There was a very lively discussion on What's for Dinner tonight, and gchaucer2 made a very subtle reference to what I consider the finest product of the film community to date.
While many of you, I am sure, have your preferences for The. Best. Movie. Ever., please think about this.
More just after...
Note: the update was to correct my misspelling of Sterling Hayden's name. The fault is entirely mine. I have also been called out for saying that there was no music in the film except for the finale, and I was wrong there as well. My intention was to indicate that there was no "mood music", original compositions for the sole purpose of enhancing the film. While I certainly am technically incorrect in this, I do believe that I am correct in the spirit of what I expressed. I do regret misleading anyone. Damn, that finger still will not play.
I had to move this response here because of the restriction on length imposed by the site on an introduction. Left finger is starting to get some feeling back, so all is well. I really do appreciate my critics, because they keep me honest.
As to the title, that is up for grabs. My critic may well be correct, but my gut tells me that they were reversed. I have absolutely no authority to make that statement except for my intuition. I appreciate my critics, because they keep me honest, regardless of how I would like to be perfect each and every time. If I did not acknowledge them, and their honest and proper statements, I should just quit. Warmest regards, Doc.
The seminal film How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, subtitled Dr. Strangelove, is, in my opinion the ultimate endeavor in film making. No, no fancy special effects (the sole one was a very poor blue screen), no great music (there was none except for a single song at the finale), and no last minute rescue by the good guys.
A very short synopsis for those of you who have never seen it. Cold War. Tension. Crazy people in authority. Paranoia. Military action as the only solution. Disaster. Please go rent it, I can not begin to explain the film, only to discuss it with those who have seen it. I am certainly not trying to insult the uninitiated, it is just that the film is so deeply layered that it is impossible to describe, without a dissertation, to those who have not seen it.
The writing was top notch. Terry Southern, who also penned "Candy" (both the novel and the screenplay) was one of the greatest satirical authors in the 1960's. The lines were terse, and not one syllable was wasted. This is one of the very few films that I have ever seen that wasted nothing.
Perhaps much of that is attributable to Stanley Kubrick. I believe that this is his opus, and as brilliant as 2001 was, it was just an attempt to recapture the brilliance of Stranglove. The scenes were perfectly aligned with each other, and so interdependent that if one misses even a snippet, much of the meaning is lost. In addition, this is one of the few films that provides new insights each and every time it is watched, if watched intently.
It is not for the faint of heart, because the concepts are absolutely horrible. It is first and foremost a tragedy in the Shakespearian sense. It is all there: greed, avarice, lust, betrayal, incompetence, noble actions, madness, and the tragic flaw.
The tragic flaw in this case is universal. Each and every character, with the exception of Mandrake, was either deluded, mad, selfish, or drunk on power, sex, booze, or a combination. Mandrake was the only thinking person with competence. The President, although noble in mind, was incompetent. Enough with this area, for now. I am sure that some commentators will have thoughts.
The actors (used in a genderless way, but only one woman had much of a role at all, but hey, it is the macho military) were equally brilliant. Peter Sellers, who later was better known as the comic Inspector Clouseau, played three roles. Mandrake, the British officer assigned to the US, President Merkin, the human but clueless President, and Dr. Strangelove, the ex-Nazi scientist who was the adviser to the White House. (I think that his particular character was extracted from Werner von Braun and Henry Kissinger, then an obscure, but important policy wank). Interestingly, Sellers had played a multiple role in an earlier Kubrick film, his take on Nabokov's Lolita, a very controversial film to this day.
George C. Scott was absolutely perfect as General Turgidson, the Air Force liaison. When Scott went over the top, he went over the top, and played if perfectly. I still belly laugh at the vision of him on the chair, demonstrating what a bomber really could do.
Sterling Hayden played General Jack D. Ripper, the madman who started the entire nuclear escalation by ordering a bombing raid on the Soviet Union. He was as nutty as a Snickers bar, but played the role very, very straight. The part about enjoying the company of women but denying them his essence is golden, and a lesser actor could not have kept a straight face. He may be my perfect method actor because of this role.
Slim Pickens was perfectly cast as the pilot of the doom ship. He was the perfect automaton, doing "whatever it takes" to accomplish the mission, even though the results were catastrophic. The only special effect in the film was where he manually released the nuclear device from the bomb bay, and rode it down to ground zero. Everyone remembers that, even if they have not seen the film.
This is getting too long, so I will ask readers to comment and provide their views. Just one more thing, and this may be almost as famous as, "My Dear, I don't give a damn". It is where the President breaks up the fight between Turgidson and the Soviet emissary, scolding them, "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" Is that brilliant or not? Warmest regards, Doc.