Sunday, August 27, 2006

You can't fight in here.... this is the war room!

I'm probably the last person to never have seen Dr. Strangelove (How I learned to stop worrying and love the atomic bomb) and I’m not sure how I managed to miss it all these years. It is a great piece of anti-nuke cold-war absurdism.

With the cold war now being over for fifteen years it might be tempting to watch a film like this as a bit of nostalgia, but with all the apocalyptic nuts running around these days I think its still pretty relevant, especially as we hear ongoing reports that certain people in Washington are actually advocating for a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran. It's baffling to me that I would feel compelled to state this in 2006, but nuclear war was insane forty years ago and it’s still insane today. I don’t mean to sound morbid about it, but Dr. Strangelove has not become a quaint anachronism by any stretch.

Nevertheless, this movie is really funny. There's a great scene with Peter Sellers as the President of the United States, trying to explain to the Soviet Premier on the telephone which of them is sorrier that we'd accidentally launched an unintended nuclear first strike. "Now Dimitri....No, you can't be more sorry... Dimitri, I'm just as sorry as you are.... Of course I'm sorry... OK we're both’s that?"

Finally, as the loan bomb carrying Slim Pickens to atomized glory falls towards a remote Soviet base, the movie closes with the leadership of America contemplating the abandonment of the standard monogamous marital relationship in a discussion of what would be an appropriate male to female ratio neccesary to re-populate the planet (1 to 10). Apparently realizing that there is nothing to be done about the impending Armageddon, they sit around discussing their opportunity to build a sort of Playboy Mansion bunker for the survival of the human race, with standards built in for the attractiveness of the women, naturally.

Oddly, the first time I saw a clip from this movie was at a Stevie Ray Vaughn concert in NYC on New Years Eve ....1989? 1990? Instead of an opening band there was this great musical/film montage of things like Bugs Bunny dancing to Black Sabbath. The final cut in this thing was the shot of Pickens riding the bomb. At the point where the bomb explodes (in the film the screen goes bright white) the screen and the whole room went black with all the house lights off and SRV opened with the chords to Pride and Joy. It was pretty cool. Of course, this having been my college years it would be redundant to point out that we were drunk, which might have made it seem cooler than it was.... but hey.*

Anyway, it's probably old news to all of you, but if you haven't watched it in a while it is a great movie. Terrific performances by Sellers, George C. Scott, an early minor role by James Earl Jones of all people, and of course Pickens playing the same character he always plays.

(*This was also the night we were wandering up Broadway 4 A.M. contemplating Ali's Pizza with a sign that read “open 23 1/2 hours a day” and we were really concerned that we would be there for the wrong half hour. That was a great night!)


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