Review - Film - Comedy's nuclear option

4th March 2011 at 00:00


Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Peter Sellers, George C Scott, Sterling Hayden

Certificate: PG

Out now on DVD and Blu-ray

Rating: 55

To create a comedy about the ease in which humans can bring about doomsday is a brave decision even in this day and age, yet alone during the height of the Cold War. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was released two years after the Cuban missile crisis; no wonder then that this insight into the insanity of the Cold War made audiences so uneasy at the time.

The storyline is that a renegade general within the American ranks gives the order for a nuclear strike against Russia, which cannot be withdrawn due to a clause that grants generals the right to launch a nuclear strike without the President's consent if they believe an attack is imminent. While the President and his associates try desperately to contact the bombers to cancel the attack, they learn that the Russians have created a secret doomsday machine that will launch nuclear missiles all over the world if a single nuclear missile strikes Russia.

It is testament to the genius of Stanley Kubrick (and those associated with the project) that this film is insane and arguably goofy in its characters and storyline yet so disturbingly believable.

As a comedy it contains some of the best lines in film history ("Gentlemen you can't fight in here, this is the war room!"). However, the true comedic genius comes from each character's acceptance of this horrific scenario as the norm, as well as seeing the outcome only in terms of the relative positions of the two protagonists.

Peter Sellers' performances as Dr Strangelove, Captain Mandrake and President Muffley are what really steal the show in terms of acting. Each performance is beautifully suited to each role, especially in the case of Dr Strangelove, who adds a brilliant sense of surrealism and absurdity to the backdrop of nuclear destruction.

Stanley Kubrick adds his own beautiful style. Each scene is perfectly crafted in its lighting and camera perspective, providing a visual flare that is rarely seen in comedies.

Dr Strangelove is perhaps one of the most important comedies ever made; in fact, probably one of the most important films. In essence this is the perfect dark comedy.

Joe Buckley, 17, Godalming College, Surrey

Filmclub, an educational charity supported by Lovefilm, sets up after-school clubs where children meet to watch and review thought-provoking films. Each week members of Filmclub will review everything from new releases to classic and world cinema. Free to state schools. Find out more at www.filmclub.orgregister


Director: Terence Young

Starring: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya

Certificate: PG

Out now on DVD and Blu-ray

Rating: 55

From Russia with Love is only number two of the 22 "official" Bond films. Yet, as with Connery himself, its early date doesn't detract from its iconic importance.

This film saw the introduction of the John Barry Orchestra's masterly theme music and the loquacious master of gadgetry, Q. It also set the benchmark for films to come in the franchise, only ever superseded by Goldfinger and, much later, Goldeneye.

From Russia With Love sees Bond, played with trademark magnetism, travel through Eastern Europe and Russia to obtain a coding device for the British secret service. Naturally, the British are not the only ones who want it.

It is the definitive Bond film because it has the essential characteristics of 007, but at the same time can be viewed as a self-standing film.

Georgie Humphreys, 17, St Paul's Catholic College, Sunbury, Surrey


Director: Don Siegel

Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones

Certificate: PG

Out now on DVD

Rating: 45

By today's standards, this does not look fantastic on screen, but when it was first released it must have been pretty good.

When I realised what we were watching I didn't expect much, but I was surprised. The storyline was excellent and kept my interest.

The acting in general was great. The doctor was a likeable character that you could relate to. The duplicates were an ingenious way to get around dodgy prosthetics, but they weren't scary enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The ending could have done with a flash-forward to conclude the story, but it (the film) was a small victory I suppose.

There is definitely room for a sequel and all-in-all, this is a good film. It was excellent for 1956 and is still an enjoyable watch today. Although if you are looking for something scary, this is not it.

Harry Hill, 14, Christopher Whitehead Language College, Worcester


Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey

Certificate: PG

Out now on DVD and Blu-ray

Rating: 45

North by Northwest, which we watched at the start of our Hitchcock season, wasn't the best example of his work, but this is.

What I love about this film is that there is so much in it, yet it is all set in the one room. It opens with LB Jeffries (James Stewart) sitting in a wheelchair in his apartment with his leg in a plaster cast. Because of his wheelchair, his entertainment has been reduced to watching people through his window.

One night he hears a scream and the sound of glass smashing. Pretty suspicious. He is then convinced that the man in the flat across from him has murdered his wife. One minute she is around, the next she has vanished into thin air. He gets caught up in the murder mystery and suspects the murderer is after him.

It is a gripping film that has you glued to the screen from start to finish.

Emma Tracey, 13, St Ninian's High, Giffnock, East Renfrewshire.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today