Blog Directory CineVerse: January 2024

A gem of a jailbreak flick

Tuesday, January 23, 2024


Released in 1963, The Great Escape abides as a timeless war film directed by John Sturges and produced by United Artists. Centered around a group of Allied prisoners of war during World War II, the film depicts their daring escape plan from a German POW camp, based on the actual mass escape from Stalag Luft III in 1944. Boasting a cast of renowned actors such as Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, and others, the picture is renowned for its iconic scenes, notably Steve McQueen's motorcycle chase, etching itself as one of the most memorable action sequences in cinematic history. The Great Escape also resonates with viewers worldwide thanks to its evergreen themes of resilience, determination, and camaraderie among the prisoners.

To listen to a recording of our CineVerse group discussion of this film, conducted last week, click here.


The Great Escape offers an interesting compare and contrast from other war films, prison movies, and POW dramatizations. Many such works emphasize more explosive action, macho bravado, and impressive set pieces, as evidenced in The Guns of Navarone, Von Ryan’s Express, The Dirty Dozen, and Kelly’s Heroes. The Great Escape is arguably a more entertaining and emotional outing. For proof, consider how the filmmakers use sentiment, suspense, intrigue, tragedy, and light comedy to take our feelings on a roller coaster ride.

Criterion Collection essayist Sheila O’Malley touched on this approach: “The film is about a serious subject, told without self-seriousness. Because of this, it doesn’t date at all. It’s an ode to ingenuity and cooperation. Sturges was not at all a member of the counterculture, but The Great Escape’s spirit is pure up-yours antiestablishment, making it a forerunner of M*A*S*H, to Kelly’s Heroes, to The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, to all the deconstructing, demythologizing war films to come.”

Moreover, The Great Escape is, along with several of these comparative films, a fantastic ensemble piece with colorful and arresting characters and action-oriented actors popular in their day among male audiences. Interestingly, although he is top-billed, McQueen is on screen for a relatively small amount of time (mostly in the second half), which signifies that this is more of a group effort by the actors. Still, this is probably the best movie and role of McQueen’s career. 

“The Great Escape popularized the prison movie trope of an ensemble defined by emblematic handles. James Garner’s resourceful American who can acquire any number of forbidden goods goes by 'The Scrounger.' Donald Pleasance is 'The Forger,' despite his increasing blindness. Bronson’s claustrophobic digger is called 'Tunnel King'…The list goes on,” wrote Deep Focus Review critic Brian Eggert.

This is less a picture about “the madness of war,” like Bridge on the River Kwai, than an inspirational somewhat true account of collective sacrifice. Kwai is also more of a battle of wills tale pitting one commanding officer—Alec Guinness—against his enemy counterpart. Additionally, in this story, the POWs are all honorable, trustworthy men; in Stalag 17, a major subplot is the presence of a mole/secret agent among the prisoners.

Some, like DVD Savant Glenn Erickson, posit that this is more of a caper/heist movie than a war film or prison escape picture. “The schemes, dodges, and con games used by the prisoners to carry out a huge tunneling operation are a caper far more elaborate than a bank job. They're also entertaining, funny, and credible,” Erickson wrote.

Although this is set during World War II and the Nazis are the easy-to-root-against antagonists, this is a war film that doesn’t give equal voice to their characters, nor does it mention or hint at the Holocaust. Yet we are reminded of their capacity for despicable acts, especially the cold-blooded massacring of the rounded-up prisoners on the hillside.

The value of teamwork, orchestrated collaboration, and group planning is a prime payoff message imbued herein. The Great Escape shows that solidarity among a group of individuals who accept pre-defined roles and responsibilities can create more successful and efficient outcomes. By assigning jobs to people based on skill and experience, following a chain of command, and maintaining discipline and self-control, even the most insurmountable of obstacles can be cleared.

This is also a movie that preaches the perks of turning lemons into lemonade. The resourcefulness and creativity of these men help them conquer one challenge after another, which proves that out-of-the-box thinking, improvisational skills, and on-the-spot ingenuity can make a huge difference in desperate situations.

The Great Escape certainly serves as a powerful grace under pressure narrative. Time and again, these prisoners of war must pivot, recalibrate, or start anew in their shared task of escaping and be willing to quickly adapt to changing conditions without panicking or quitting.

Arguably, the most important moral to the story is shared sacrifice. While Bartlett aims to get as many prisoners out of the camp as possible, his minimum objective is to complicate matters for the Third Reich by forcing Germany to devote men and resources to guard these highly elusive prisoners and capture any escapees. The men know that, even if they successfully escape the camp they may not be coming back alive, and many altruistically agree to help without any guarantee of escaping at all. The fact that they made a film about an incredibly impressive mass escape by 76 prisoners, but only three of them evaded capture or death, tells us that this is a narrative more about sacrifice and selflessness than man’s inherent need for freedom. Case in point: Recall the dialogue exchange at the conclusion. Hendley: “Do you think it was worth the price?” Ramsey: “Depends on your point of view, Hendley.” 

“The Great Escape cleverly turns a defeat into a tale of victory,” Erickson continued. “No matter how it's made to look, the bottom line of the mass escape is (that)…a lot of rebellious defiance mostly gets a lot of good men killed…we celebrate the protagonists as they dare to defy their German captors…We aren't bothered by the fact that their efforts had little effect on the war proper. But the trial-by-escape with its risk and sacrifice was a personal challenge for men otherwise unable to fight: civilized defiance.”

Reflect on how the German and English officers within the camp treat each other with basic dignity and respect even though the POWs are routinely defiant and will do everything in their power to break out. This dynamic of maintaining quiet mutual respect and abiding by an unspoken code of honor is a noteworthy facet of the film.

Alas, every person has his breaking point. We witness the stir-crazy Ives, desperate to escape, suffer an early demise. Even Danny, the toughest prisoner, suffers from severe claustrophobia and anxiety that can derail his hopes of escape; fortunately, he rises to the challenge and becomes one of only three POWs to flee and survive.

Similar works

  • Stalag 17
  • Grand Illusion
  • Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Von Ryan’s Express
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • Army of Shadows
  • Papillon
  • Soldier of Orange
  • Hart’s War
  • Escape From Sobibor
  • Films with a cast of assembled expert characters, including The Magnificent Seven, Oceans Eleven, Kelly’s Heroes, and The Expendables
  • Chicken Run, a CGI-animated remake of sorts

Other films by John Sturges

  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Bad Day at Black Rock
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
  • Joe Kidd

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Cineversary podcast celebrates 60th birthday of Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Rodney Hill and Kenneth Turan
In Cineversary podcast episode #66, host Erik Martin heads to the War Room with former LA Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan and Hofstra University film professor Rodney Hill to decipher the top secret codes behind Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick, in celebration of the movie’s 60th anniversary. Erik and his guests explore how this black comedy masterwork remains evergreen, Kubrick’s brilliant directing choices, and key themes underpinning this supreme political satire. Erik also chats briefly with Tom Lucas from Fathom Events, who unveils Fathom’s 2024 lineup of Big Screen Classics returning to theaters this year.

To listen to this episode, click here or click the "play" button on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download, or subscribe to Cineversary wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, and Overcast.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at www.cineversary.com and email show comments or suggestions to cineversarypodcast@gmail.com.

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Director Todd Haynes proved his mettle with Poison 33 years ago

Monday, January 15, 2024

In 1991, acclaimed gay filmmaker Todd Haynes garnered significant attention for his feature film debut Poison, an experimental drama written and directed by Haynes that stands out for its unconventional narrative structure, intertwining three distinct stories that delve into themes of desire, identity, and societal norms. The movie surprisingly won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival but quickly became culture war grist for right-wing detractors like Senator Jess Helms and Rev. Donald Wildmon, who criticized the film, which was partially funded via government grants, for being pornographic and homoerotic.

Indeed, the picture sparked considerable controversy and garnered both negative and positive attention due to its explicit content, unorthodox style, and thematic exploration, and quickly came to be regarded as an important work. The movie is credited with influencing other independent filmmakers, helping to launch the New Queer Cinema movement of the early 1990s, and inspiring other gay artists. This movement aimed to present LGBTQ+ narratives in ways that challenged conventional norms and departed from mainstream representations.

Poison also served as the launching pad for a talented director, laying the foundation for Haynes and a successful filmmaking career. Haynes went on to helm acclaimed films like Safe, Far From Heaven, I’m Not Here, Carol, Dark Waters, and most recently May December.

To listen to a recording of our CineVerse group discussion of this film, conducted last week, click here.


Poison is particularly renowned for its inventive narrative structure, blending diverse styles and formats. Comprising three separate yet interconnected and increasingly intertwining stories titled "Hero," "Horror," and "Homo," this unconventional storytelling method proved influential. "Horror” is made to look like a low-budget drive-in horror flick in the vein of Carnival of Souls; “Hero,” mimics the tabloid documentary interview style employed by news programs and afternoon TV shows; and “Homo” adopts the conventions of a prison film but with melodramatic flourishes, stylized visual choices, and ample flashbacks.

This is a movie about the experimental nature of storytelling itself; instead of focusing on one main character and his narrative, or dividing the film into three distinct chapters played back to back to back, we crosscut between a trio of tales told chronologically. As the film progresses, the disparate characters and situations begin to overlap thematically and echo some of the same messages and ideas. For example, in "Horror," Dr. Graves jumps from a window just as young Richie does, in an attempt to end his horrific situation; we hear testimony from classmates, teachers, and neighbors of both Dr. Graves and Richie (from "Hero"), many of whom express shock, surprise, and disgust of these two characters; and we observe two young girls spit in Dr. Graves’ face, just as we witness a group spitting-upon of an ostracized boy in a flashback within the “Homo” segment.

Poison is a powerful text unafraid of making serious sociopolitical commentary on what it was like to be gay in the early 1990s, a time when the AIDS epidemic was still rampant, the politicians in power turned a blind eye to this suffering, and being sexually different often made you a pariah in society.

One prominent theme explored is sexual desire deemed taboo by the mainstream. The film probes various facets of desire and sexuality, presenting narratives that not only challenge societal norms but also delve into the intricacies of sexual identity. Particularly, the "Homo" segment emphasizes candid homosexuality and the hurdles gay men face in expressing their desires.

Additionally, Poison posits thought-provoking ideas about identity, otherness, and alienation—scrutinizing matters of self, individuality, and the pervasive sense of estrangement and societal rejection experienced by its characters. The film vividly portrays the emotional and psychological struggles faced by males who find themselves on society's fringes due to their sexual orientation or unconventional behaviors. The exploration of marginalized identities, including queer experiences, contributes to a broader commentary on societal expectations and the ongoing struggle for self-acceptance.

This work disrupts traditional societal norms and delves into the repercussions of being different and unaccepted by straight society, examining the classic conflict between conformity vs. nonconformity. Each of the three narratives presents characters who resist or deviate from established norms, resulting in conflicts and rumination on conformity’s limitations. “(Poison illustrates) that the real disease of our contemporary culture—beyond AIDS…or environmental allergies or child abuse, or even a botched serum cooked up in a sci-fi lab—is a social rot formed by fear, bigotry, intolerance, and persecution,” wrote Criterion Collection essayist Michael Koresky.

Haynes himself said: “…the poison that the film describes is not necessarily one that any of us can avoid, living in the culture that we live in . . . The poison is our culture. The film is about laws and what happens when people break them or transgress them…I think what makes Poison really work for some people is that it gets under your skin and makes you feel something … very sad or disturbed.”

Poison further teaches us to fight fear with fearlessness. “Poison is about the power of refusal, of embracing exclusion, and of admitting that queerness can be a threat to the norm. It refuses integration, acceptance, and co-optation. It seeks to be a ragged outsider. It is a film about ruin and rot, how pleasure and degradation become intertwined, how transgression becomes transcendence. Cycles of violence are ended, pride overcomes the shame of illness moments before death, and showers of spit turn into rose petals,” wrote Sundance Festival blogger Nick Joyner. “Perhaps a portion of Poison’s notoriety lies in its unwillingness to “play nice” and construct “good” representation for the gay community… Haynes was not interested in making films about simple victims who fell prey to the violences of a homophobic society. Here are characters who are imprisoned but not broken, abused but not powerless, cast aside but not ashamed. They could name their suffering and learn from it without losing track of their desires to revisit or re-enact these sources of violence or punishment. The film is not about surrender, resignation, or quiet disobedience. It’s about transforming oppression into something far more fantastical, pleasurable, and ostentatious: power.

Similar works
  • Films regarded as part of the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s, including Tongue Untied, The Living End, Go Fish, Swoon, The Hours and Times, and The Watermelon Woman
  • Halloween (1978) and its subjective camera sequences; and Eraserhead (1977) with its disorienting black-and-white photography
  • Intolerance (1916), which also intercuts different stories into one shifting narrative
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, which also features a somewhat similar outdoor dining scene

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How I learned to stop worrying and love Dr. Strangelove

Tuesday, January 9, 2024


Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, released in January 1964, remains perhaps the greatest black comedy and political satire ever filmed. The film's central plot—with a screenplay authored by Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George loosely inspired by Peter George's novel Red Alert—centers around a mentally unstable U.S. Air Force general who commands a sudden nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, setting off a sequence of absurd and chaotic events. The movie delves into the potentially catastrophic outcomes stemming from human error, political and military miscalculations, and the peculiarities of Cold War-era nuclear policy.

Dr. Strangelove adeptly and bravely combines humor with a profound critique of the nuclear arms race and the risks of accidental nuclear warfare. Its release coincided with a tense period in the Cold War, amplifying its impact and relevance. The film's importance extends to its pioneering narrative style and technical accomplishments.

Click here to listen to a recording of our group discussion of Dr. Strangelove, conducted last week.


Why and how does Dr. Strangelove remain one of the most cherished and respected films of all time, especially as a black comedy? Why is this movie deserving of celebration 60 years later? It’s arguably the finest political satire and black comedy ever made, and one of the most distinctively original and emotionally conflicting movies of all time—conflicting in how it can consistently conjure laughs with its absurd characters and comedic situations while also shocking and horrifying us by depicting an Armageddon scenario and the very real possibility of nuclear annihilation due to human error and stupidity. By cleverly using humor and parody, it can entertainingly address a nightmarishly realistic scenario that could result in the death of untold millions and the end of mankind—subject matter that is otherwise terrifying to contemplate.

Dr. Strangelove also represents a winning collaboration of several top talents at the heights of their skills, especially brilliant director Kubrick, chameleonic performer Peter Sellers, acclaimed actors George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden, and satirical novelist Southern.

This picture boasts some of the most colorfully ridiculous characters in movie history—among them General Jack D. Ripper, General Buck Turgidson, Major Kong, President Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove himself—as well as eternally quotable comedic lines, among them: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”, “Mein F├╝hrer, I can walk!”, “You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company,” “Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff,” “The whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret—why didn't you tell the world, eh?” and “I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

Roger Ebert wrote: "Dr. Strangelove's" humor is generated by a basic comic principle: People trying to be funny are never as funny as people trying to be serious and failing. The laughs have to seem forced on unwilling characters by the logic of events. A man wearing a funny hat is not funny. But a man who doesn't know he's wearing a funny hat ... ah, now you've got something. The characters in "Dr. Strangelove'' do not know their hats are funny.”

Consider how the film endures as an exemplary work that ranks high on several lists. It places #3 on the AFI’s list of the funniest American films and #26 on the AFI’s best American movies list; on various greatest films of all time lists, it has been named #5 on the Sight and Sound Poll of 2002; #14 by Entertainment Weekly; #26 by Empire magazine; #24 by Total Film magazine; #42 by the BBC; #47 based on a Time Out readers poll in 1998. And its screenplay placed as the 12th best ever by the Writers Guild of America.

Despite its 60-year vintage, the picture remains a timeless and cautionary tale because we continue to live by the tick-tock of the doomsday clock and under the constant fear of nuclear destruction, even decades after the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Even elements that threaten to date the film, including the presence of only one female character—a lusty and male gaze-amenable type at that—chauvinistic attitudes among the male personalities that dominate the story, and references to mid-1960s military concerns like the missile gap, reinforce the movie’s key themes and its satirical stylings.

Dr. Strangelove exhibited innovation and groundbreaking elements across various aspects. For starters, the film effectively employed satire to tackle the weighty and delicate subject of nuclear war. It critiqued the political and military establishments of the Cold War era, offering a sardonic perspective on the arms race and the potential for catastrophic outcomes. By fusing two subgenres—black comedy and political satire—it demonstrated that humor could effectively address serious geopolitical issues, challenging conventional expectations regarding the treatment of such topics in film.

The movie also proved to be suspenseful, dramatic, and scary, despite its absurd and chaotic treatment of events linked to nuclear war. Viewers bite into an apple with a surreal comedy outer skin obscuring a rotten core underneath and must digest an unsettlingly realistic depiction of an event that could trigger World War III and the end of civilization. There are taut moments in Strangelove that make it a topically relevant thriller, not a wall-to-wall funny fest. Kubrick’s work presents a disturbingly plausible situation that was top of mind for many Americans at this time, capitalizing on the all-too-real fears of the Cold War, only months removed from the Cuban missile crisis and the 1961 Berlin crisis.

Kubrick's choice to cast Sellers in multiple roles highlighted the actor's versatility, which was earlier demonstrated in the films Lolita and The Mouse That Roared, two other works featuring multiple Sellers characters. Sellers adeptly portrayed three distinct personalities, including the titular Dr. Strangelove, President Merkin Muffley, and Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake. This inventive use of a single actor in diverse roles likely inspired later thespians including comedians Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Eddie Murphy in Coming to America and The Nutty Professor, and Mike Myers in Austin Powers.

Dr. Strangelove is also replete with innovative visuals. The film's cinematography, employing wide-angle lenses and distinctive camera angles, contributed to its visual impact, as did the memorable special effects—including its depiction of the B-52 bomber and the nuclear bomb—and production designer Ken Adams’ inspired designs, particularly the iconic and expressionistic war room set design.

For proof of its influence, ponder subsequent works that have drawn inspiration from Dr. Strangelove, including Fail Safe (1964), released immediately after Strangelove and featuring a very similar story; The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966); and numerous black comedies and political satires like Catch-22 (1970), Airplane! (1980), Brazil (1985), Mars Attacks! (1996), Wag the Dog (1997), The Pentagon Wars (1998), In the Loop (2009), The Death of Stalin (2017), and Don’t Look Up (2021).

Dr. Strangelove represented a turning point for Stanley Kubrick, a filmmaker who imbues the production with a strong vision and impressive skill at balancing its disparate tonal elements. Kubrick adopts a more objective and dispassionate approach to directing a film like Dr. Strangelove than many other filmmakers would have. Criterion Collection essayist David Bromwich wrote: “Kubrick looks on people as something other than the earnest strivers and helpers we like to imagine we are. In all of his films, individuals are photographed almost neutrally, without flattering close-ups. He would no more deliver these than he would enforce a pointed cut to elicit a predictable laugh or a groan. His is an abstract method, depopulated to the largest practicable extent, so as to approach a geometrical purity.”

The director cogently juxtaposes images and music in creative ways that add humor and irony to otherwise nonhumorous scenes. Case in point: He marries the footage of the aircraft coupling during the opening credits to the song Try a Little Tenderness, and he pairs footage of nuclear mushroom clouds with the Vera Lynn ballad We’ll Meet Again for a great non-sequitur. He would repeat this method in 2001: A Space Odyssey when he employed The Blue Danube Waltz and in A Clockwork Orange with the song Singin’ in the Rain.

Interestingly, Kubrick only used four primary sets/locations in this narrative: the War Room, Ripper’s office, the B-52 bomber interior, and the Air Force base perimeter. Additionally, he wisely chose to shoot in black-and-white, lending a documentary-like realism to the film that would have mimicked what viewers were used to seeing on their television news at the time.

The director encouraged improvisation and ad-libbing from his performers and often shot numerous takes of the same shot or scene to capture different elements and approaches from the actors, sometimes benefitting from happy accidents like the shot where Scott trips but gets up and finishes his line in more comedic fashion. And Kubrick was rightly praised for his attention to detail in this film; ponder how, despite no Pentagon cooperation, he and his crew were able to recreate the actual controls and design of a B-52 aircraft.

Curiously, the movie is brimming with numerous sexual references and imagery. Consider the suggestive names of many characters:
  • Buck is a euphemism for a “manly man,” and Turgidson plays on the word “turgid,” which means full of fluid to the point of hardness.
  • President Merkin Muffley has a name that is evocative of female pubic hair, as if to say he’s lacking in male machismo; his character is loosely based on politician Adlai Stevenson.
  • Jack D. Ripper is an obvious play on Jack the Ripper, a sexually sadistic serial killer; Ripper’s use of the word “essence” is a synonym for semen; he is depicted as an impotent character who blames his sexual dysfunction on a communist conspiracy.
  • Mandrake is the name of a mythical herb or root believed to increase male potency; Mandrake is also evocative of the prim and proper English officer played by Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai.
  • Colonel Bat Guano’s moniker can be interpreted as “bat shit,” slang for insane.
  • The titular character, who proposes an outrageous male-friendly strategy for perpetuating the species at the conclusion, is himself an amalgam of several people, including rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, nuclear physicist Edward Teller, RAND Corporation strategist Herman Kahn, and Rotwang the black-gloved mad scientist in Metropolis.
Examples of the rampant sexual metaphors, innuendos, and messages used throughout the movie include the refueling of the jets, which serves as an obvious symbol of sexual coupling; Ripper’s dangling cigar, an evident phallic object; the Coke machine spewing cola in a sudden, orgasmic burst; Buck’s girlfriend Miss Scott appearing as the centerfold playmate in the magazine being read aboard the B-52 bomber; the B-52 crew’s complex procedure that arms the bomb for use, suggestive of a “foreplay” ritual of sorts; the plane being rendered impotent at the last moment when the bomb doors fail to open; Major Kong straddling the nuclear bomb as if it were a giant phallus; Dr. Strangelove’s arm saluting gestures and sudden erect standing posture, further phallic symbols; the intended bomb target being the island of Laputa, which in Spanish means “the whore”; the pilot viewing an issue of Playboy; Plan “R” for Romeo, implying that war equals love; and the flight crew’s survival kits being stocked with ample quantities of chewing gum, prophylactics, lipstick, and nylons, intimating that having sex will be as important for survival as eating and breathing.

Despite its comedic sheen, Dr. Strangelove several serious messages and morals. Among the important thematic takeaways? The absurdity of nuclear conflict, the folly of the arms race and the Cold War, and the ironic fallacy of nuclear weapons being “deterrents” due to the theory of mutually assured destruction.

Front and center is the notion that man’s impulse to wage war is linked to his sexual drive; a man’s sexual dysfunction or frustration (in this case, Ripper’s) can have disastrous repercussions. Per Slant Magazine critic Clayton Dillard: “Nearly every scene features a scenario or line of dialogue that suggests a world where all men are perpetually on the verge of whipping out their dicks…Dr. Strangelove is unique as an American studio film in that nearly every scene addresses its alignment of military action with sexual impotence and bodily excretion. It’s possibly the filthiest studio comedy ever made, even though there isn’t a single gross-out gag, curse word, or graphic image in its entire running time.”

Kubrick’s cautionary tale is also a reminder of the paradox of being human, according to film scholar Michael Broderick. Man is technologically advanced, intellectual, and sophisticated, capable of creating machines designed to improve life; but deep down inside, man remains a primitive, utterly fallible creature whose perfectly logical creations can backfire on him and whose id-like tendencies and base instincts can prove his undoing.

The film also warns that bureaucracy, red tape, and established protocol can have disastrous consequences. For proof, consider how the B-52 bomber crew follows their orders at all costs; Mandrake has to humor Ripper to try to get the retreat code; Turgidson is compelled to cover his military ass and discourages collaboration with the Russians while the world is on the verge of meltdown; President Muffley attempts to maintain polite diplomatic banter with Russian Prime Minister Kissoff while on the hotline; and Bat Guano resists shooting the Coke machine because it’s private property. “The deep preoccupation of Dr. Strangelove is, in fact, not war itself but rather the political development of which modern war has been the largest symptom: the bureaucratization of terror,” Bromwich posits.

Lastly, Strangelove suggests that resistance to the inevitability of destruction is futile. “It is this contrast (in the final mushroom cloud shots)–this contradiction between the beauty of the images and what they represent – where the question of who exactly is this “I” who learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, is finally answered. It is the narrator – the camera itself – who has finally stopped worrying and beholds the images delicately, tenderly, lovingly. The duality and the anxiety that the camera, and we, have struggled with (rooting for Kong but hoping the president and Mandrake will save the world) are assuaged in the final scene. The camera has stopped worrying, has stopped resisting, and now loves. The “explosion” has happened and we must accept the post-apocalyptic, meaning post-coital, world. It is the camera that is the “I” in the title, and in this case that “I”…is most certainly, and very horribly, male,wrote Nafis Shafizadeh of Senses of Cinema.

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