dr-strangelove.jpg
Review by Adam Sanacore
Film Info and Synopsis:
Release Date: 1964
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Short Synopsis: Dr. Strangelove is a black comedy that finds humor in the paranoia that dominated America during the Cold War. The main focus of the film starts with General Ripper, a paranoid and crazed Air Force General that believes the Russians are planning to pollute the bodily fluids of Americans. To stop this infiltration, Ripper orders the Air Force to nuke every base in Russia. When the President is alerted by this unauthorized attack by General "Buck" Turgidson, he immediately gets on the emergency hot line with Russian Premier Dimitri (who is very drunk), and tries to assure him that the attack will be avoided. As the President tries to think of a plan to stop the planes, Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky reveals a devastating secret: the Russians have a Doomsday Device! With the ability to end all life, the President desperately turns to ex Nazi scientist Dr. Stranglove for help. As the Pentagon starts to heat up with debate, fear, and fights in the War Room, the squad ordered by Ripper gets closer to its target. Can nuclear holocaust be avoided, or the world finally meet its end at the fear of polluted bodily fluids?

My Review:

Dr. Strangelove is the only movie I've seen to agree with me on an ideological basis. The film's hidden messages on the dangers of interventionism, blow back, and the constant egotistical conflict between the military and government had me nodding at every scene.

One interesting thing about this film is that, for its time, Dr. Strangelove was neither a movie, nor a comedy. For the generation that had to wake up every morning, and go through the day with the impending threat of nuclear annihilation, Dr. Strangelove represented a scenario that could have become a reality. I can only imagine the audience, who knew that at any moment, the crazed General that they were watching on screen could be in the military, and be planning to give the order that could destroy the human race.

One cinematic element that I found interesting about Dr. Strangelove was the lack of character development. Throughout the film, none of the characters show any type of "connection" toward each other. Though some characters did act like they agreed with each other, I felt as if the sense of agreement was being forced. Surprisingly, I found this lack of character development to be one of the film's strongest characteristics. I also felt that Kubrick's reasoning behind the lack of trust had to do with the eternal conflict between the government and military. As I said earlier, Dr. Strangelove is a true testament to the egotistical conflict that occurs between the tie sporting suits of the Federal Government, and the cold handed fists of the officials that make up the Military Industrial Complex. In the eyes of these two entities, elements like strategy, brains, and cooperation don't matter. What really matters is what is said, who knows most about what is said, and how well they can get the other side to believe it. To either side, what matters most is the best way of getting the other side to accept the fact that their course of action is the best decision for their country. One such example of this occurs when Ripper is talking to Captain Mandrake. When Mandrake tries to get Ripper to give him the code to halt the attack order, Ripper starts to talk to him about the philosophy of war, and the constant conflict between politicians and generals. This conflict can be seen at the 6:47 mark in this video:




In Ripper's mind, the only way to get rid of the Russians is by blowing each and everyone of them off the face of the planet.

Another interesting definition of the on going conflict between suits and soldiers occurs in the Pentagon. During the intense debate between Turgidson and the President, the war loving general says that even with the mayhem that ensues from bombing the Russians, the amount of civilian causalities would add up to twenty million. What's shocking is that Turgidson says "twenty million" like it's a child's allowance. The President, who feels insulted by the general's complete lack of morality, announces that he will not allow history to remember him as a mass murderer. (Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Sony Entertainment Pictures, 1964). Turgidson, feeling dismay from the President, tries to ensure him that losing twenty million lives is better than losing one hundred and fifty million (Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Sony Entertainment Pictures, 1964). This sharp debate can be seen here:



General Turgidson is a typical neo conservative war monger. In his mind, causalities are nothing more than a tradition of war. They are a symbolic representation of the success that comes from being on the battlefield.

The President, on the other hand, has a much different outlook. In the eyes of the Commander and Chief, causalities are a sign that the mission has failed. To lose innocents means that the mission was not planned with the proper mindset.

Based on my analysis, it seems that Kubrick's message is increasingly clear to his audience. He's trying to warn the viewer that if we allow the most corruptible entities to create too much malice with their petty words, our species may see the dawn of our destruction.

Academic Analysis:

For the forty-five years that it lasted, the Cold War was hell for the psyche of the American public. Between treason, spies, the Space Race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the fear of nuclear holocaust, it seems miraculous that America was able to keep its composure.

What's undeniably true about Dr. Strangelove is that Kubrick does not use the film as an excuse to satire America as a whole. Instead, Kubrick uses his black comedy to specifically target the higher-ups, and show the country how they made the Cold War more dangerous for the populace. One way that Kubrick exposes this lack of compassion is by using a McCarthy satire. During the Cold War, Joesph McCarthy was a corrupt senator who claimed to have a list of 250 communist spies (2003, par. 9). McCarthy believed that these so-called "spies" existed in areas like Hollywood and Washington. Though McCarthy never gave any solid proof that communist spies existed in America, the paranoia and fear created by the Cold War caused many to believe McCarthy's words. In Dr. Strangelove, McCarthy's fear mongering is made fun in form of one of the film's most important characters: "Buck" Turgidson. General Turgidson is a true McCarthy man. His war mongering ideals, combined with an intense hatred for anything Russian, details the comical testament that Kubrick wanted to give to America's leaders. One example of this is way Turgidson constantly says "Ruskey" when referring to the Soviets.

Another character that satires the leadership of America is Dr. Strangelove. Kubrick was an absolute genius when he crated Strangelove's character. Not only is the mad doctor a pure personification of Nazi Germany, he is a symbolic representation of the insanity of America's elites. Following World War II, America's Federal Government became increasingly interested in the ideas and experiments of Nazi scientists. So interested, in fact, that many scientists that worked for Hitler were exported to the U.S. to further scientific progress. As the Nazis rooted themselves into American culture, many of them went outside the realm of science, and began to find footing within the dark world of American corporatism. While Dr. Strangelove does not go into the parallels of Nazis and Corporate America, it does, in a satire sense, show that America's higher-ups were so paranoid with winning the Cold War, that they were actually willing to befriend their old enemy.

One of the biggest factors that makes Strangelove's connection to America hilarious is that hes doesn't do anything that shows support toward America's ideals. It's clearly evident that Strangelove is so brainwashed by Nazism, that anything in relation to it gets him his excited. The biggest example of this Nazism lover affair comes at the end of the film. When individuals in the War Room realize that nuclear apocalypse is unavoidable, they turn to Strangelove's assistance. Strangelove tells them that in order to save the human race, they must escape to underground shelters. What's more is that to make sure the human race returns to its proper populace, Dr. Strangelove suggests assigning ten females to each male. His ideals can be better understood in this video:



Strangelove's obsession with specific human types was a common Nazi ideal. When Adolf Hitler was in control in Germany, he became focused on creating the perfect race of humans. Strangelove's desire to fulfill his former master's desire is Kubrick's final satire, and more importantly, the final important message to America. What the director is trying to say with Strangelove's wish is that when we bring the enemy into our arms, we lose the ability to see their true intention, and that does nothing more than create more harm for the American people.

Reference List:

Journals:


Lowery, V. "Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Teach the Film in the Classroom." Organization
of American Historians 16.2
(2002): pp. 32-36. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25163548. 16 November 2009.

Sorlin, P. "The Cinema: American Weapon for the Cold War." Film History 10.3 (1998): pp. 375-381.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/3815230. 16 November 2009. A great look into how American cinema greatly impacted
the way Americans looked at the conflict between America and Russia.

Toensing, P. & Ehsani, K. "Neo-Conservatives, Hardline Clerics and the Bomb." Middle East Report 233 (2009): pp.
10-15. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1559445. 16 November 2009. This article gives a great analysis of the war
desires of the neo-conservative mind. Relates greatly to the info on Turgidson.

Internet Sources:

Appleton History. Biography: Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957), 2003. Web. 16 November 2009. This site gives a great background on Joseph McCarthy, and his crusade against Soviet ideals.

Books:

Yeadon, Glen, and John Hawkins. The Nazi Hydra in America: Suppressed History of a Century. Joshua Tree, California: Progressive Press, 2008. Print. The book goes into conclusive detail about the Nazis welcoming to America, their connection to the government, and how they influenced ideas like science and corporatism.

Bonus:

Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Pete Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, and Slim Pickens. Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1964. The videos provided in this review will give you better insight into Kubrick's genius.