On the eve of a controversial war in Iraq, Stanley Kubrick's superior black comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Friday through Thursday at the Madstone Theaters at Tamarac Square) serves as both caution and comic relief. Since its release in 1964, this dead-on satire of nuclear brinksmanship and Cold War paranoia has steadily grown in stature; many believe it's the best film directed by the late maker of such masterworks as Paths of Glory, The Shiningand 2001:A Space Odyssey.
Peter Sellers was never more brilliant than in his triple portrayals of a harried British military officer, the bewildered U.S. president and the wheelchair-bound title character -- a mad German physicist who invented the bomb and now relishes the prospect of using it once more. Sterling Hayden is Jack D. Ripper, the aptly named general who means to launch a U.S. nuclear strike against the USSR, and George C. Scott's comic gifts are in full flower as an Air Force chief of staff weighing the fate of the world. Ken Adam's sets are spectacular ("You can't fight in here; this is the war room!"), and the telephone conversation between Sellers's commander-in-chief and the Russian premier is one of the classic moments in American movies.
Kubrick's affection for the absurd and the irrational colored the futuristic fantasy of A ClockworkOrange as well as period pieces like Barry Lyndon. But Dr. Strangelove may have been the highest expression of his belief that "the most important parts of a film are the mysterious parts -- beyond the reach of reason and language."