Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dr. Strangelove

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't seen the film, the plot will be discussed. I guess you have to be strange to love this movie, and I fit that requirement. Again, I have to thank my parents for taking their young child and respecting him to be able to appreciate this great film at such an early age. Even as a thirteen-year-old, I enjoyed the dark comedy in this flick.

Over the opening credits of Stanley Kubrick's film there is a plane fueling a bomber with a phallic-looking line connecting them, suggesting a symbolic sexual exchange of fluids. Right from the beginning of this perfect satire of the insanity of modern warfare the director shows the connection between the male desire for sexual power and making war.

There is General Jack D. (the "d" sounds like "the") Ripper's preoccupation with bodily fluids as he puffs on a cigar, another phallic symbol. He is compensating for sexual impotence (as he says he denies women his "essence"), by spewing forth his military machismo. He tries to place the blame of his own shortcomings onto an outside entity, the Communists, who, through fluoridation, have undermined his manhood. He lives up to his namesake, Jack the Ripper, by also substituting violence as the outlet for sexual aberration. George C. Scott's General Turgidson, (the name suggesting the swollen male member), is first seen with his half-naked secretary, and says he will return to her for "blast off," making the sexual/rocket analogy. He is intrigued at the end of the movie at the suggestion that there should be a ten to one female/male ratio in the brave new world that will follow the nuclear holocaust. When Peter Sellers' President Muffley (a name which suggests the female pubic region) first talks with the drunken Russian Premiere, it is stated that the latter is, first and foremost, a man, and the President is literally causing coitus interruptus.  Seller's ex-Nazi scientist, Dr. Strangelove, has a hand that wants to salute Hitler, and the spasmodic raising of the arm could be seen as the desire to achieve an erection. Slim Pickens' bomber pilot has a survival kit that contains lipstick, nylons, and prophylactics.  As he says, a guy could have a good time in Vegas with the items. He is seen looking at a Playboy magazine, and the safe that contains the bombing codes has half-naked pictures on it. His plane's primary target is "La Puta," which translated from Spanish is "The Whore."  In the end, he straddles the penis-shaped bomb, riding the weapon of mass destruction, waving his cowboy hat. The image of the American love of the violent, shoot-'em-up Wild West is hysterical and chilling. The film associates guns and bombs exploding with the male orgasm.

There are many inspired moments in this film. There is a deadpan Keenan Wynn saying that breaking the soda machine for change to call off the nuclear attack will result in the dire consequences of having to answer to the Coca Cola Company. The look on Scott's face as his General, in an elated depiction of how great his pilots are at carrying out their mission, turns to a realization of the horror of the situation, is great acting. He also hysterically says that General Ripper "may have exceeded his authority" in ordering a nuclear attack. Equally funny is when Turgidson says that the whole military decision making process should not be scrapped because of "one slipup." The Russian leader's name is "Premiere Kissoff," which is appropriate for what is happening to the human race. Pickens' Major Kong says that there will be citations and promotions for his crew after their mission, as if there will be any "after" following the explosion of the nuclear weapons. The plane's H-bombs outrageously have written on them "Nuclear Warheads - Handle with Care," as if they were only some dinner plates in a crate. The use of the music from the song "Try a Little Tenderness" at the beginning as bombers are depicted, is truly ironic, as are the signs at Ripper's air force base stating "Peace is our Profession," which is the actual the motto of SAC. Dr. Strangelove is in a wheelchair, suggesting that the fascist movement has been crippled.  But, at the end, when the bombs are exploding, he is able to walk again, showing that, ironically, we have resurrected the dark angel of death.

This film is my favorite satire, although Wag the Dog and Thank you for Smoking are up there, too. Do you have favorites under this category?

Next week’s film is Vertigo.

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