Thursday, November 18, 2004


The fourtieth anniversery of Dr. Strangelove is the subject of James Earl Jones' reminiscences in the Wall Street Journal. It is definitely worth a read. Jones' role as part of Slim Pickens' crew responsible for dropping the bomb on the "Ruskies" was his first in the movies. If you haven't seen that movie, you really should - every character is a classic. But of all the characters, no one beats George C. Scott's General Buck Turgidson. His character is hilarious; Jones points out that Kubrick basically tricked Scott into the performance, and Scott swore never to work for Kubrick again.

Two of my favorite scenes with Buck are when he protests that if the President lets the Russian ambassador into the War Room, "he'll see the big board," which is an electronic map of the world. Then, later, when the Ruskie is explaining to the President that the Russians have a doomsday machine that automatically responds to any nuclear bombing with a discharge of all of its nuclear weapons to bring upon out a nuclear holocaust, Turgidson turns to another General and mutters "I wish we had one of those Doomsday machines" in a tone that betrays nothing but admiration for the diabolical planning of the Soviets.

Peter Sellers plays three characters, none of which are the Pink Panther. As Dr. Strangelove, a wheel-chair bound former Nazi nuclear scientist now working for the US, he describes with utter glee the post-Nuclear winter society that will start with the limited number of the privileged who can populate the underground bomb shelter meant for the President. A society where "animals will be bred and slaughtered" and women will have to outnumber men by 8 to 1 as "the monogomous relationship as we know it will be history" in order for the species to survive. The look on George C. Scott's face at the moment Strangelove says this is worth the price of admission alone.

Of course the politics of the movie are a bit tendentious, but it is so funny that you can excuse that. If all peacenick liberals had the same sense of humor, I'd be singing Pete Seeger tunes all the live long day.


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