Dr. Strangelove at The Astor

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Though it seems stupid to say this about any filmmaker’s films that were made before the advent of VHS—the films Stanley Kubrick were made to be seen in the cinema. With the sheer amount of visual stimuli he packs into every frame, the detail in every shot, it is very easy to miss a lot when watching his films on a TV. Being able to see Kubrick in a cinema is being able to watch a master of his trade up close.

Though perhaps not as visually rich as his later, bigger productions, Kubrick is still able to make every frame count in Dr. Strangelove.

A satirical look (that is fun but by no means lighthearted) at when ‘something goes wrong with the bomb’, Dr. Strangelove opens with General Ripper—a man who has obviously gone insane with cold-war paranoia—giving the command to bomb the hell out of Russia, and the film proceeds to shows a government vastly unequipped to handle such a situation.

Unable to recall the planes that are on their way to start World War III, it becomes very apparent that what is never taken into account when weapons of such magnitude are created is the inherent failures and stupidity of humans, which the film is able to show in an incredibly entertaining but affecting way.

Starring a great cast, including Peter Sellers (in multiple roles), George C. Scott as a gung-ho military man, Sterling Hayden as the crazed Ripper and Slim Pickens as Cowboy-pilot Kong, each of whom—whether dead-pan or hamming it up—have incredible comedic sensibilities. Though they all fill their absurd roles to a tee, it is obviously Sellers who shines.

As the titular character, Sellers is fun if over-the-top. As the puppy-dog American President, aptly named Mirkin Muffly, Sellers is a touch dry. But with character Colonel Mandrake—a refined British Air Force officer who seems to be the only man who is in a position to rectify the situation—Seller’s nails this performance with such nuance and subtleties that it is a shame that there is not more of him in the film.

While there are so many memorable and quotable scenes, Dr. Strangelove remains one of the more impressive anti-war films of Stanley Kubrick or any other filmmaker because it’s moral is neither hopeful nor ham-fisted. Its bleak message is not preachy, but cautionary. Films with something to say often say too much, and a black comedy such as this doesn’t come along every day.

With a very nice looking digital print, Dr. Strangelove is playing for a week at The Astor Theatre now until the 4th of December. For tickets and session times visit www.astortheatre.net.au

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