Nine Weeks of Kubrick, Week Eight – Andy Burns on Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this is previous entries, but the eighth film in my Nine Weeks of Kubrick series is one I genuinely haven’t been looking forward to watching. In fact, aside from Barry Lyndon, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb was the one picture I really had zero interest in. I’ve only seen it one previous time, back when I was in university and taking a film class. I just remember being horribly bored with it. Now, I was relatively young at the time, nineteen or twenty years old, so maybe I just wasn’t ready for the complex black satire. Maybe I’d enjoy it more as a full-blown adult, watching with a discerning eye as I made my way through the Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition blu-ray box set. Did I change my tune? Read on.

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb

What the film is about: Set during the Cold War, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb finds America at risk of nuclear war after a disgruntled general (Sterling Hayden) orders a first strike against Russia. Various characters, including Peter Sellers in three different roles, try to prevent the strike, while a B-52 fighter plane attempts to nuke the country.

What I liked about Dr. Strangelove: What does it say about me that I really didn’t enjoy watching what many consider to be a classic piece of black comedy and one of Stanley Kubrick’s defining films? Sadly, some fifteen years or so removed from my first seeing, I still wasn’t engaged by the good doctor. Though it has great performances from Peter Sellers (three of them, in fact), George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden, there’s very little about the film that moved me or captured my imagination the way that Kubrick’s other works have. Though it’s supposed to be a comedy, I really only ever chuckled – and almost always, that came from Peter Sellers (the President’s phone call with the Russian Prime Minister is definitely priceless, as is Dr. Strangelove’s incessant Nazi salutations). While I appreciate the film is a satire of the Cold War fear at the time, I’m left feeling that Dr. Strangelove is the most dated of all Kubrick’s work, and dated often leads to boring.

What I didn’t like about the film: It’s definitely worth nothing that there isn’t anything imparticular I disliked about Dr. Strangelove, though I would say that the War Room scene where the implications of what’s been set in motion goes on for far too long, in my book. I suppose the passing was just far to slow for me. I remember thinking back in school that it was a three hour picture, when it’s actually only slightly over 90 minutes. As well, unlike future Kubrick films, there’s nothing visually arresting in Dr. Strangelove. It’s fairly straightforward, relying more on script and character, just as Lolita did. I just feel that Lolita did it better.

Should you watch Dr. Strangelove: Considered to be one of the 100 Greatest Films of all Time by more than a few critics, it’s probably mandetory for a cinema lover to see Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb at least once. If you like it, all the better. However, it’s not a Kubrick film I’d recommend as your first time taste of what the director can do. I think he did dark, comedic satire far better with A Clockwork Orange, vastly different films they may be. But who knows? Maybe I’ll come around to Dr. Strangelove in another fifteen years.

Check in next week for the ninth and final film in our look at the work of Stanley Kubrick. In the meantime, check out the previous seven editions:

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