Saturday, July 06, 2013

"Dr. Strangelove" and the genius of comedy in the midst of unspeakable horror

I hadn't seen it in years, so I had forgotten about the greatness of STANLEY KUBRICK'S 1964 masterpiece, "DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB."
Our daughter ANNIKA had studied the film during a week of social sciences instruction at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA earlier this summer. Her love of the film prompted me to watch it on DVD this weekend.
Watching it after the span of many years, I realized Kubrick's stroke of genius was in couching the most horrific of concepts -- nuclear annihilation -- in the midst of side-splitting laughter.
Crafted in part by writer TERRY SOUTHERN, the film's lines are memorably funny, particularly when set in relief against their nuclear-holocaust context.
Major T.J. "King" Kong, played by Slim Pickens, illustrates the comedy-in-the-midst-of-nuclear-horror motif when he's describing the contents of his bomber squad's survival kit:
"In them you'll find: one .45 caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days' concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; 100 dollars in rubles; 100 dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."
It's a fantastic film, made all the more compelling to watch because the audience is forced to laugh in the face of unfathomable horror -- the potential destruction of the human race.


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