‘Classics’ Review: Dr Strangelove
by J. Selley
**** 4 Stars
‘While Kubrick’s depiction may be an older, maybe even outdated comedy, it still allows for a humorous journey through a dystopian world of nuclear war and Nazi inventions.’
The 1964 film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, Dr Stangelove is a key example of both how comedy can be relatable long after its time and how addressing real-life threats in what could usually be viewed as a disrespectful and callous way is, in reality, a humorous homage to the threat of nuclear war in the twentieth century.
Despite being made in 1964, when colour film was already widespread and readily available, Dr Strangelove is entirely filmed in black and white; there is much debate surrounding why this is the case, yet regardless of Kubrick’s intentions here, the lack of colour does not seem to take away from the film in any sense but rather adds a deeper layer. The events of the film do not take place in our world but rather in a dysfunctional world devoid of any sense, or reason, which is both reflected in the characters and in the lack of colour. In addition to this, the decision to film in black and white also allows for a further distance from the characters as they don’t feel quite real and, in that sense, there is a safety for the audience to watch and laugh in the knowledge that the events unfolding are not connected to their own lives, just a parody of them. Kubrick furthers this with the opening of the film, assuring the audience that the events of the film would not take place ordinarily.
The premise of the film is of a coup taking place within the American military that leads to an order to go forward with a nuclear assault on the Soviet Union; which causes the flight crew of the B-52 to become inspired with patriotism and fly eagerly to attack the Russians. While this is occurring, the Brigadier who ordered the attack, played by Sterling Hayden, calls a British Colonel Mandrake, the first of many characters played by Peter Sellers. As events with Mandrake and the Brigadier Jack Ripper unfold the American government gathers to discuss what is to be done about the now impending nuclear war; here Peter Sellers plays both the American president and the ex-Nazi scientist. The Russian ambassador enters and reveals that the Soviet Union were days away from unveiling a ‘doomsday device’ which would explode in the event of nuclear war.
As the events unfold, Kubrick uses the tension of nuclear war to create a humorous setting in the form of the deteriorating security of the American government; as the sub-title implies, the film ends with the Government deciding to ‘stop worrying and love the bomb’ as scenes of nuclear horror are played along to ‘We’ll Meet Again’ hearkening back to the Second World War.
In conclusion, while Kubrick’s depiction may be an older, maybe even outdated comedy, it still allows for a humorous journey through a dystopian world of nuclear war and Nazi inventions.
Dr Strangelove is currently available on BBC iPlayer and was rated PG by the BBFC.