Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the war room!" 

Going off his nut, General Jack D, Ripper (Sterling Hayden) sends planes bearing megaton bombs into Russia without orders from the President (Peter Sellers). While Ripper's special British assistant, Mandrake (also Sellers), desperately tries to get the code from him that will stop the planes, President Muffley confers in the war room with General Turgidson (George C. Scott), the Russian ambassador Sadesky (Peter Bull), and the ex (?) Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove (Sellers yet again). Meanwhile Major Kong (Slim Pickens) is determined to deliver his megaton payload come hell or highwater. Then the president learns from his opposite number, the unseen Dimitri, that if a bomb goes off on Russian soil it will automatically unleash a Doomsday weapon that will destroy all life on Earth! Dr. Strangelove has a plot that's strangely similar to Fail-Safe, released the same year, only Strangelove is not played straight but as a very, very dark black comedy (and is better known than the other picture), brutally -- if broadly -- satirizing the arms race, the cold war, and the paranoia and obsession people had at the time over atomic weapons and the possibility of WWIII. The deliberate pace of Strangelove may make the film seem longer than it actually is -- just a bit over 90 minutes -- but it is entertaining, grimly amusing, and very well-acted by all, with Sellers superb in a trio of very different roles. Hayden [Naked Alibi] , Scott, Bull (who can be seen trying hard to keep a straight face during Seller's antics as Dr. Strangelove in one scene), Keenan Wynn [Royal Wedding] as Colonel Guano, Tracy Reed as Turgidson's paramour, and Pickens in his most notable and iconic role are all on the money. Still, as well-made as it is, one can't quite say that this is a picture you will enjoySeven Days in May also came out in 1964 and dealt with the military-industrial complex, but there were no out of control missiles in it.

Verdict: Not for every taste, but certainly unique. ***.


angelman66 said...

Excellent, Bill, you are so right about the plot being similar to Fail Safe (written by Chayefsky?); I never thought about that before. Sellers certainly was a genius, and this film proves it.
- Chris

William said...

Sellers as "difficult," as they say, and as self-absorbed as most movie stars, but yes, he was decidedly a genius and he's just wonderful in this!