STANLEY KUBRICK’s 1964 satirical black comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is, most of the time, an exercise in seeing how far absurdity can go while still maintaining the sense of realism that comes inherent with playing on Cold War anxieties and alarm. The notion of an Air Force commander in the throes of anti-Communism passion-slash-paranoia ordering a decidedly unilateral preemptive bombing of the Soviet continent and kick starting World War III, because “war is too important to be left to the politicians,” still has the potency to make one uneasy and queasy. That the maverick Colonel Jack Ripper goes over the edge out of fear for the sanity and safety of his precious bodily fluids makes Sterling Hayden’s performance, played dead straight if unrestrained in its lunacy, seem like one long deadpan skit of comedic gold. Indeed, Dr. Strangelove succeeds as so much more than how it seems on paper because it melds together humor and drama elements congruous to create something altogether unique. Case in point: when the actors play it straight—even Slim Pickens as the cowboy Major T.J. “King” Kong—the sequences in the B-29 Superfortress as the crew doggedly undertakes their first-strike mission (insinuatingly underlaid with a subdued, solemn adaptation of the Civil War tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”) have a simple human poignancy and doomed nobleness to them that match the beautiful ending, where the mushroom clouds of nuclear explosions rise to Vera Lynn’s cozy “We’ll Meet Again.” But whenever the manic gum-smacking theatrics of the bellicose, Soviet-leery General “Buck” Turgidson, who George C. Scott plays with an endearing go-for-the-gold nuttiness, dominate the screen, Dr Strangelove is the film with the best ratio of memorable zingers to lines of dialogue. Peter Sellers, of course, is brilliant in his triple roles, most especially in that of U.S. President Merkin Muffley; when Muffley, ever the pragmatist, calls Soviet Premier Kissoff on the hotline, Sellers shows how to make a one-sided conversation a side-splitting laugh riot. Mr. Kubrick’s spectacularly razor-sharp film is a bitingly subversive social commentary about nuclear annihilation and the stupidity of the human race that manages to be so hysterically funny you forget how smart it is. Now that’s something you don’t see every day.