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

Director: Stanley Kubrick

1964

Dr Strangelove is a brilliant black comedy that works as political satire, suspense farce, and cautionary tale of technology running away with us.” (422, Angela Errigo, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

I’ve always found Stanley Kubrick to be a bit hit and miss for me – A Clockwork Orange (1971) is very much a hit for me but it turns out that Dr Strangelove is the opposite. It’s not really my sense of humour so it took me quite some time to bring myself to watching the entire film the whole way through. That could however have had something to do with the political climate we’re currently living in.

I watched Dr Strangelove during the politically tumultuous year of 2016 when the UK decided to create Brexit by leaving the EU (something I’m still not entirely happy with thank you very much!) and then descended even further into madness when America decided to vote in Donald Trump as the President Elect!! This made the events within Dr Strangelove very much a cautionary tale and suddenly the stupidity of the government didn’t seem quite so funny as it could be argued that the possibility of an outcome like this is remarkably higher than it has been in the past. And after all as Errigo says, “[T]he information about a doomsday device is factual, as are the Strategic Air Command operations and the B-52 crew’s procedures. The computers that take the situation beyond human intervention have only become more capable. Be afraid. Be very afraid.” (422)

drstrangelovespokeartposterbig01“Seller’s sidesplitting three performances are legend but the entire ensemble gives a masterclass in exaggerated, perfectly timed posturing. Two images are unforgettable – Kong astride the H-bomb, yee-hawing all the way down, and demented Dr. Strangelove, unable to stop his mechanical arm from flying into the Nazi salute and throttling himself.” (422) Peter Sellers portrays three very distinct characters within this film, all of who are a bit ineffectual. There is no denying which one has become most iconic and that is the demented Dr Strangelove himself. However I found myself a little underwhelmed by the whole thing. The President is a simpering idiot who doesn’t seem capable of making any decisions himself – and for some reason comes across as very British. I’m not really a fan of anything that is over exaggerated (melodramas are a tortuous waste of time) so there really wasn’t very much hope of me finding this film funny. The film certainly seemed to have a resurgence last year what with Secret Cinema using it for their spring movie event, again thanks to the political climate, but for me it is one that fell short in almost every way. By all means do not let my views stop you from seeing this film as who knows you may come away from the experience with your sides aching from laughter and everyone should have the chance to discover that themselves.

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The Shining

Director: Stanley Kubrick

1980

“Like all masterpieces, The Shining transcends its status as a literary adaptation to become not only vintage Kubrick – with spectacular ariel shots, a breathtaking and symbolic use of color, and recurrent mirror and labyrinth imagery, all enhanced by a memorable music score and Ray Walker’s unforgettable production design – but a classic of modern horror cinema.” (660, Roumiana Deltcheva, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Now I confess this was the first time that I ever saw The Shining – I know, I know, don’t judge me. However I did know all the main images due to their iconic status. It was interesting to finally see the narrative that links up the images like the elevator of blood, the scary twin girls and of course Redrum.Wall of blood Twins Redum The Shining

Shelley DuVall left me a bit indifferent I must say. While she is the last to succumb to the malevolent spirits she does seem to spend a lot of time floating ineffectually around. She kind of reminded me of a Tim Burton character with her elongated features ad sunken, darkened eyes.The Shining Shelley DuVall

“The film is dark, disturbing, and claustrophobic.” (660) Jack Nicholson is once again outstanding as Jack Torrance. He clearly has a knack for playing slightly mental characters exceptionally well – you only have to look at his performances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 1975) and Batman (Tim Burton, 1989) for the evidence. His performance is an evolution of crazy – beginning with little subtle ticks to a full-blown homicidal maniac – which makes his character one of the most interesting horror baddies to watch. The majority of your horror killer are already fully formed homicidal maniacs like Michael Myers (Halloween, John Carpenter, 1978) or Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street, Wes Craven, 1984). I found Jack Torrance was still quite a charismatic and likable character and immensely watchable.Jack Nicholson The Shining

For me whenever you have children in a leading role in a horror film it adds another of what I so eloquently term “creep factor”. And that’s certainly true here. The twin girls are terrifying with their innocent insistence that Danny come and play. Danny Lloyd is actually pretty good and convincing. Tony, the person who lives in his mouth, is quite disturbing and adds another dimension to this young actor’s performance. I liked that he was a clever kid as well rather than running around like a headless chicken. I mean he had enough sense to cover his tracks, quite literally due to the snow, when running away from his own father, hellbent on killing him.

As with all Kubrick films there is an extremely strong visual style to The Shining. “Carefully selecting his camera angles and rhythms, he draws us into fear.” (660) The colors are vivid and still very much of the 1970s with brown, orange and red prominent among them. There is most definitely a labyrinthine feel to the film and not just in the exquisite maze in the hotel grounds. The hotel itself is a maze of corridors lending a disorienting air to the already heavily isolated setting. Kubrick’s use of tracking shots creates a sense of claustrophobia due to the tight framing. They also add to the growing sense of doom.  “Kubrick demonstrates his mastery of the art, creating an atmosphere of great dread.” (660) He very effectively situates the viewer in a voyeuristic position – we become a spirit stalking their prey, always following behind.The Shining Danny Lloyd

I can’t believe that it took me this long to actually get around to watching The Shining. It has now become a fast favorite of mine and is one of the more intriguing horror films I have watched recently (and I seem to have watched a lot of them).Here's Johnny!!