You’ve probably heard of Dr. Strangelove. But have you ever seen it? It has been fifty years since the film first hit box office gold. Yes, Stanley Kubrick’s film has gone on to be an immortal classic. The name survives the ages and is a staple of film schools across the world. Still, watching something that is more than forty or fifty years old can be a challenge, so many movie fans tend to avoid it.
Can’t blame you – most of those movies do not age well. But Dr. Strangelove deserves to be watched, because today it makes more sense than ever.
At the height of the cold war, a deranged American general decides that the Communist threat is not being taken seriously enough, so he initiates an unstoppable protocol that will result in the nuclear bombing of Russia. The U.S. powers-that-be convene to find a solution, but there is disagreement over trying to stop the unstoppable plan or instead planning for what to do after the bombs drop.
The story sound serious, but this is a borderline slapstick comedy with absurd jokes and brilliantly over-the-top characters. Beneath this layer of jokes and insanity hides the dark theme: the end of the world by our own hand.
Dr. Strangelove may be about Cold War paranoia and fears of nuclear bombs. But seen today it makes a much bigger point: the whole system is crazy. Half a century ago the film was lambasted for its ridiculous premise, its glib undertone and just generally being a negative worrywart for suggesting the world is always on the tipping point of disaster.
Today we know at least two things they didn’t in 1964. Firstly, it was possible for an officer to start a nuclear war. And the information age tells us the world seems to be teetering over the precipice all the time. When watching Dr. Strangelove in today’s context, it shows it was onto the truth a long time before the rest of us.
Does that mean Kubrick was a visionary? Well, he definitely was, but his other movies prove this. Dr. Strangelove was a rare combination of talent, resulting into being both of its time (it was a big hit) and way ahead too.
This is why, if you haven’t yet, watch this movie. And if you haven’t done so in a while, fire up a copy of it again. When taken through the prism of today’s 24-hour news cycle, it’s almost comforting. The movie’s full title is Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – that last bit says it all.[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ] [/column]
Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.
Last Updated: August 25, 2014