USA Release Date: 29th January 1964
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 14th April 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is a film I remember watching many years ago. I recall that I wasn’t all that impressed with it then, but then again, I was probably a bit young to appreciate it. Now a tad older (& wiser) I felt I could do it a bit more justice and boy was I right! I have to say it’s one of the best satirical comedies I’ve seen in many a year and a film that will easily make it into my top 100! More of my thoughts after this very brief summary.
When an American General loses his marbles and orders a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, it’s up to a few men in a room in the Pentagon to sort it out. They are aided by the crazy scientist, Dr. Strangelove, who has some interesting ideas about the survival of the human race after a nuclear war. But I’m getting ahead of myself; the General in question, Jack Ripper, has an executive officer at the base, the British airman, Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, who spends most of the film trying to get the release codes out of the General. We also have the pleasure of meeting the crew of one of the B52 bombers, piloted by Maj. ‘King’ Kong. This crew don’t know their orders might be bogus and are determined to carry them out to the letter. Meanwhile, back in the pentagon, the President, Merkin Muffley, is trying all diplomatic routes in order to avoid a nuclear war! His Generals, particularly Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson, want to take the upper hand and attack the Soviets, but Muffley invites the Soviet Ambassador into the war room and this stifles the General. I won’t tell how it ends up or the Spoiler Police will be dropping me from a plane (again), but needless to say there are a few surprises to come.
Although the effects are not of the quality we expect today, a pretty good job was done considering the technology in the early 1960’s. The film was all very well shot, Kubrick had a great eye and I can see the early echoes of the latter scenes in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ in certain scenes here. Performance-wise, well nobody put a foot wrong, but I must give special praise to Peter Sellers who was superb in all three of his roles; Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and, of course, Dr. Strangelove. Also worthy of note; George C. Scott as Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson, Sterling Hayden as Brig. Gen. Jack Ripper, Keenan Wynn as Col. 'Bat' Guano, Slim Pickens as Maj. ‘King’ Kong, Peter Bull as Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky, James Earl Jones as Lt. Lothar Zogg and finally, Tracy Reed as Miss Scott.
Darkly satirical throughout, I really love the way this film never lets up and portrays the military as the bad guys. Surprisingly the politicians, the President in particular, comes off pretty well in the end. One slight niggle (for me) was that the film was shot in a 4:3 ratio and I’m afraid that did make it look a little dated. I can forgive the fact that it was made in black & white given where, and when, it was made. Over all though, a genuinely entertaining film that has several highs and one that have absolutely no problem in deeming… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My Score: 9.4/10
IMDb Score: 8.6/10 (based on 196,848 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: 96/100: (Based on 11 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 100/100 (based on 60 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 94/100 (based on 117,100 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Narrator: For more than a year, ominous rumours had been privately circulating among high-level Western leaders that the Soviet Union had been at work on what was darkly hinted to be the ultimate weapon: a doomsday device. Intelligence sources traced the site of the top secret Russian project to the perpetually fog-shrouded wasteland below the Arctic peaks of the Zhokhov Islands. What they were building or why it should be located in such a remote and desolate place no one could say.
General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, about, uh, 35 minutes ago, General Jack Ripper, the commanding general of, uh, Burpelson Air Force Base, issued an order to the 34 B-52's of his Wing, which were airborne at the time as part of a special exercise we were holding called Operation Drop-Kick. Now, it appears that the order called for the planes to, uh, attack their targets inside Russia. The, uh, planes are fully armed with nuclear weapons with an average load of, um, 40 megatons each. Now, the central display of Russia will indicate the position of the planes. The triangles are their primary targets; the squares are their secondary targets. The aircraft will begin penetrating Russian radar cover within, uh, 25 minutes.
President Merkin Muffley: General Turgidson, I find this very difficult to understand. I was under the impression that I was the only one in authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.
General "Buck" Turgidson: That's right, sir, you are the only person authorized to do so. And although I, uh, hate to judge before all the facts are in, it's beginning to look like, uh, General Ripper exceeded his authority.
Major T. J. "King" Kong: Well, I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones. You sure you got today's codes?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel... that Coca-Cola machine. I want you to shoot the lock off it. There may be some change in there.
Colonel "Bat" Guano: That's private property.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel! Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call to the President of the United States? Can you imagine? Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That's what the bullets are for, you twit!
Colonel "Bat" Guano: Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: What?
Colonel "Bat" Guano: You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.
[Strangelove's plan for post-nuclear war survival involves living underground with a 10:1 female-to-male ratio]
General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?
Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.
Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.