This fateful Election Day Eve, I watched Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb)" back to back. I had never seen the first, but I had seen the latter many times. You always hear about Charlie Chaplin being the greatest performer of comic cinema history - he's one of those performers you hear that about until you're sick of hearing it. Yet watching him literally float across the screen, you get what all the hype was about. Much like Stanley Kubrick's directing.
Now that the axe has fallen (on democracy's neck), I was thinking what would be a great pairing with "Dr. Strangelove" and for some reason I came up with "Reservoir Dogs". What do they have in common?
(Did I mention there are spoilers here? There are spoilers.)
Both feature an apocalyptic calamity brought on by a few reckless, violent and insane alpha men. One calamity is global, the other personal, but the scenarios follow a similar path. And there are parallels here with the characters, too:
The Architect Of War
General Turgidson / Joe
The boss. It's his war. He plots the strategy and directs his troops to battle, strangely gathering bravery from the notion that he's not going to be on the front lines. This being the movies, that doesn't save him...either of them.
...and his Enforcer
President Muffley / Nice Guy Eddie
President Muffley (Peter Sellars) makes a big noise about Turgidson's shocking disregard for human life, if only because he doesn't want to be seen as "the greatest mass murderer in history". But he acts reactively to Turgidson's demands and the situation of the rogue nuclear attack - Turgidson's wishes become his orders. At least Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn), for his bluster and awful wardrobe, doesn't forget to admit "Daddy" is the boss. President Muffley doesn't go there, but it's clear - it's Muffley's War Room, but it's Turgidson's war.
...and his Ruthless But Loyal Executioner
Major Kong / Mr. White
They ARE the front line. Skilled, efficient, stone hearted killers. Still, they got nothin' but love their team: King Kong (Slim Pickens) loves his crew on the doomed bomber, and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) loves his posse, especially Mr. Orange. Yes, he fights with everyone, but he makes up, at least long enough to torture the unfortunate Officer Nash. Or at least until with Joe (Lawrence Harvey), he can't.
So with this posse, what could possibly go wrong?! Enter...
The Agent Of Chaos
General Ripper / Mr. Blonde
Pissed off, crazy outlaws with nothing to live for or lose. Balls over brains. And they're in exactly the wrong place at the right time. General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) defies the US government, sealing off his base from the outside world and launching a nuclear attack on Russia on his own, all over fear of "commies" and a vague threat to his "precious bodily fluids". Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) upends the diamond wholesalers' heist by shooting unarmed employees, and kidnaps a cop so he can torture him to death, basically because "they set off the alarm". But they both really did it because they can. And everything goes right to hell.
The Two Faced Liar
Ambassador de Sadesky / Mr. Orange
When is being a two faced rat a good thing? It isn't, so you try to find truth in your loyalty inside. Ambassador de Sadesky (Pete Bull) is just a proud Russian patriot, and Officer Noondyke (Tim Roth) is just a cop handling a real bad situation.
The Failed Voice Of Reason
Captain Mandrake / Mr. Pink
They tried to warn them. Captain Mandrake spends his screen time trying to reason with General Ripper, and then with Sergeant Bat Guano (Keenan Wynn); Mr. Pink fights (literally) to keep Mr. White on the game plan, plaintively bellowing "We're supposed to be professionals!!!" But if you think herding cats is hard, try herding unhinged killers having a bad day.
He Who Stands To Gain From This
Dr. Strangelove / Whoever would buy stolen diamonds from these guys
Seriously, who the fuck would do that? Even the Agents Of Chaos aren't that nuts.