Hammerle on … A movie to watch at home

Hammerle on...For me, watching movies at home is not the same as seeing them at the theater. I enjoy the isolation and darkness as I sit alone, surrounded by strangers. Put another way, if I could get half the emotional satisfaction in a house of worship that I get in a theater, I’d be one of the world’s great holy men!

Regardless, here is the one movie to hunt down even if you have seen it before. While kids under 16 are likely to lose interest, relax in the company of your spouse and enjoy the experience.

“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”

“Dr. Strangelove” ranks at the top of my list of favorite films. Released in 1964 and directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, it tells a captivating story about an insane U.S. general who attempts to start a nuclear war with Russia. Unfortunately, disaster looms with the discovery that Russia has a secret doomsday device that will destroy life on Earth if attacked.

While the performances of all the actors were Oscar-worthy, let me begin with Sterling Hayden, who plays the madman, Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper. The commander of Burpelson Air Force Base, Ripper secretly authorizes a group of B-52s to launch a nuclear attack on Russia. Feeling that the Russians introduced “fluoridation” to poison Americans, he felt he could no longer allow the “international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

And then there was the great George C. Scott’s turn as Gen. Buck Turgidson. From the time he is required to leave his half-naked secretary/lover (“Bucky loves ya, baby”) to join the president in the war room, Scott continually tries to explain the unexplainable. Hating the Russians (“your average Ruskie doesn’t take a dump without a plan”), he answers the president’s inquiry as to how his sole power to launch a nuclear attack was usurped: “Why, I hate to judge before all the facts are in, Mr. President, it appears that someone has exceeded his authority.”

Yet as good as these two were, Peter Sellers shines in three roles. First, he appears as Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, a British officer working under Gen. Ripper. His puzzled reaction to Ripper’s madness reveals Sellers’ comic genius.

Sellers then plays the balding President Merkin Muffley. As Turgidson and the Russian ambassador (Peter Bull) attack one another as Muffley talks to the Russian president by phone, he yells, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room.”

Finally, Sellers’ third character is Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair bound ex-Nazi serving as a scientist for the U.S. government. Speaking with a thick German accent, the performance peaks when he refers to the president as “Mein Führer” as he tries to control his right arm giving the Nazi salute. I greatly admired Sellers’ talent, and his performance reminded me of my emotional despair when he died in 1980 at the age of 54.

No review of this sensational movie can end without noting the unforgettable performances of Slim Pickens and Keenan Wynn. Pickens plays Maj. T.J. “King” Kong, the pilot who rides a nuclear bomb like a horse to the world’s destruction. Keenan Wynn plays Col. “Bat” Guano, who mistakenly thinks Mandrake is in league with Ripper. When asked to explain his conclusion, he responds, “I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert. I think Gen. Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts. Now move!”

“Strangelove” had one of the best scripts in the history of film. I’ve outlined part of it so that you know why this film needs to be seen. And I mean more than once!

After all, we all need a bit of laughter right now, don’t we?•

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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