Movie Project #13: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]
Directors: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Language: English/Russian
Country: UK

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

I would like to think of myself as a fairly big Stanley Kubrick fan. Everything I have seen by him has captivated me in some way — whether it is the hallucinatory brilliance of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the insane adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, to name a couple. Because I have enjoyed his work so greatly, it pains me to admit that it has taken me this long to finally see Dr. Strangelove. In terms of his filmography, this one ranks near the top on so many lists. It was due time that I saw this.

Set during the Cold War, Dr. Strangelove offers a satirical look at the omnipresent threat of nuclear war. After psychopathic US Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) decides on his own to initiate a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, all hell breaks loose. He orders his B-52s to fly into Russian airspace, leaving the United States President (Peter Sellers) to frantically find a way to cease the attack. He calls a meeting in the War Room with his military commanders, which includes General Turgidson (a hilarious George C. Scott). The Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky (Peter Bull) is also invited to the discussion, which Turgidson and others immediately object to. This situation leads to the absolutely classic line referenced at the beginning of this post. Desperate to solve this dilemma, the President calls upon a weapons expert, Dr. Strangelove (Sellers, once again), who is also a former Nazi.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]

Meanwhile, back at the army base, General Ripper and his unwilling Group Captain, Lionel Mandrake (Sellers, again) are holed up against oncoming US Army troops who are sent to arrest the General. There is a slight problem, however: Ripper has warned his men that the enemy would attack disguised as American soldiers, so they open fire on their fellow countrymen.

Needless to say, this is all pretty fucking wild. There’s so much going on, and everything is done such in a cartoonish way that the satire bleeds through the performances. Folks, this is black comedy at its finest, and there are loads of hilarious moments.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]

It all starts with the cast, who were clearly having a great time on set. Hayden, who I mentioned I was becoming a big fan of, is hilarious as the deliriously paranoid Ripper. George C. Scott is just plain awesome as the Commie-hating Turgidson, and I also rather enjoyed Slim Pickens’ delightfully over-the-top role as a cowboy piloting one of the B-52s. But, of course, it is Peter Sellers who dominates this picture with his trifecta of performances. Dr. Strangelove, the eponymous character, is full of great lines, and has a hilarious bit at the end that I can’t help but laugh just thinking about.

I was a little worried about the movie during its early stages. The slow beginning turned me off a little bit, but by the time we were taken to the War Room, I got hooked. I am happy to have finally seen Dr. Strangelove and its brilliant, sarcastic tone, and writing this post has just made me eager to watch it again. Fantastic.

9/10

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Movie Project #4: The Hustler [1961, Rossen]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

The Hustler [1961, Rossen]

The Hustler [1961]
Director: Robert Rossen
Genre: Drama/Romance/Sport
Language: English
Country: USA

I am ashamed to admit that I know very little about Paul Newman. I know the story of Newman’s Own, and I have seen him in a couple of films (Slap Shot, Road to Perdition), but outside of that my knowledge is extremely lacking. After watching The Hustler, I can’t help but feel that Paul Newman was the fucking man.

Seriously, this is one hell of a character study that just so happens to use the game of pool as its backdrop. Newman is just amazing, as are the rest of the main cast: Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, and Piper Laurie.

As a small-time pool hustler, “Fast” Eddie Felston (Newman) has one goal: to beat the best in the game, Minnesota Fats (Gleason). After a quick meet-and-greet, the two square off in an epic battle. Eddie gets the upper hand early, almost effortlessly swindling thousands of dollars from his opponent. Several hours and countless drinks later, Fats takes control and wins back nearly dollar that he had lost earlier in the evening. Defeated and now flat broke, Eddie has seemingly hit rock bottom.

The Hustler [1961, Rossen]

It is at this point that Eddie meets Sarah Packard (Laurie), an alcoholic college girl who is full of her own problems. An unlikely duo, the two of them hit it off and build a relationship. However, when fellow gambler Bert Gordon offers to take Eddie on the road, things get rocky and the true colors of all involved start to come out. As much as the movie is about Fast Eddie, the stories of the other three main characters are just as important. With such great performances from all of them, it’s hard not to get attached to their characters no matter how flawed they are.

I enjoyed The Hustler quite a bit. Pool wasn’t as big of a focus as I thought it would be, and in fact the movie is just a fantastic piece of storytelling. I thought the first half of the film was a little slow, but once it got into fleshing out the main characters it became rather enthralling.

Two things I determined after watching this movie: 1) I need to watch its sequel, The Color of Money. 2) I really need to see more of Paul Newman’s work. He really blew me away here.

8/10