Dr. Strangelove – Weapons of Mass Destruction week

This is WMD – Weapons of Mass Destruction week. Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is currently available on instant Netflix.WARNING: Watch this soon as on March 1st this movie will no longer be available on instant Netflix.

Dr. Strangelove

WATCH: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – Rated PG.

“When a fanatical U.S. general (Sterling Hayden) launches an air strike against the Soviets, they raise the stakes by threatening to unleash a “doomsday device,” setting the stage for Armageddon in this classic black comedy that brilliantly skewers the nuclear age. The films star-studded cast includes George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones and Peter Sellers (who steals the show and copped an Oscar nod playing three roles).”

“Peace is our profession” – Strategic Air Command motto seen pretty much everywhere in the film.

“Gentlemen, you cant fight in here! This is the War Room.”

“Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.”

Stanley Kubrick did an absolutely phenomenal job of directing Dr. Strangelove. He received the first three of his many Oscar nominations for this movie. He was nominated for Best Film (producer), Best Director, and Best Writing (adapted screenplay).

Reportedly author Peter George was not happy with the adaptation of his book, Red Alert, by Kubrick and Terry Southern. The book presents a serious scenario similar in tone and theme to Fail-Safe (a movie I will discuss later this week).

Kubrick adapted this into an absolutely brilliant satire of the nuclear arms race and cold war politics. With the exception of the titular character, every one else plays the film straight (in spite of the ridiculous names given to much of the cast).

There are a ton of fun touches in the film. There is a nice scene with Major Kong (Slim Pickens) in an airplane poring over what appears to be a map. The camera pulls out and it is revealed to be an issue of Playboy. Tracy Reed (Miss Scott in the film) is Miss Foreign Affairs in the issue.

General Turgidson has a folder marked “World Targets in Megadeaths”. A firefight at the base takes place near a “Keep Off the Grass” sign.

Peter Sellers was nominated for a Best Actor in Dr. Strangelove. He plays Dr. Strangelove, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, and President Muffley. He was supposed to play Major Kong as well but broke his ankle and was replaced in that role by Slim Pickens. He was paid a million dollars – over half the budget of the film – for his performances.

All of his roles in this film are great. He has a fun and comedic time with Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi scientist now working with the U.S. His President Muffley is a model of reason amid the chaos of the War Room. However I most enjoyed his stiff upper lip presentation of Captain Mandrake.

A slightly over the top performance from George C. Scott as General Turgidson is a sight to behold. This is only second to his performance as Patton. Make sure to pay attention to his gum fixation. The fall he takes later in the film was a real accident that Kubrick decided to leave in.

Slim Pickens is a hoot as Major Kong and his final scene is an iconic shot from this film. Veteran actor Sterling Hayden (Captain McCluskey in The Godfather) came out of semi-retirement for this film. He had previously worked for Kubrick in The Killing (1956). James Earl Jones appears here in his first film but does not have much to do.

The music choices are inspired. Whenever Major Kong and the bomb crew are on, “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” is playing in the background. This was later adapted and is perhaps more popularly known as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”.  The end montage has “We ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn played over it.

This is an absolutely incredible and iconic film and if you have not seen it then you definitely should. Do not be put off by the Black and White photography or the silly character names, this is a movie deserving of the title “classic”.

WATCH this classic movie soon before it expires on March 1st.

People Watch: Look for Keenan Wynn as Colonel Guano.

The Swarm – Nature Gone Wild! week

This is Nature Gone Wild! week. The Swarm is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Swarm

AVOID: The Swarm – NR – Not rated. The theatrical version was rated PG and this version adds more content but as near as I could tell not more objectionable material.

“Entomologist Brad Crane (Michael Caine) and his crack team of scientists attempt to intervene when swarms of voracious killer bees begin attacking a number of cities in Texas, and an army general (Richard Widmark) threatens to use military firepower against this force of nature. This doomsday epic buzzes with an all-star cast, including Katharine Ross, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda.”

“I never dreamed it would turn out to be the bees. They’ve always been our friend.”

“We have been invaded, by an enemy far more lethal than any human force.”

“Until we have destroyed the African bee. Or it has destroyed us.”

As you may have noticed I have rated this AVOID as any sane person should. However I must admit to having enjoyed the stupidity of this film immensely. This is a great big slice of 70s cheese and boy does it stink.

The plot holes practically define the film so this must be Swiss cheese. Right off the bat the military discovers Dr. Crane in the middle of the command center of a semi-secret military base. He has been following the bees and claims he just walked right in after everyone was killed off.

Later Dr. Crane needs some specimens of the swarm which is somewhat odd since he is right there in the base where the swarm killed everyone. Are you telling me the base was wiped out and then the bees carried away their dead?

Later still Jud Hawkins (Slim Pickens) arrives and threatens to shut off the water to the base if he doesn’t get to see his son. Rather than detain him, General Slater figures that they’d better do what he says. What?!? Of course I’m glad they did because one of the most hilarious scenes in the film is Slim Pickens crying over the Hefty bag his son is in.

Crane has one bee to work with. Seriously one bee and they have a room full of body-bagged soldiers. Did anyone read the script before they filmed this?

As they’re playing back the surveillance tapes, you can clearly hear the swarm. Dr. Crane asks, ‘what’s that?’ so I tell him it’s the swarm obviously – where did you get your PhD? in a box of crackerjack?

Three boys go out hunting for the bees. They find them just out of town swarming everywhere. There is no mistaking them but one of the boys needs to use his binoculars to see what is filling the whole screen.

Still later Crane figures out that the bees showed up at the base less than 30 seconds after the base tested a siren. Earlier they indicated that the swarm was traveling at 7 miles an hour. Alright I’ll let you do the math but that pretty much means the bees had to be on the base already.

Crane sees three clouds of bees – all three are headed in completely different directions and Crane says the bees are headed straight for Marysville. That’s okay though because while the bees have no problem wiping out an underground military base, they seem to have difficulty getting into buildings.

They take the survivors of Marysville and pack them all on a train. I’d tell you what happens next but I have to stop with the ridiculous plot now before I get into spoilers. I imagine you  can guess though.

The cast is absolutely first rate even if they don’t put in good performances. Michael Caine headlines the scientists and really chews up the scenery. Henry Fonda and Richard Chamberlain appear as scientists. The townspeople are played by Fred MacMurray (his last film), Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, and Slim Pickens. The military is represented by Richard Widmark, Katharine Ross, and Bradford Dillman.

The theatrical version was 116 minutes – this is the extended version and runs a whopping 155 minutes. The extra time is not kind to this film – it makes it seem to go on forever. Netflix has also brought this in a nice widescreen ratio so you can properly appreciate this disaster.

Unless you have a taste for truly terrible movies, avoid this movie. Please note: while this film worked fine on my computer, it was glitchy on my Roku box about 37 minutes in. Inexplicably this movie was actually nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

People Watch: Jose Ferrer appears briefly as Dr. Andrews and Cameron Mitchell plays General Thompson.