Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

I didn't have time to screen cap this, because I borrowed it from a friend who was very specific about the time that he wanted it returned. That was probably smart of him, though. I tend to collect other people's belongings and absorb them like the Blob. As a result, unfortunately, I'm making do with borrowed images, as well. I really like the process of making screen captures because it allows me to revisit the film I just watched, which allows me to engage with it again. I also like being able to choose my images rather than being forced to rely on what is available.

For instance, Google fed me variations on this image over and over, which is just fine, but not terribly interesting, except as a demonstration of how delightfully creepy Dr. Strangelove is. Those teeth make me shudder:

So anyway, failing to use my own images degrades the quality of my writing. That being said, this isn't my most dedicated work. End disclaimer.

Being a fan of Stanley Kubrick's and of black comedies in general, I had been meaning to see this film for a long time. I've always been drawn to the black comedy genre, since clearly the best way to make an already disturbing topic twice as disturbing is by turning it into a joke. It might be pointless to relay the narrative of this film, since it seems like pretty much everyone but me has already seen it. But what happens is that General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) goes a little FUBAR and singlehandedly unleashes the U.S. air force on Russia. Highlighting this in the war room is a "big board" with an enormous map of Russia and images of missiles closing in on it from all directions. There is only one code to pull them off; Ripper is the only one who knows it. The catch is that, unbeknownst to the world, Russia has created a "doomsday machine," which will bring about the end of the world if a bomb is dropped there. The film is mainly spent watching the buffoonish president and his advisers' fruitless attempts at restoring order.

Jack Ripper gives a rather infamous speech about the male essence, and how fluoridated water is a conspiracy to rid men of said essence. Notice the phallic cigar dangling from his lips. It is this fear of impotency that leads to his psychotic break, which leads to the launching of some phallic missiles. It's also notable that there is only one woman in this entire film, and she is in a bikini for her entire screen time. This is a testosterone circus, although few displays of traditional masculinity are actually portrayed, particularly not by Sellers' characters (Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove). Presumably, Ripper tires of the incessant cowardice of the Cold War and just decides to make a move. Or maybe the Cold War was never about cowardice at all; it was simply "a dick measuring contest," as a good friend of mine might say.

This movie is hysterical, and the naming is ingenious. Most people should know how this plays out, since the final moments of this film are pretty infamous. For good reason. There is no fighting in the war room. Yee-hah.

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