I’d seen this movie before, but never on the big screen; thanks to a local theater’s classics series, that’s been rectified. I don’t know really how to even talk about a movie this iconic, except to just say that it remains an amazing, amazing movie. It’s just really brilliant. The first time I saw it I believe I was in high school and at that age, I really just didn’t have any idea what to make of it. But every time I’ve seen it since, I’ve loved it more. It’s a film that really has gotten better with age.
Seeing it on the big screen really brought out just how amazingly precise Sellers’ performance here is. I think I appreciated the Mandrake performance here more than I ever have. But it’s really the same with President Muffley; some of the biggest laughs come from really tiny facial reactions. The way Sellers is able to just quirk a corner of his mouth or make one of his eyelids twitch at just the right moment is just astonishing. But the entire cast is brilliant. Sterling Hayden has a filmography that makes it hard to ever say he’s “career best,” but, if he’s not here, he’s darn close. And George C. Scott? If pressed, I might actually put this insane, frothing performance even above his work in Patton. It’s a hysterically funny performance.
Even the most iconic moments just still hold up. Once you’ve seen something parodied endlessly, the thing itself often loses its bite. But not this film. It remains just as harsh and unforgiving as it ever was. The bits retain their genius. Let’s just rattle a few off, shall we? That huge Browning that Ripper pulls out of his golf bag. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed!” “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!” “Well, I’m sorry too, Dmitri.” “I do not avoid women, Mandrake . . . but I do deny them my essence.” “Vy didn’t you tell the world, hey!?” General Turgidson tripping, falling and rolling to his feet in the midst of an anti-Communist rant without missing a single word. “I’m afraid the string in my leg is gone.” The most perfectly timed suicide in cinema history. “I think you’re some kind of prevert.” That devastating final montage. And that breathtaking shot of Major Kong riding the missile. It was really quite amazing to me just how potent that shot in particular was. I mean, I knew it was coming; I’ve seen it parodied numerous times . . . but it’s still a moment that just took my breath away with how incredibly dark and yet hilarious it is. It’s a moment that just left me shaking my head slowly, absolutely amazed by the brilliance of it. I’ve gone on way too long; it’s a movie that probably doesn’t need a defense at this point. It certainly shouldn’t. To sum it up quickly, it’s a full-on, no-other-word-for-it masterpiece. It’s cinema at its best and it’s not just as good now as it ever was . . . it’s better. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – the entire cast is at full throttle; the writing is sardonic, merciless and wonderful; the film is dark, demented, silly, disturbing, hilarious and awe-inspiring. No word but masterpiece will do. 4 stars.