Today: February 22, 2024

Dr. Strangelove

Trust Criterion to time their release of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Bomb for the same time that a certain Premier just fired all his naval commanders. Of course it would be easy to suggest Criterion have some kind of crystal ball or time travelling device to achieve this but it’s more likely that Kubrick’s film is as relevant and important now as it ever has been.

For those who have not seen it, and frankly you should have done by now, the plot is wonderfully, comically and insanely simple, yet, you suspect, also terrifyingly accurate. At the height of the Cold War General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) issues the command for his wing of B52 bombers to deliver their nuclear payload to Russia. As his Executive Officer Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) tries to talk him round Major ‘King’ Kong’s (Slim Pickens) B52 closes in on the target. Meanwhile President Merkin Muffley (also Sellers) learns from a Russian Ambassador that the Russians have developed a Doomsday device which, upon attack, will wipe out all life on the planet. With the chips down Muffley must turn to his advisor Dr. Strangelove (again Sellers) to offer up a solution and plan as to what they can do.  

Unquestionably one of the masters of cinema Stanley Kubrick was a filmmaker determined to try his hand at every genre going. It is therefore typical of him that he should make a satirical comedy and nail it. Of course if there was one thing Kubrick loved it was to mock the outlandish events and ideas of the world around him. See A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket as other prime examples. Here it’s a case of no holds barred.

It might start gradually, making you very aware of the very serious and real situation that is unfolding. But before long Kubrick and is in full-flow pastiche mode. A series of protocols meaning that once a nuclear plan has been put in action it cannot be cancelled. Throw in the now hysterical, but still all too horrifyingly real, concept of mutually assured destruction and you wonder if military advisors around the world could learn a thing or two brushing up their plans via Dr. Strangelove.

So while Kubrick is reveling in mocking the macho posturing and ridiculous situations it is left to Sellers in his three roles to bombard you with laughs. As Mandrake he is perfectly British stiff-upper lip resolute. In the face of utter madness Sellers’ performance is wonderfully surprised and calm. Witnessing him trying to stop the annihilation of the whole planet but not having enough change to call the President is quite simply an acting masterstroke. As President Muffley Sellers brings a neurotic quality that is all of us in a position such as this. He listens wide-eyed at the reality of the situation, assesses it, tries to fix it and when he can’t blames everyone else.

But it is as Dr. Strangelove, easily the smallest part Sellers fills, that Sellers dazzles. It’s impossible to know where the script starts and Sellers’ improvisation begins but it’s never anything less than one of the funniest characters ever committed to celluloid. It’s such a seminal performance it often threatens to break free of the film itself and take over the world.

Endlessly quotable and outrageously funny. One of the greatest comedies, nay films, of all time Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb is essential viewing.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

Previous Story


Next Story

Absolute Beginners

Latest from Blog


Memory (2023)

Memory is an exquisite American drama in the tender embrace of Michel Franco’s cinematic prowess.

Slaughter in San Francisco

A gloriously trashy slice of kung fu film-making, Slaughter in San Francisco, AKA Yellow-Faced Tiger, was producer Raymond Chow’s attempt to capitalise on Hong Kong cinema’s sudden explosion of popularity in the West. Released in 1974,

Head Count

That the Burghart Brothers know how to make a fun film is apparent five minutes into Head Count. The fact that they’ve been able to produce such a deliciously slick, dark comedy,

The Daleks in Colour Unboxing

BBC took a big risk with The Daleks in Colour – fans of Doctor Who are notorious for their passionate and purist approach to their beloved series, so to not only colourise
Go toTop

Don't Miss

The Wrong Arm Of The Law

From the pen of TV comedy-gods, Ray Galton and Alan

Who Dares Wins

The ‘70s were an era of gritty crime dramas in