Saturday, 13 September, 2008


I had started watching this movie on a couple of previous occasions, but didn't proceed to watch beyond ten minutes, for reasons beyond my control. So I was bent on watching it today, at any cost (came home today after a couple of months). I settled down comfortably on the chair, speakers on, and lights off.

When you are dealing with Stanley Kubrik, be prepared to be surprised. Who else can take the concept of the nuclear arms race tension between the super-powers during the cold war, and turn it into a political satire? Add Peter Sellers to the mix and there,you have the perfect recipe.Based on Peter George's novel- Red Alert, this movie adaptation is a comical take on the tension involved in the use of Nuclear weapons and Hydrogen bombs.

Jack D Ripper comforting poor Mandrake

The movie starts off as Brigadier General Jack D Ripper (nice pun!!), a guy with a malfunctioning cerebrum(and a perennial fear that them commies are out to contaminate his body fluids), orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union by making use of an anti-sneak-attack clause which allows senior army personnel to by-pass the chain of command and order a nuclear strike if something were to happen to the President. As per the clause, he seals off his base, and orders the airstrike batallion,teetering on the edge of the failsafe point, to launch an attack. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake realises that there has been no attack on the Prez. But Jack D Ripper locks Mandrake inside his room and threatens to kill him if he doesnt obey orders. Now Mandrake is one of the characters Peter Sellers plays, and he does this with perfection, flawlessly expressing the helplessness and intention of the Captain.

Elsewhere, in the Pentagon's war room, officials are scratching their heads to find a solution to this situation. The President - Merkin Muffley (Sellers again) is advised by Gen.Turgidson (George C.Scott with a memorable performance) to take advantage of this error and wipe out "them commies". Things get hilarious when the Russian Ambassador is summoned. Turgidson and the ambassador don't get along very well and the president tries to keep the peace between them. These scenes will tickle your sides. But the real fun begins when Muffley calls up the Russian Premier Dmitri Kissoff. If you were sniggering earlier, you will be in splits when you hear the "World leaders" talk.

Gentlemen,you can't fight here! This is the war room
-memorable lines by the president :)

Premier Kissoff warns his US counterpart about a doomsday device installed by the Soviets, which would trigger itself automatically, in case of a nuclear attack on the soviets. And there was no way to disarm it. President Muffley consults Dr.Strangelove( yep,Sellers again), a former Nazi scientist, on the feasibility of such a device. Now Dr.Strangelove is this bizarre guy in a wheel chair with the "alien-hand" syndrome who explains that such a device may well exist and advises the president on ways to overcome the catastrophe if the device is triggered.

The president orders the nearest army troops to fight their way into Ripper's fortress. We see an irony here, as the President warns the Soviet about the US' attack on them and sends his men to fight his own forces. Meanwhile, Mandrake figures out the code to contact the airplanes executing plan R and contacts the planes and asks them to head back

An exchange of dialog between Mandrake and Col.Guano

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel... that Coca-Cola machine. I want you to shoot the lock off it. There may be some change in there.
Colonel "Bat" Guano: That's private property.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake
: Colonel! Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call to the President of the United States? Can you imagine? Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That's what the bullets are for, you twit!

Colonel "Bat" Guano
: Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake
: What?

Colonel "Bat" Guano: You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.
One plane is damaged by Soviet guns and it's radio gets blown. So they still carry on with their mission, headed by the Gung-ho Major "King" Kong, who, when the bomb is finally dropped, rides it like a cowboy. The movie ends with scenes of atom bomb blasts, with the symbolic mushroom clouds and all....

King Kong riding the bomb

Overall, fantastic movie to watch, if you sit through the first 20 minutes. Peter Sellers will make you crack up, whether it's by his bizarre portrayal of Dr.Strangelove, or the straitlaced Muffley, or poor Mandrake. George C Scott's portrayal of Turgidson also is extremely good. The performances of Sterling Hayden as Jack D Ripper and Slim Pickens as Major Kong also stand out.

Sellers' 3 roles : Dr.Strangelove, President Muffley and Group Cmdr Mandrake
Bottom line : Very funny movie, provided you are in the mood for it

The Insomniac's Recommendation- Do watch it! It will be worth your while

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