FF37 - Dr. Strangelove

Intro by John Roderick

There are so many problems with this movie, so many flaws, historical inaccuracys and indefensible viewpoints that it's a travesty. Apparently it's regarded as a classic of American cinema but it is actually a neocolonialist apologya for crypto-fascism, popular only because it's directed by that precious and entitled hack Stanley Kubrick who was famous for only one thing: The sex scenes in Eyes Wide Shut. Otherwise this movie has no redeeming qualities and I fought its inclusion on this list until the bitter end. It was only when Adam and Ben threatened to quit the show if I refused to tacitly endorse this hot garbage that I relented.

But there is no valid reason to watch this film and I submit that even saying the title aloud is an act of aggression. No, I am trolling you! LOL! This is an all time great movie and I think we should celebrate its release as a national holiday even though it was filmed in England. I know some people haven't seen it. Some people haven't been to Disneyland or read Beloved or eaten Kraft Macaroni and Cheese either. It goes without saying I think you should do those things, too. I also think you should take mushrooms at some point in your life and when you go to a costume party I think you should really make an effort to dress up and don't just wear the one suit you wear to everything with a fake mustache.

This film almost certainly changed the course of history, simply by playing the most terrifying mid century horrors as farce. Knows what hesitation it later inspired in the hearts of the young future Pentagonians. Well, let me tell you when I first saw during the height of the mid 1980s Cold War, it felt seditious and verboten even twenty years after its release. The 1980s were "If you're not with us, you're against us!" time, just like now, except: My God! Talk about the lines in the sand: The whole Earth was divided East and West. How could we laugh at this movie without giving comfort to the enemy, the communists! They wanted us to surrender our soft white bread and eat crusty dark bread off a tin plate.

I watched Dr. Strangelove on VHS in a high school make out party and I looked around guiltily at all my friends canoodling in the shadows and said: "Are you guys seeing this?" I realized I'd misunderstood the sixties, I'd misunderstood the arms race in the Vietnam War, I'd misjudged the sophistication of my parents in the media of their time. And most importantly: I misapprehended the uniqueness and importance of my own time, which seemed so precarious and unprecedented then. I also clearly misunderstood what I was supposed to be doing at a make out party.

Anyway, the film stars the charming, talented and inhumane Peter Sellers and a number of roles: There is Group Captain Mandrake, a British officer trapped in a room by a warmongering American general played by Sterling Hayden. Hayden's unhinged performance felt at the time like only the slightest exaggeration of actual cigar-chomping warmongering generals, which is the core conceit of the movie and the most terrifying aspect then and now.

Sellers also played President Merikin Muffley, a speckled and bald bureaucrat loosely based on Adlai Stevenson II who was an erudite intellectual and progressive Democratic politician who ran for president three times in the 1950s and lost all three times for reasons already explained earlier in this sentence. Sellers also played the eponymous Dr. Strangelove, a ludicrous caricature of a Nazi scientist who, rehabilitated and mostly reformed, advises the US on Apocalypse policy and aside from the one evil hand is also terrifyingly close to actual ludicrous reform Nazis who were throughout the military industrial complex of the time. Mutual assured destruction was the best we could come up with then to stave off nuclear annihilation and it was still the prevailing doctrine in 1984.

General Ripper, convinced that communists were secretly chemtrailing us with fluoridated drinking water, hatched a plan to first-strike the Russians using an existing plan that ordered the planes radio silent once they received the order. Only Ripper had the code to recall them. Slim Pickens played the hillbilly pilot of one of those B52s, a credible, just-following-orders-USA American who inspired his men to see their grim duty through. What plays out as a biting satire, sure, but we came surprisingly close to this exact scenario more than once during the Cold War and it's hard to watch this film without feeling like we repeatedly dodged an apocalypse mostly due to happenstance. If the wrong person had been on duty or someone had been granted one more level of security clearance on a different day: Boom!

While this movie is hilarious it also has a pretty terrifying aftertaste as you think about how, despite everybody being named Buck Turgidson or Merkin Muffley or General Ripper, this is a closer reading of history than we dare even now to consider. It's a black and white classic from 1964 and the rare comedy film on friendly fire. Get ready for us to show you the big board as today we review Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and love the bomb.

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