It all begins with General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), a ranking officer of the Strategic Air Command who orders a fleet of B-52 bombers to fly over the Soviet Union and attack them with full nuclear weaponry. A British military aide (Peter Sellers) tries to reason him, or at least to understand what prompted him to start World War II, but he only achieves to find out one thing: Ripper is a raving lunatic! He’s obsessed with the importance of bodily fluids, which he calls the essence of manhood, and he’s convinced that there’s a commie conspiracy to taint our water supply with what we think of as fluoridation. Ripper is only one of the hilarious characters in the film, which goes from scenes at the Air Force Base (which is eventually attacked by the US Army, who want to force the General to give them the codes to stop the raid of the B-52s) to others inside one of the bombers, piloted by Major King Kong (Slim Pickens), a red-blooded patriot cowboy who’s determined to lead his mission to success, even if he has to ride the nuclear rocket to destination (in what may be the coolest shot ever).
But the craziest of the movie takes place in the War Room of the Pentagon, where the President and a bunch of officers try to figure out a way to stop all this nonsense. Yet it seems that all the bureaucracy, politics and military security are so intricate that it is impossible to cancel the attack commanded by the loony Ripper. The tension is heating up, but we’re still in for a lot of laughs! The movie is full of great comic acting, including a tour de force performance from Peter Sellers, who not only plays the British aide but also the President and the mysterious Dr. Strangelove. Then there’s George C. Scott, who’s hella funny as General Buck Turgidson, an all-American man’s man with disputable ideas: his plan is that, since they can’t stop the attack, they better make it a real big strike to avoid retaliation from the Russkies. “I can guarantee you 10-20 million dead, tops!” A Russian Ambassador is at one point brought in, and before long Turgidson is all over him, inspiring the President to give him a delightfully ironic order: “You can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” I also love the scene in which the President argues over the phone with the Soviet Prime Minister, as their conversation gets ridiculously labored. As for Strangelove, he’s Sellers’ most colorful and over-the top creation, a wheelchair-bound, frisky haired, bionic hand sporting adviser who informs the President that the Russians have created a Doomsday device that will destroy all life on earth if bombs hit Russia!
“Dr. Strangelove” is an absolutely hilarious and brilliant satire in which Kubrick’s assured and precise direction serves, for once, to make an incredibly entertaing film as well as a smart one. Don’t be scared by the solemn look of the film: this might be a black & white 1964 film from Kubrick, but it’s as goofy and witty as, say, “Austin Powers”. You have to see this movie, it is simply one of the best comedies of all time.