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.

Prince Valiant

In 1954, Hal Foster’s comic Prince Valiant was adapted into a movie. This feature by Henry Hathaway is currently available on Netflix instant play.

Prince Valiant

WATCH: Prince Valiant (1954) – Rated PG

“The tale from the Sunday comics about a Viking prince under the reign of King Arthur is brought to life with Robert Wagner in the title role. A mentor to young Valiant is Sir Gawain (Sterling Hayden), who has trained the young warrior for the Round Table. Also coloring the screen are Princess Aleta (Janet Leigh), Valiant’s love, and Sir Brack (James Mason), the ominous villain.”

First let me state that I’m not qualified to judge whether this is a faithful adaptation of Hal Foster’s iconic strip. It is fun to watch a very young Robert Wagner as Valiant, especially in his cute pageboy haircut. James Mason is wonderfully villainous as Sir Brack but Sterling Hayden is quite upright and stilted as the stalwart Sir Gawain. Janet Leigh and Debra Paget are equally lovely as Aleta and Ilene though clearly Gawain is bewitched by blond hair as he doesn’t even notice that Debra Paget is throwing herself at him.

The sets are quite colorful and design makes good use of the Cinemascope process. The castle shots are wonderful using both Alnwick and Warwick castles. There’s a wonderful shot as Valiant looks up from his bed at Aleta whose head is framed halo-like by the chandelier. Having listed all of that, the rest of the cast and production seem lifeless so I’m recommending this as a Watch but with reservations.

People Watch: Michael Rennie does the narration, Neville Brand plays a viking chief, and boxer Primo Carnera plays Sligon though none are listed in the credits.