We have a pair of heavy hitters this morning, as different as night and day. We’ll start with Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, released today in 1959. Uncle Walt had a lot of problems developing this one: director Wilfred Jackson suffered a heart attack in the middle of production, and the company went through more than one replacement in an effort to get it to the finish line. In some ways, it shows. The story team never cracked precisely how to handle a romance with a girl who falls sleep for 100 years, so cut that notion — one of the central components of the fairy tale — out of the movie entirely. They also spend far too much time on the three fairies instead of our central couple. Princess Aurora and her princely paramour become afterthoughts to the fairies’ antics rather than the purpose of the exercise like they should. On the other hand, the animation is stunning — some of the best ever produced by studio in its long history — and if you need a villain… yeah, it’s got a winner for you.
The other big release this day was Stanley Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece Dr. Strangelove, released January 29, 1964. The tale of a U.S. general who goes off his nut and tries to start Armageddon remains the last word on the Cold War, while the humor helps it not only retain its relevance year in and year out, but reminds us of the horrific absurdity of our own tendency to self-destruction. With human extinction literally the push of a button away, the movie looks the Gorgon in the face and contemplates a possibility so terrible that the only defense against it is to laugh.
Also, there’s Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers is awesome.