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"Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) - Produced and Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott


The Hersch
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It has been said that Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove is an anti-war film for those already convinced, and I suppose that's fair enough. But I've just watched it for about the 11th or 12th (or maybe 15th) time and I have to say that I think it's the greatest film ever made. It's visually ravishing, even though the process shots of the B-52 in flight are not as duplicative of reality as modern film graphics; they're still devastatingly beautiful. George C. Scott's performance is certainly his greatest in a long and wonderful career, and ditto Sterling Hayden. Peter Sellers's three performances are all precious treasures, but his performance in the title role is almost impossibly, almost uniquely brilliant. If you haven't seen it, you need to see it. You may not be aware that Sellers was supposed to play the Slim Pickens role as well as the others. I don't know if that would have made a better or a lesser film, but it's hard not to love Slim Pickens's performance. What prompted me to watch Dr. Strangelove just now was seeing Fail-Safe on TCM just before. Practically the same conception, released in the same year, except  Fail-Safe didn't have any laughs or any genius.

If you want another great anti-war film, possibly even for the unconvinced, watch Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, another of my favorite movies.

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I'm awful at remembering movie quotes.

<_<

How about this one:

"Yeeeeeeeee-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Believe it or not, I saw Dr. Strangelove for the first time only a few months ago. I *loved* it - it's one of the best movies I've ever seen, comedy or otherwise - and Peter Sellers was one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century (I'd say "who ever lived," but do I really know?)

His Dr. Strangelove character was unique in cinema, and could not have been scripted. It was pure genius on Sellers' part.

Honestly, I didn't know the general was him (Sellers plays multiple roles) until *after* the movie.

---

PS - Eric Schlosser (who wrote that New Yorker article) wrote "Fast Food Nation."

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How about this one:

"Yeeeeeeeee-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Believe it or not, I saw Dr. Strangelove for the first time only a few months ago. I *loved* it - it's one of the best movies I've ever seen, comedy or otherwise - and Peter Sellers was one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century (I'd say "who ever lived," but do I really know?)

His Dr. Strangelove character was unique in cinema, and could not have been scripted. It was pure genius on Sellers' part.

Honestly, I didn't know the general was him (Sellers plays multiple roles) until *after* the movie.

Hard to believe that a man as cultured as you obviously are didn't arrive at Dr. Strangelove until so recently. I said up above that I think it's the greatest film ever made, even though I haven't seen them all. I'm willing to venture out on that limb.

It's said that Sellers improvised most of his lines in all three roles. None of those roles was a general; he played Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, RAF, executive officer to General Jack D. Ripper, USAF (played by Sterling Hayden). Group Captain is a rank equivalent to a Navy captain or Army colonel.

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Hard to believe that a man as cultured as you obviously are didn't arrive at Dr. Strangelove until so recently. I said up above that I think it's the greatest film ever made, even though I haven't seen them all. I'm willing to venture out on that limb.

It's said that Sellers improvised most of his lines in all three roles. None of those roles was a general; he played Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, RAF, executive officer to General Jack D. Ripper, USAF (played by Sterling Hayden). Group Captain is a rank equivalent to a Navy captain or Army colonel.

Hard to believe that a man as cultured as you obviously are didn't arrive at Dr. Strangelove until so recently. I said up above that I think it's the greatest film ever made, even though I haven't seen them all. I'm willing to venture out on that limb.

It's said that Sellers improvised most of his lines in all three roles. None of those roles was a general; he played Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, RAF, executive officer to General Jack D. Ripper, USAF (played by Sterling Hayden). Group Captain is a rank equivalent to a Navy captain or Army colonel.

Wait a minute, if Sterling Hayden played the General, what did George C. Scott play?

You're right, it was some other role than the General that I didn't recognize Peter Sellers in - I can't remember what, though.

Edit: It was President Merkin Muffley

This is a movie to watch twice.

As for my culture (thanks, btw), I went at it hard and furious for 15 years, and considered myself a reasonably serious (amateur) student of film during the 80s and 90s; then one thing or another (literally, one thing or another) got in my way for the next 15 years or so - thus, there are huge voids in my knowledge - Dr. Strangelove was one of them. How did Peter Sellers not win an Academy Award?

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Wait a minute, if Sterling Hayden played the General, what did George C. Scott play?

You're right, it was some other role than the General that I didn't recognize Peter Sellers in - I can't remember what, though.

Edit: It was President Merkin Muffley.

This is a movie to watch twice.

As for my culture (thanks, btw), I went at it hard and furious for 15 years, and considered myself a reasonably serious (amateur) student of film during the 80s and 90s; then one thing or another (literally, one thing or another) got in my way for the next 15 years or so - thus, there are huge voids in my knowledge - Dr. Strangelove was one of them. How did Peter Sellers not win an Academy Award?

A movie to watch a lot more than twice. Sellers played the title role, President Merkin Muffley, and Group Captain Lionel Mandrake.

George C. Scott played General Buck Turgidson, who is either Air Force Chief of Staff or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, it's never been clear to me, although it may be explicit in the movie and I've just missed it. Sterling Hayden is the lunatic General Jack D. Ripper, commanding officer of Burpelson Air Force Base, who launches the nuclear attack on the commies out of a concern for the purity of our precious bodily fluids. The George C. Scott character has to tell President Merkin Muffley about it. Among my favorite lines of Turgidson's: "Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir." -- the slip-up being to put someone in charge of nuclear-armed warplanes whose actions will lead to the annihilation of life on earth.

The Oscars have never been much of a reflection of the quality of films or film performances. Cary Grant, possibly the best male film actor in English, certainly one of them, never won an acting Oscar. In 1964 there were undoubtedly multiple factors. One was that Sellers was nominated for a single Oscar for three roles, which probably confused the Academy. The most important was probably Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady; I can't stand the movie, but Harrison's performance makes it worth sitting through anyway. I think "bravura" may have been invented for Harrison as Henry Higgins.

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 "What prompted me to watch Dr. Strangelove just now was seeing Fail-Safe on TCM just before. Practically the same conception, released in the same year, except  Fail-Safe didn't have any laughs or any genius."

I come to this whole discussion from a rather unusual viewpoint. I was living in Germany (while my Father was stationed there) when both Strangelove came out and Fail Safe was published. Imagine being 11 years old and having to over hear the librarians at the base library discussing the coming "war" during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I finished the book "Fail Safe" while my parents were driving me back from the local Girl Scout camp in Germany and feeling like I had been hit by a brick. I was literally scared to death. Our fathers, after all, were liable to be called to "alert" at a moment's notice and that meant that at least once a month or so, they had to leave in the middle of the night and reconnoiter somewhere away from us for a day or so. Not to mention the C rations everyone had to accumulate. Those came with small packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes--which my parents promptly confiscated.

I could go on about the difficulties of travelling to Berlin during those days, but I won't. I just wish I could understand the point of publishing so many books about the coming Apocalypse that were so rife at the time. I've actually read a number of lesser-known (for good reason) volumes of this sort in later years and marveled that they ever saw the light of day.

Was Dr Strangelove a brilliant film? Why, yes it was. The absurdity of it all even gave those of us living on the "front lines" a reason to be hopeful that nothing that crazy could actually come to pass.

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I come to this whole discussion from a rather unusual viewpoint. I was living in Germany (while my Father was stationed there) when both Strangelove came out and Fail Safe was published. Imagine being 11 years old and having to over hear the librarians at the base library discussing the coming "war" during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Oh yeah? During the Cuban Missile Crisis my father was nuclear weapons officer aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Forrestal. Top that! ;)

I should add that my father was more stable than General Ripper, but only marginally so, and in retrospect that's pretty scary.

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  I just wish I could understand the point of publishing so many books about the coming Apocalypse that were so rife at the time. I've actually read a number of lesser-known (for good reason) volumes of this sort in later years and marveled that they ever saw the light of day.

Sorry to go on a tangent, but did you read On the Beach by Nevil Shute?  It may be more appropriate to discuss the film version in this thread, but I hated the film and loved the book.

ps  Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorite films, too.

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On 12/29/2014 at 0:03 AM, The Hersch said:

A movie to watch a lot more than twice.

Well, folks can watch it as often as they like, right here.

I've spent 50 years subliminally preparing the public for this moment.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 at 10.57.16.png

On 12/29/2014 at 0:03 AM, The Hersch said:

The Oscars have never been much of a reflection of the quality of films or film performances.

No?

Well, I'd like to direct your attention to Doctor Dolittle - nominee for 1967 Best Picture.

Go ahead and watch the entire 152 minutes of it, and then come back and tell me it was undeserving - either the film (when compared to "In Cold Blood" or "Cool Hand Luke"), or the Oscar-winning song "Talk To The Animals" (when compared to "Bare Necessities" or "The Look Of Love").

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I could go on about the difficulties of travelling to Berlin during those days, but I won't. I just wish I could understand the point of publishing so many books about the coming Apocalypse that were so rife at the time. I've actually read a number of lesser-known (for good reason) volumes of this sort in later years and marveled that they ever saw the light of day.

Great post Barbara, and very interesting.  And scary.  I can't imagine what that was like.

Your quote above reminds me of the news today.  Remember a few months ago when were were all going to die from Ebola.  Or a few years ago when the bird flu was going to kill us all?  Or mad cow, or Y2K, or the Mayan calendar, etc, etc?

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CBS did a live play of Fail-Safe around 2000, IIRC produced or directed by George Clooney. I remember it being not completely awful, and certainly a unique experiment for modern TV.

The thing about Fail Safe was that the whole mess was triggered by a small electrical problem that went unnoticed until it was too late. Today, it could be a coding error or hackers. If you accidentally nuke Moscow, what can be done in order to save the rest of the world? That's what kept me up at night. At least a lot of people started thinking that maybe having nukes wasn't such a good idea.

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CBS did a live play of Fail-Safe around 2000, IIRC produced or directed by George Clooney. I remember it being not completely awful, and certainly a unique experiment for modern TV.

Getting *way* off-topic now (I'll worry about splitting things up later), but in 1997, George Clooney was in a live version of ER ("Ambush") which was also a unique experiment for modern TV. They performed it twice - once for the east coast, and a second time for the west coast.

I watched it, *loved* it (and I didn't even watch the series), and remember that Clooney was deliberately given only a couple of lines because they were worried about his reliability (apparently, he just wasn't the brightest bulb on that Christmas tree).

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Then you probably remember Gen Curtis LeMay urging the President to nuke North Vietnam.

Indeed. LeMay (after whom the Buck Turgidson character was supposedly modeled) was on the 1968 presidential ticket of George Wallace, which Hubert Humphrey labeled the Bombsey Twins. Wallace, the overt white supremacist, and LeMay, the nuclear war enthusiast, together carried most of the Deep South, the last 3rd-party candidacy to win any votes in the Electoral College. God bless the U.S.A.

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Neither candidacy affected the election, but both made a statement.

I'd say it's questionable, to put it mildly, that Wallace's candidacy in 1968 didn't affect the election. It's not as if all the Wallace votes would have gone to Nixon. Humphrey would almost certainly have carried more states than he did if Wallace hadn't run. Remember that Carter in 1976 carried all of the South except Virginia, only partly because he was a southerner--also because he was a Democrat, which still had a strong pull in the South even as late as 1980. (Carter would certainly have won several more states in 1980 in the South (and elsewhere) had John Anderson not been on the ballot, although he still would have lost to Reagan.) There were states outside the Deep South in 1968 where Wallace's candidacy may well have swung the result from Humphrey to Nixon, and in what was one of the closest elections in American history, with Wallace out of the picture the presidency may have gone from Nixon to Humphrey (and we'd be living in a much better world).

Republican apologists have long maintained that Bill Clinton won in 1992 only because Perot siphoned votes from George H. W. Bush. The polling data generally don't support that contention (Perot apparently drew votes from Clinton and Poppy Bush in roughly equal measure), but it's still far from certain that Perot's candidacy didn't alter the outcome of the 1992 election. In any election where there's an incumbent candidate, the principal choice is between the incumbent and the not-incumbent, and in the 1992 election there were two of the latter. That's on the one hand. But on the other, Perot was clearly running to the right of Bush. So it's hard to say.

Anyway, are you just trying to be provocative?

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I should really make The Colonel sign up for dr.com and chime in on this thread, because he is an expert on Strangelove. Literally: it's the inspiration for his dissertation, which actually will be published in March, although it is sadly no longer titled "Making Dr. Strangelove" (Cornell nixed that).

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