The nuclear question seems to be in the news a little lately. The bourgeois media loves these kinds of stories; spies, the threat of war, public mo0ralizing, deadlines. Meanwhile another reality. Democracy Now reoprts today that Obama is expanding and modernizing weapons production here in the States after his high talk at the UN about ending such weapons for good. That the largest nuclear power in the world and the only government to actually use the bomb (on civilians…twice) would dare lecture anyone about “proliferation” is the stuff of satire or farce or both. A little diversion into the United States’ own nuclear history, complete with both farce and satire, might be in order then.
Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove is a great movie packed with great scenes and none greater than the one above. I saw the movie once with a primarily non-English speaking audience at a Fourth International youth camp in Portugal in the early 1990s and found myself reacting when no one else was. Language and accent are so precise and nuanced in the film that lot can be missed in translation. I had the same experience from the opposite end seeing The Seven Samurai in a theater where I was the only non-Japanese speaker. I love that movie and was angry that I couldn’t get it all. Listen to Sellers midwestern accent here, said to be modeled on the great lost cause of American liberalism Adlai Stevenson; he’s brilliant.
Below Peter Sellers in one of his three parts plays the scientist for which the film is named as well as President Merkin Muffley whom he can’t stop calling “mein fuhrer”. “We must allow a mine shaft gap!” as the bombs are falling. Pretty good stuff. I usually don’t buy all of the acting is art business. Brando always said it was a craft and anyone could learn to do it because society forces us all to act anyway, but I could never do what Sellers does here nor could most actors I’ve ever seen. He’s not the only one who is good in this. Sterling Hayden as General Jack T. Ripper and George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson are terrific too. But it’s the writing that makes it. Sharp, brutal and hilarious. It punches all of the right people right in the nose. Even if you’ve seen it before watch it again; it’s funnier and less dangerous than the satire playing out now in the news.