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

Movie Project #12: The Asphalt Jungle [1950]

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 Asphalt Jungle [1950]

The Asphalt Jungle [1950]
Directors: John Huston
Genre: Crime/Film-Noir/Drama
Language: English/German
Country: USA

I was on a big Film Noir kick a few months ago, which coincided with my playthrough of the great LA Noire, so I made sure to add more than a few titles to this project. The Asphalt Jungle, in particular, is one that I have been staring at for a while, as I have heard a lot of great things about it. The movie’s title alone brings to mind a gritty urban landscape with a world of crime at its fingertips.

The Asphalt Jungle is a heist film in which a group of criminal masterminds plan out and execute a major jewel robbery. ‘Doc’ Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), fresh out of prison, is the brains behind the operation, as he has developed an elaborate way to seize millions of dollars of jewelry. In order to pull off the heist, he hires the talents of a professional safecracker (Anthony Caruso), a getaway driver (James Whitmore), a hooligan thug (Sterling Hayden) and a crooked lawyer (Louis Calhern) who will provide financial support. Everything looks to go according to plan until a series of unforeseen events wreaks havoc on all involved, something that seems to be the case for most caper films from this era.

The Asphalt Jungle [1950]

The actual heist scene — 11 minutes in length — is tense and well thought out. In fact, the crime, its buildup and its aftermath are all realistic, and this helps give the movie a more authentic feel than I expected.

The cast is particularly brilliant, as the aforementioned criminals are joined by two lovely ladies: Jean Hagen and Marilyn Monroe. It’s hard to believe that this is the first movie I have seen featuring Miss Monroe, and she is downright stunning here. Both ladies hold their own against the males on screen. My favorite performance comes from Sterling Hayden, who is just terrific as the over-sized redneck thug. I have seen him in a few movies now, and he always seems to stand out above the rest.

As far as noirs go, The Asphalt Jungle stands among the best I have seen so far. It is gritty with sharp dialogue and a stellar cast, and its realism is a good change of pace. I felt the film slowed down a little too much after the heist, but it was still an entertaining movie overall. I am glad I was able to finally watch this.

8/10