As black comedies go, this film is surely among the blackest. It’s a work of satirical genius that expresses the anxieties of the time.
I must tell you that if you haven’t seen this awesome movie, 1) you need to do so right now and 2) this review contains spoilers.
The H-bomb was a big subject of concern during the Fifties and Sixties. Movies like On the Beach and Fail-Safe painted a bleak picture of a Cold War going very wrong. Doctor Strangelove was unique, in that it played events leading to the apocalypse for laughs.
In a nutshell, a crazy general (played by Sterling Hayden) is able to isolate (in every way) a military base by cutting off all communications. His second-hand man, a British officer (played by Peter Sellers with bewildered perfection) is the only hope humanity has for stopping a bombing the crazy general has arranged over Moscow.
Meanwhile, in the War Room, debate rages over how to proceed and how much information to share. The President (Peter Sellers, again) wants to cooperate, even as the Russian ambassador secretly snaps photos.
It’s only at the last minute that the Russians admit to having a Doomsday Machine. As observed by the titular character (played again, in brilliantly spastic form, by Peter Sellers), this machine meant to discourage war would have been way more effective had it not been kept secret.
Despite all attempts to stop the plane, it continues on its mission. Slim Pickens gets the ride of his life. Even the wheelchair-bound Dr. Strangelove can stand up before everything gets blown to hell.
And, yes, the movie ends with a bang.
Several bangs, actually.
PS: Trivia bit: the movie was originally supposed to end with a pie fight.
But I guess that was a bit too much like the Three Stooges.
I give this film a decisive two thumbs up! 🙂