Thursday, October 28, 2010
Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
The 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is certainly not an account of true Cold War events, but it does put the clash between capitalism and communism into a unique prespective. With the American public still in fear from the confrontation known later as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union seemed like a power keg waiting for a spark. Director Stanley Kubrick provided a scenario in which a spark would potentially ignite a nuclear war.
What would the spark be? An American general is convinced those pesky Soviets are keen on taking over the United States. Worse, some have already begun to infiltrate the country and possibly the ranks of the military. Their newest plot: using water fluoridation to infect American's precious bodily fluids. The paranoid patriot only reasonable response is to go rogue and send an Air Force B-52 wing to drop hydrogen bombs on the Russians, hoping to provoke an American early strike. If his plan works maybe capitalism and Uncle Sam can finally prevail.
When informed of the action by the general, the President establishes a crisis team to form in the War Room. With B-52 bombers heading for the Soviet Union without any way to be ordered back, the Russians could launch a retaliation. And what of the "Doomsday Device" the Soviet ambassador warns the Americans about; could that machine add more fuel to the flame? With planes on the Big Board moving closer and closer to their targets, the situation seems bleak (although is rather funny as the events are being played out). Maybe the ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove has a solution for the President and hope if the apocalypse emerges...
The film itself is a satire on the paranoia of the era and provides a dark comedic tone to the real threat that existed. The thought that one aggressive or inadvertent action by either Washington or Moscow would lead to nuclear annihilation was a real concern that existed for over 40 years. Several films have created a plot in which the United States or the world faced a nuclear threat (mainly from the Russians), but Dr. Strangelove provides such an over-the-top story which brilliantly magnifies the absurdities that existed in the real world. As a side note, Russian is also spoken in the film in a humorous exchange between the Soviet ambassador and the General Secretary. Like Russian Art, the subject of my last review, Dr. Strangelove is also found in the DuPont-Ball Library at Stetson University.