Dr. Strangelove
Maj. ‘King’ Kong (Slim Pickens) looks for a malfunction in his B-52 bomber as it heads to a Russian target in a scene from ‘Dr. Strangelove.’

North By Northwest

Tempo grade: A

TCA Drive-in, Friday (Sept. 3), 8 p.m.

Not rated, but does contain some action violence, smoking, and mild sexual innuendo.

Spies, mistaken identity, unexpected romance, and Alfred Hitchcock are all the ingredients you need for a solid, well crafted suspense thriller that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. Released in 1959, Hitchcock’s film is considered one of his best — not the least of which is due to stars Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

Grant stars as Ralph O. Thornhill, a New York advertising executive, who inadvertently gets mixed up in an espionage plot after being mistaken for a man named George Kaplan. Kidnapped from a business lunch, Ralph is taken at gunpoint to a lavish estate where he meets Philip Vandamm (Mason) and his henchman Leonard (Martin Landau). When he refuses to cooperate with their mysterious plan, Vandamm’s men try to kill him, but the plan backfires. But, even though Ralph is free of their clutches, he is now in trouble with the law and accused of murder.

On the run and desperate to find answers, he gets on the 20th Century Limited train where he meets a beautiful 26-year-old woman named Eve Kendall (Saint).

As the film plays out its one hour and 26 minute running time, we’re treated to an entertaining Hitchcockian thriller in brilliant Technicolor to a lush Edward Herrmann score that was just what audiences of the time loved to death. Of course, the original screenplay by Ernest Lehman is rife with eye-rolling double entendres and bits of strained logic set during the Cold War that held their attention rapt due to the uneasiness of current events.

Now, of course, audiences might take its ending set among the stoic sculptural faces of American presidents carved into Mount Rushmore with more than a bit of wry awareness.

Mount Rushmore is a monument that sits on land sacred to Native Americans in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was carved by Gutzon Borglum, who had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. At one point near the end of his one-term presidency, Donald J. Trump tossed around the idea that his face might join those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Obviously, that never happened.

According to National Geographic, “In 1958, the National Park Service granted Hitchcock permission to film at the memorial on the condition that it wouldn’t serve as the backdrop for any violent scenes. Hitchcock had to promise Cary Grant and other actors wouldn’t run across the tops of the presidents’ heads.

“Hitchcock partially kept his promise, filming scenes in the memorial’s parking lot and cafeteria. He then went on to shoot the film’s violent final chase scene on a scaled replica so realistic that viewers believed it was filmed at Mount Rushmore. The National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior cried foul, and ultimately asked Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to remove the credit line at the end of the movie thanking them for their cooperation.”

Dr. Strangelove

Tempo grade: A+

TCA Drive-in, Wednesday (Sept. 8), 7:45 p.m.

Rated PG for thematic elements, some violent content, sexual humor and mild language.

This was one of the most adult satires ever made. Mostly, that was because its subject matter was handled so adroitly it made the viewer able to laugh hysterically at a very real possibility, that the end of the world might be initiated by someone who was skilled at understanding what it would take to circumvent the safeguards set in place to prevent annihilation by accident.

In “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb,” we’re shown a comic representation of how that might happen because the man who started the ball rolling was insane.

He believes in a conspiracy theory that the addition of fluoride to the nation’s drinking water is a communist plot to deplete our “precious bodily fluids.”

The movie — perfectly directed by Stanley Kubrick, from a script by Kubrick, Terry Southern and Peter George (based on his novel “Red Alert”) — follows the events that occur after Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders a total lockdown of the military base under his command and launches a massive B-52 nuclear bombing attack against targets within the then-Soviet Union. This, of course, triggers instantaneous diplomatic, political and military leaders to meet and find out what happened.

At stake is the possibility that the ultimate weapon might be detonated, a Doomsday Device built secretly by the Russians, that is so lethal our world would cease to exist.

Then, as now, potential warfare involving nuclear weapons is considered unthinkable due to the concept of mutually assured destruction. This is defined as a first strike, followed by retaliatory strikes, followed by a massive attack worldwide resulting in virtual annihilation. But, as soon as last year, many in military and political circles who doubted the sanity of a certain world leader began to wonder how one person might hold such enormously destructive power at the drop of a hat. Still laughing now?

Featuring the great actor Peter Sellers in three separate roles, “Dr. Strangelove” is played for laughs, albeit ironical. But, the only way to really sell it is by having the actors play it straight, and they do that brilliantly. Sellers portrays U.S. President Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove, and Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake. Slim Pickens plays bomber pilot Maj. “King” Kong. George C. Scott portrays Gen. “Buck” Turgindson. And, Keenan Wynn plays Col. “Bat” Guano.

Although this was shot in black-and-white, Kubrick’s reasoning wasn’t financial. The format lends a certain immediacy to the production, at times making it seem more a documentary than fictional feature film and thus, “more real.”

Venue is a drive-in theater format located behind the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Sound for the films will be broadcast over FM radio at the site. For tickets, safety restrictions and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

Now showing at Storyteller Cinema 7 Theaters

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Tempo grade: Not previewed

Storyteller Cinema 7

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some language

Marvel Studios presents "Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings" directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. The film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. The film also stars Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi's friend Katy and Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan, as well as Fala Chen, Meng'er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng.

“It's fresh, it's alive, it's not the same old Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are also awesome dragons,” writes the New York Post.

It is now showing at the Storyteller 7 Cinemas, 110 Old Talpa Cañon Road in Taos. For showtimes, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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