Film: Double Bill
SIMON SHORE, DIRECTOR OF 'GET REAL', ON HIS IDEAL CINEMATIC PAIRING
Friday 21 May 1999
DR STRANGELOVE (STANLEY KUBRICK, 1963)
I THINK it's important to put together a double bill with some common thread - and the connection here, of course, is Doctor.
The Five Thousand Fingers of Doctor T is the only film written by the great Dr Theodore Seuss. It opens with a small boy called Burt running around on what could be the surface of the moon, being chased by monsters. Burt has been terrorised by his piano teacher who makes him practise all the time. In response he has a vivid nightmare where the teacher morphs into a dictator, ordering 500 children to play at one large piano at the same time. The school is like a concentration camp.
In many ways it's a lot like his books; it's also full of human madness and crazy characters; it's for children but adults love it as well. It's terrifying, but done in a funny, kitsch way, which is why it has become a bit of a cult film. When it was on the TV I phoned about 500 people and ordered them to watch it.
On the other hand it's also a fairly heavy-handed bit of propaganda about the nuclear family. You still get the sense he is taking the piss out of it a bit; in the end the boys get rid of the piano teacher by building a nuclear bomb out of the garage. It's a wonderful, wonderful film.
Doctor Strangelove is a more adult take on these themes. It's also about a mad, despotic man, and an innocent person trying to stop him getting off scot-free. Except that the good guy doesn't save the world.
While I wouldn't say that Dr Strangelove is ambiguous about whether nuclear war is good or bad - it's bad - it does have an ironic detachment and uses a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour. Just look at the outrageously camp characters. I have seen this film hundreds of times, mostly when I used to run a film society, and would often book this film and run it for myself alone.
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