Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This Day in the History of Great Black Comedies

On this day in 1964, one of Stanley Kubrick's greatest films, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb opened in theaters across the nation. If you haven't seen it, you should. Peter Sellers played three parts including the title role (which was probably a composite of Herman Kahn and Wernher von Braun, with perhaps a little Edward Teller and Henry Kissinger thrown in). My emerging favorite of the three, however, is the President, Merkin Muffley (a merkin is a pubic wig and the muff is the part of the woman Playboy didn't show back then). Kubrick was calling the guy a pussy--and he was. He also looked a great deal like Adlai Stevenson, the two time Democratic loser to President Eisenhower. Ah, it all makes sense now. Slim Pickens, Sterling Hayden and George C. Scott have their finest cinematic moments. Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper, starts WWIII for what was then straight John Birch Society platform, the fluoridation of water as a Communist plot. Scott, as General Buck Turgidson, gives the greatest realpolitik speech ever given--"Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks." and Pickens, as Major T.J. "King" Kong rides the bomb to its target of opportunity like the cowboy he really was, an image hard to banish from ones memory.


Great movie, and I agree that the president was a thinly veiled Stevenson character with the funny name of Merkin Muffley (merkin being a pubic wig and, well, you know what muff means) although I hardly think that the character was a liberal knock, given that Kubrick was a pretty liberal guy to begin with. I think it was more of a commentary that a mild-mannered, polite guy stood no chance when he was arguing with General Jack D. Ripper and General Buck Turgidson (another penis reference).

One of my all time favorite lines was the hillbilly bomber pilot (brilliantly played by Slim Pickens), upon realizing that he had just been ordered to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union:

"...Well I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones."

I haven't seen that movie in a few years, and I am glad you mentioned it...looks like it's time to go to Best Buy and add a DVD to my collection!

The movie just gets better with age. Thanks for the comment, Rick.
Slim Pickens was awesome. As a kid when I saw 1941, I was laughing out loud over the scene of him faking crap noises and dropping his shoe in the toilet on the jap sub, as they were waiting for him to poop out a cracker jack box compass.
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