[IMDB link] [Netflix link] A classic movie — something Carolyn & I very rarely watch. I’ve been disinterested in this film my entire life, but finally decided to acquiesce to everyone saying how great it is once the bluray came out. These bluray release are proving to be a great time to watch movies you weren’t previously sure about. The visual boost of HD makes all movies more enjoyable. Nice to actually see the film instead of being held back by the limits of DVD, VHS, or NTSC broadcast signal.
PEOPLE: Directed by directorial master Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, 2001, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut), who co-wrote it with Terry Southern (Barbarella, Easy Rider, Saturday Night Live 1981-82).
Starring Peter Sellers (Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther 1970s movies) in THREE [originally 4] roles: Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (who was pretty damn funny), The President (who was also really funny; I opt Kevin Spacey to play this role in any remake), and Dr. Strangelove. George C. Scott as the paranoid war room general (he played military roles right up to his death in 1999). Sterling Hayden (19 years dead) as crazy General Jack Ripper (he was Captain Martin Treleaven in Zero Hour, the movie the comedy Airplane! was based on). Colonel Bat Guano was played by Keenan Wynn, who was Captain Cully in The Last Unicorn movie. Major King Kong (from the famous bomb-riding scene near the end) was played by Slim Pickins (21 years dead), who was in Blazing Saddles.
We also have a very young, not-so-low-voiced-back-then James Earl Jones (Darth Vader, “This…Is CNN“, Conan The Barbarian) in his first movie ever! And a dude named Glenn Beck, but not the fake-tears idiot pundit Glenn Back that most people in 2010 think of. This Glenn Back was an astronaut in 2001, and was Abraham Lincoln in National Treasure 2. The hot “secretary” was Tracy Reed. They just don’t build secretaries like they used to, eh? (She was in Playboy!)
PLOT SUMMARY: A rogue general decides to nuke Russia. The President finds out. Antics ensue as America tries to stop America from destroying America by provoking Russia.
UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers]→ Military-industrial complex loses loyalty to world leaders, destroys world.
QUIRKS: Based on a book. Man, you know how you know Hollywood is totally out of ideas? When they can’t come up with any original stories themselves. Everything is based on a book, or a comic book, or another movie these days. Those uncreative idiots. Wait, what? This movie was made 45 years ago? I can’t use the “based on a book” shtick everyone uses today on old movies? That’s okay, I was just making fun of everyone anyway. I have zero problem with movies being based on books. I think the boring medium of text only is a great proving ground for stories and imagination; a great garden to pluck the plots of movies from.
Heavily referenced in future works.
VISUALS: Unfortunately black & white (Kubrick’s last)… But now on Bluray!
SOUNDTRACK: Mostly “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”. Which is actually an Irish anti-war song that warmongering Americans repurposed for post-war celebrating. The closing song of the movie, “We’ll Meet Again”, is referenced a lot in other works that end in that song to tribute this movie.
MORALS: Two opposing groups will often fight each other even when it makes absolutely zero sense and is in nobody’s best interest. That’s why the best thing to do in any violent conflict is not to rationalize the violence, but to try to stop it.
POLITICS: Don’t trust the military-industrial complex! Something movies have been trying to tell us for decades! And something that only half of people seem to understand. Unfortunately, our country never stopped fighting wars, not even 45 years after this movie.
It’s pretty easy to satirize warmongers, as they have been killing human beings since the dawn of history.
This film also affected politics in real life. Scenes were shown to Congress during hearings talking about whether crucial information could reach the right people in a nuclear emergency. Actual changes in policy were created to ensure that scenarios like those in this movie could never happen.
GOOD STUFF: Much more of a comedy than I expected! Some of the situations, when described via plot summary, sound kind of dry. But as scenes in the movie, they are often absurdly hilarious.
Watching the movie, experience wise, seems to be an exercise in ridiculousness. Works for me!
NEUTRAL STUFF: Hmm, maybe they should have kept the original ending? I don’t know. It sounds like one of the most insane movie endings ever. But it’s true that it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the movie.
BAD STUFF: Normally I’d put “being old” as a big, bad, automatic “BAD STUFF” criteria. But in this case, a lot of the plot elements — military, nuclear bombs, mutually assured destruction — are nearly as applicable in 2010 as they were in 1964. Even the brands used — Coca-Cola, DoubleMint gum — are obviously recognizable today. (Even if DoubleMint did ruin their gum by changing their 90-year traditional gum into a shitty new flavor crystal-based, thinner, rot-able, inferior variant.)
CONCLUSION: Okay… This was way more funny and ridiculous than I thought. I probably should have watched this long ago, but I’m glad I waited until I could see it in HD, for what it’s worth. I was surprised by how relevant this movie is, even today. It only seemed a bit dated, and it didn’t matter for the comedic and satire purposes of this movie. It was damn funny, damn ridiculous… And actually kind of scary, when you think about the fact that about half of people on our planet are really like this. Anyway, for old-movie-haters like Carolyn and I, this was a very pleasant surprise.
The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 8.6/10 (34th highest rated movie ever, though females under 18 and over 45 don’t like it nearly as much), Netflix: 4.0/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 3.5/5 stars–likely estimated lower than average because we tend to dislike anything old and dated).
RECOMMENDATION: Don’t shy away from this movie just because it’s old! It’s actually aged quite well, like a fine wine.
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”
“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?”
“You don’t think I’d go into combat with loose change in my pocket, do you?”
COMMENTS FROM FRIENDS:
Anonymous: “I put it on once for several friends who came over tripping…that went over really well, but also left them kinda dazed – so funny, but also what it was really saying…..he he he…..that was a good experiment, good results….”
Neil F: “I’m actually surprised that you haven’t watched this. It really is one of the best of Mr. Sellers career.”
Neal MD: “how have you never seen this before? :\”
iDRMRSR: “Shakes head sadly. How many generatians haven’t seen this classic because it’s “old” and in B&W too! I suppose one day young viewars won’t evan undarstand the Nazi referances, too!” He also offered up this article about the movie.
Scott Smith: “Never not funny. Worth watching Fail Safe to fully appreciate the humor here.”
Stacy McM: “Interestingly, I know a couple guys who flew nuke bombers during the cold war, and both are huge fans of this film”
Jsun: This is one I love throwing on any day I’ve determined the entire Air Force is completely fucking retarded.
Daniel H: Great great great movie! Among other interesting tidbits, George C Scott was “tricked” into many of his comedic performances in this movie and swore he would never work with Kubrick again.
Radha: One of my top 5 movies of all time. It’s one of the ones I go to when I can’t decide what I want to watch, because I’m always in the mood for it.
“You know what I think? I think you’re some kinda deviated pre-vert. I think you was organizing a mutiny of pre-verts, and General Ripper caught you…”
Best line though…”sapping us of our precious…bodily………………fluids. We’re still not quite sure what he meant by that last part.”
Music: Voivod – Negatron