DR. STRANGELOVE ~ A COMEDY

BY THE GUARDIAN : Dr Strangelove: No 6 | Film | The Guardian

Thankfully, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern and Peter Sellers were on hand to make us feel better about the end of the world as we knew it, and about the psychopathic childishness of our military betters. There had been nothing in comedy like Dr Strangeloveever before. All the gods before whom the America of the stolid, paranoid 50s had genuflected – the Bomb, the Pentagon, the National Security State, the President himself, Texan masculinity and the alleged Commie menace of water-fluoridation – went into the wood-chipper and never got the same respect ever again.

Southern in particular was wise to the nonsensical macho posturing of the US military-industrial complex, and had no time whatsoever for the uniformed ignoramuses pontificating about mutually assured Destruction, fail-safe trajectories and world targets in megadeaths (as one top-secret file is named). Thus he makes General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) a barmy, paranoid repository for every last idiocy the military was spitting out at each new press conference on Vietnam or nuclear-attack policies.

And if you think General Ripper is an over-the-top slur on the good name of America’s military might, then you’ve never come across the real-life head of strategic air command, US Air Force General Curtis “bombs away” LeMay – as floridly insane as any character in Strangelove.

No wonder the audiences’ initial reaction was one of horror that these verities should be questioned, or such figures ridiculed. Once they got over that, they never stopped laughing, and one small, important cornerstone of the nation’s respect for the military was smartly tugged out, leaving the destruction of the edifice itself to the war planners. They would tear it down without the aid of satire before the decade was out. A comic masterpiece that’s also deeply serious and perceptive about the mad military mindset of those times, Dr Strangelove’s genius endures even as we bury the weapons we once feared so much.

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