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AN HOMAGE TO DR. STRANGELOVE

THE FULL name of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 political satire flick is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. And I cannot imagine a more appropriate entertainment for us in these days of Trump, Putin, Kim, Xi, and other world statesmen.

The plot of Dr. Strangelove is straightforward: U.S. Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper orders a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, one that’s not authorized by U.S. President Merkin Muffley. UK Royal Air Force Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, recognizing Ripper’s demented state, tries to cancel the strike. Dr. Strangelove, President Muffley’s ex-Nazi nuclear war advisor, offers chillingly rational plans for surviving an inevitable Doomsday retaliation. The end is, truly, the end.

That Strangelove, Muffley, and Mandrake are all played by a single actor, comedic genius Peter Sellers, adds to the one-world message.

Peter Sellers had already played multiple roles in an earlier anti-war satire, The Mouse That Roared. In this utterly charming and gentle 1959 flick, Europe’s tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick attempts to solve its economic difficulties by declaring and losing a war with the U.S., thus earning American largesse toward its defeated enemies.

By contrast, Dr. Strangelove is much darker.

Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper is a paranoid ultra-nationalist Strategic Air Command chief portrayed by Sterling Hayden. Image from historyonthenet.com.

Ripper has an interesting theory about the Soviets that’s right out of the McCarthy era: “I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

Group Captain Lionel Mandrake is on loan to SAC from the RAF. Mandrake is one of Peter Sellers’ three roles in the flick.

At one point, Mandrake, in his RAF uniform, is mistaken for a “deviated prevert” when U.S. military personnel invade SAC headquarters to thwart Ripper.

President Merkin Muffley, a second role for Peter Sellers.

The president is bald, with both his given and surname as in-jokes of hairpieces for ladies’ private parts. Quelling a heated discussion in the underground War Room, Muffley says, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight here. This is a war room!”

General Buck Turgidson is a jingoist and USAF Chief of Staff. George C. Scott portrays him with intense wackiness.

Turgidson (another great name) argues that nuclear exchanges would yield victory for the U.S. with only acceptable losses: “… no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops… depending on the breaks.”

Dr. Strangelove, ex-Nazi nuclear expert, is wheelchair-bound in Sellers’ third starring role.

From time to time, Strangelove’s black-gloved right hand has a Heil life of its own as he mistakes Muffley for his previous boss: “Mein Fürher!’’

Air Force Major T.J. “King” Kong pilots one of the B-52 bombers on their mission of nuclear delivery. Kong is played in fine cowboy style by Slim Pickens.

“King” Kong’s B-52 is the sole bomber missing the recall notice. What’s worse (better?), its bomb bay doors jam. But don’t worry.

Kong rides the bomb down to its target, the Doomsday retaliation initiates, and, 4800 miles away, Dr. Strangelove experiences a miracle: He rises from his wheelchair. “Mein Fürher! I can walk!”

Who says movies can’t have happy endings? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

2 comments on “AN HOMAGE TO DR. STRANGELOVE

  1. David Rees
    March 13, 2018

    It remains my favorite film of all time. A stunning piece of work that works just as well today – maybe better – than it did at the time of it’s release.

  2. Vigour of Film Lines
    June 4, 2018

    I like the way you higlighted one of the greatest and most important moments in the film. Truly a masterpiece of “black comedy”

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