Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a British black comedy taken from a straight novel, Red Alert, by Welsh-born Peter George, who co-authored the script and shortly afterwards committed suicide. His co-scenarists: Terry Southern, from Texas, and former fashion photographer Stanley Kubrick, from the Bronx, who had relocated to the U.K. The crude, gorgeously designed film—the production designer is Ken Adam; the art director, Peter Murton—posits a Cold War scenario where an insane U.S. Air Force general, Jack D. Ripper, triggers nuclear war between his nation and the Soviet Union. Apologists for the film—and the film is so bad its supporters can’t be called anything else—insist we have a satire here. Satirizing what? The Cold War, with the object in mind of ending the Cold War? If so, the plan didn’t work. More likely, Kubrick & Company were making fun of ordinary people’s anxiety over superpower tensions, with the illogical conclusion of nuclear holocaust in fact validating such anxiety, without any hint of how one might help avert such a disaster. (If one takes the satirical claim of the apologists seriously, then the point of the ending might be that no such thing could really happen.) I love irreverence; but not irreverence toward life. Skewer the military all you want; have at them good. But don’t make a film that cares nothing about human life or the life of the planet. Kubrick & Company have strung together a series of TV-level sick jokes, for which there’s no legitimate defense.
Peter Sellers in multiple roles, including an Adlai-able U.S. president and a maniacal scientist based on Edward Teller, is a hoot; but, all in all, this hollow, misanthropic movie is its own “Doomsday Machine.”
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