The 50th Anniversary of Dr. Strangelove

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Okay, it’s a weird movie – but I cannot help but love it.  Dr. Strangelove is celebrating its anniversary this week.  Released in 1964, this movie is now 50 years old and I still can’t watch it without laughing.

Dr. Strangelove was released as an almost parody of Failsafe.  Our kids had to worry about terrorist threats.  We had something bigger when I was a kid – global thermonuclear war.  Yeah, that’s right, we had the atomic bomb and the Soviets (trust me kid, Google the word) had missiles and bombs aimed at us with the intent of wiping the United States off the map.  We had missiles and bombers too though.  We lived every day with the knowledge that the world could end at any moment.  Oddly enough, it didn’t mess us up as much as you might think.

Dr. Strangelove is a humorous stab at war.  Comic genius Peter Sellers played three roles in the movie.  You had powerhouse actors like George C. Scott, Slim Picken’s, a young James Earl Jones, and Sterling Hayden in the movie too.  How could you make a movie about the end of the world funny?  That’s hard to explain.  It was all about the characters and the approach to the subject.  Even the music score, the Battle Hymn of the Republic playing every time you saw Major Kong’s B-52, resonates on some weirdly funny level.

The lines in the movie that stand out include:

Major Kong:  “Survival kit contents check. In them you’ll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella’ could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.”

President Merkin Muffley: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”

General “Buck” Turgidson: “Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.”

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake:  “Colonel… that Coca-Cola machine. I want you to shoot the lock off it. There may be some change in there.”

Colonel “Bat” Guano:  “That’s private property.”

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: “Colonel! Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call to the President of the United States? Can you imagine? Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That’s what the bullets are for, you twit!”

Colonel “Bat” Guano: “ Okay. I’m gonna get your money for ya. But if you don’t get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what’s gonna happen to you?”

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake:  “What?”

Colonel “Bat” Guano:  “You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.”

General “Buck” Turgidson: “General Ripper called Strategic Air Command headquarters shortly after he issued the go code. I have a portion of the transcript of that conversation if you’d like me to read it.”

President Merkin Muffley:  “Read it!”

General “Buck” Turgidson:  “Ahem… The Duty Officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact that he *had* issued the go code, and he said, uh, “Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in, and no one can bring them back. For the sake of our country, and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them. Otherwise, we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation. Uh, my boys will give you the best kind of start, 1400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won’t stop them now, uhuh. Uh, so let’s get going, there’s no other choice. God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural… fluids. God bless you all” and he hung up.”

General “Buck” Turgidson:  “Uh, we’re, still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.”

President Merkin Muffley:  “There’s nothing to figure out, General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.”

General “Buck” Turgidson:  “We-he-ell, uh, I’d like to hold off judgment on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in.”

President Merkin Muffley:  “General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you *assured* me there was *no* possibility of such a thing *ever* occurring!”

General “Buck” Turgidson:  “Well, I, uh, don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.”

Nuclear war – a single slip up…aw come on – it doesn’t get funnier than that.  I’ll admit the movie is dry, tinged with a hint of classic British humor, but it is a classic that demands watching.  I highly recommend you download it today and enjoy a classic dark comedy.

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One thought on “The 50th Anniversary of Dr. Strangelove

  1. Mitch Edelstein

    Sellers was supposed to play Major Kong. Sellers “sprained” his ankle and Slim Pickens replaced him to the betterment of the movie.

    It is rumored that Sellers faked the ankle injury to get out of working so hard and his discomfort with the Texas accent.

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