Film

Film

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Essential post-war American cinema, Hope-Crosby-style mirror image of Fail-Safe, Rabelaisian Cold War slapstick—Stanley Kubrick’s first genuinely original movie has been seen, reseen, dissected, and iconized, but a few sly truths about it have yet to be fully grokked by the mysterious AFI list makers (it’s the third “Funniest” and 26th “Greatest”). First, the hard-charging originality of the screenplay—the equivalent of turning The Hot Zone into a Farrelly comedy—suggests a deficient legacy of credit to Terry Southern’s corner. Second, 1964 was stunningly early for such a balls-up attack on anti-Communist jingoism. Third, the essential source of the film’s metaphoric wittiness is the equation of military ambition with giant, fat, erect cocks. I saw it twice as a young movie consumer before I understood that the entire film, from the bomb imagery to the characters’ names, is an extended lampooning metaphor for big swingin’ dicks. Its October re-release is not inspired so much as inevitable.

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