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Retro Movie Review: Dr. Strangelove (1964) – Fathom Events
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Dr. Strangelove Peter Sellers

Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
DVD | Digital HD
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, James Earl Jones, Peter Bull, Keenan Wynn, Sterling Hayden
Columbia Pictures
Original Release date: January 29, 1964

Fathom Events, Sony Pictures, and Turner Classic Movies’ Big Screen Classics series brought Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb back to theaters in the U.S. for select dates this month (with two screenings still to come), so this was my chance to see Stanley Kubrick‘s 1964 satire on the big screen for the first time.

When Dr. Strangelove came out in 1964, the United States in deep in Cold War paranoia. The 1950s saw the rise of McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Hollywood blacklists, and the Rosenbergs trial. As the decade turned, Americans sat with clenched teeth during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. A year later, President John F. Kennedy was dead. Only a visionary filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick could make light of such a dark period in history. What he co-wrote and directed was a fiercely anti-war movie, and one of the greatest satires ever made. It was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay (Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George), and Actor (Peter Sellers). Based on the political climate right now, maybe it is the perfect film to be re-introduced into American pop culture.

Kubrick was no stranger to anti-war films. Just seven years earlier he directed Paths of Glory starring Kirk Douglas about the absurdities of World War I. Dr. Strangelove focuses on a mish mash of military and political characters who are collectively responsible for the same worldwide destruction Kennedy helped prevent two years earlier. We start with a crazed General, the appropriately named Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden), who is convinced that the Russians have poisoned the U.S. water supply. He initiates a mission to drop a nuclear weapon on the Soviet Union. Ripper is the only one who can recall the plane charged with dropping the nuke, and now it’s up to Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) of the Joint Chiefs and President Merkin Muffley (Sellers) to figure out how to deal with the repercussions. What they don’t realize is that a crazed German scientist has rigged a doomsday device to go off as a countermeasure to any nuclear threat.

Sellers is just a tour-de-force playing three roles, including the titular scientist. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, in his introduction broadcast at a recent Fathom screening of the movie, discussed how Kubrick, a famed micro-manager, let Sellers ad-lib and have free reign over his characters. And it’s amazing to witness how absurdly funny George C. Scott is here, when six years later he was equally captivating in a totally different way in an Oscar-winning performance in Patton.

You don’t need any more exposition. This is a classic of the highest order, a film that succeeds not just as a parable for the lunacy of warfare and the military industrial complex, but as one of the most genuinely funny films of all time. It contains what I consider to be the best line in comedy film history: As Turgidson brawls with the Russian Ambassador, Peter Sellers’ President Muffley yells, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” That line ranked 64th coincidentally on AFI’s list of the 100 Best Movie Quotes. The film itself finished higher, 26th of their list of the 100 Greatest Films.

Dr. Strangelove graphic

You can catch this classic on the big screen for one more day only, Wednesday September 21, 2016, at 2:00pm and 7:00 pm. (standard local time). You can get your tickets to Dr. Strangelove online at, and search the theaters listings for your area.

Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Sony Pictures Entertainment invite you to scheme on the big screen when the Stanley Kubrick classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) bursts into cinemas nationwide for a special two-day event!

1 Comment »

  1. Just an utterly brilliant film from start to finish. And, considering the fact that Kubrick builds the majority of his film around medium shots and close-ups, it’s remarkable how much more imposing Strangelove is on the big screen. Experiencing Stanley’s already larger-than-life characters literally looming over you is nothing short of pure cinematic bliss!

    From Strangelove’s amazing sets and cinematography to its pacing and wonderfully manic performances, Kubrick’s stars aligned like never before. Given the gravitas of its subject matter, it’s a wonder that the film was made at all. As much as anything else, Strangelove’s mere existence is a testament to Kubrick’s unyielding tenacity.

    Remarkably, despite my attending TWO of the only three showings offered at my local multiplex, I’d guess there was perhaps a grand total of 14 individuals who bothered to take advantage of this rare chance to see Strangelove as Stanley intended it. In an area with a population bordering on 200,000, and with a sizable number of that figure fancying themselves as the “culturally elite”… this is an especially sad statement on the current crop of 21st century film aficionados.

    Truly, eyes wide shut.

    Comment by Michael Prestage — September 22, 2016 @ 12:07 am

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