November 25, 2015 - General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) knows that the Communists want to contaminate his precious bodily fluids. His jaw clamped on a cigar and his chin cocked at an obscene angle, Ripper outlines his nuclear-war-precipitating conspiracy theory with ferocious calm. His snarling face fills the frame, suggesting that, for the top brass, there is no difference between a threat to one’s sexual potency and a threat to the nation.
This scene, along with many others in Stanley Kubrick’s masterful 1964 Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove, is not just amusing and kind of terrifying. It also challenges the audience to think: about this character and his profound insecurities, about his embodiment of broader national obsessions with violence and victory, and about the strategies that filmmakers use to communicate certain ideas. Kubrick’s movies are dense with these types of moments, continually blurring the boundaries between entertainment, art, and biting social commentary.