itself also contains a brilliant militarised version of the song 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home', so if I were you I'd go out and buy it right away. In fact, I insist upon it. And if you don't do what I say, well, you won't have to answer to me. That's right:

'You'll have to answer to the Coca-Cola company...!'

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com









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