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Doctor Strangelove

My old movie binge during this Coronavirus season continues, this time with a sixties classic: Doctor Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. A satire on contemporary nuclear tensions between America and the Soviet Union, Doctor Strangelove encompasses dry, dark humor with its overall political thematic message.

The Cold War, while not given nearly enough media attention nowadays, was still an infamous shadow conflict between two superpowers that threatened to end the world. The United States of America and United Soviet Socialist Republics were militaristic, industrial powerhouses with intense infantry, air, and naval capabilities. But above all, their command over thousands of inter-continental ballistic missiles, also coined as nuclear weapons, was the definitive marking of this conflict. Both powers waged ceaseless proxy wars against one another in the Third World for supremacy, afraid that direct confrontation would lead to utter devastation of the entire world through the unfeasible power of nuclear holocaust. Ultimately, the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union's collapse through internal matters and weakening of Soviet holds in general, but even today, threats of nuclear destruction remain intact. The plot of Doctor Strangelove revolves entirely around the mania built around nuclear weapons and their destructive weapon. A rogue U.S Army General named Ripper issues his planes to prepare nuclear strikes across Russia in what he calls a 'pre-emptive strike'. Ripper is a prolific conspiracy theorist, believing the Russians are poisoning 'bodily fluids' through fluoridation. Ripper's general attitude of Communism is spiteful, and he seeks to destroy the Soviet Union through this attack. Eventually, American units storm his base, destroying his defenses and forcing him into a suicide. Despite the efforts of a British lieutenant on-site, a plane still seeps through Soviet defenses and drops a nuclear weapon, causing a nuclear holocaust and ending the movie on a grim note.

There are numerous takeaways from this film that could be applied to our modern times. The squabbling of politicians and generals in the American War Room, the shady hilarity of Doctor Strangelove himself, and the different personalities displayed that represented the Cold War's duality. Early in the film, the Russian ambassador is invited to help meditate the developing situation between the U.S and Soviet leaders when the planes' initial incursions begin, yet it's quickly revealed he is mistrusted by the American General Turgidson, of whom the Russian equally despises him, their constant squabbling being the epitome of their countries' relations at the time. But beyond that, the film seeks to satirize the sheer contradictions of the Cold War, as both sides espoused their desire for peace, yet armed themselves with devastating weapons of war and dared each other to attack. This entire conflict can be summarized really with one line: "No fighting in the War Room!"

Ironically, Strangelove, despite being the titular character and therefore 'star' of the movie, only appears effectively twice. His introduction reveals his German ancestry and funny accent, but his last yet most memorable appearance, is usually what defines the entire movie. Strangelove is revealed to be a former Nazi scientist, before being conscripted for U.S service. This is actually quite historically accurate. After World War Two ended, the Nazi Party's ranks of scientists and researchers that helped develop weapons for the German war machine weren't tried, unlike their political counterparts. Instead, their skills were recruited by America and the Soviets alike, seeing to weaponize their knowledge for their own respective weapons programs. Strangelove only cements this theory, mistakenly referring to the President as 'Mein Fuhrer' and struggling to keep his forearm from making a Nazi salute. Despite this dark origination point, Strangelove's awkward accent and long-winded, dramatic explanations are a major cornerstone for the movie's appeal, and despite their rarity, are certainly worth the watch for the superficial comedic value if nothing else.

But even amidst these dark comedies like yet another. Near the movie's end, the possibilities of a post-nuclear Earth are outlined, as humanity will take shelter in abandoned mineshafts and carve out a new existence, trying to repopulate the Earth. It seems even in this horrid, grim future, General Turgidson is concerned with how Soviet survivors of the apocalypse will repopulate quicker than their American counterparts and overrun them. A 'mineshaft gap', essentially. Even after the world itself has ended, it seems the eternal rivalry will never be quelled. Ultimately, while Doctor Strangelove isn't revolutionary in its filmmaking techniques, cinematography, or writing, it's still an incredibly potent political movie regarding the dangers of nuclear devastation and how our world today could still be affected by the ghosts of the past nations before us. Because of these elements I grant it a proper 8/10.

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