Peter Sellers as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake: Dr. Strangelove


The actions carried out by Captain Mandrake are physically capable of being done.  During the first arc of the film, his physical actions surround him initiating Plan R after instructions from Jack Ripper. The second arc includes him gently convincing Ripper to give the recall code. During the third arc, Mandrake’s physical actions ensure the code gets to the president. Mandrake’s physical actions are true to the immediate situation. His goals aren’t outlandish and don’t require complicated steps. He’s able to undertake these actions in a moment’s notice.

The physical actions carried out by Captain Mandrake appear to be fun to do. Particularly when he strives to make the phone call to the president near the end. He scolds the officer who is obstructing his goals and demands him to shoot the coca cola machine “Shoot with the gun! That’s what the bullet’s are for you twit!” This is a departure from the patience and respect he displayed with Ripper. One would imagine Sellers having fun with this scene versus previous ones.

The physical actions Sellers used as Mandrake are specific to his character and bring him to life. Mandrake is consistently respectful towards Ripper, he’s always uttering sir, and even saluting him. Mandrake expresses fear and nerves, despite trying to mask it. When Jack is telling him about his theories of Russians contaminating water through fluoridation, we see the specific action of Mandrake fiddling with a piece of gum. He’s extremely nervous, glancing occasionally at Ripper’s face and hand grasping his shoulder. We sense how uncomfortable Mandrake is, yet we see that he’s trying hard to not get on Ripper’s bad side.

Mandrake’s actions have their test in the other characters, specifically Ripper and the officer. When Mandrake is with Jack, he’s kind and respectful, perhaps because he is armed and Mandrake is hoping to get the code out of him. The opposite is true with the officer who obstructs his goal, as Mandrake is stern and demanding. His actions are not an errand, and he’s constantly working off the other characters. When Mandrake sees Jack is about to start shooting, he pulls him back and asks questions about his theories on fluoridation. Trying to persuade Ripper to give him the code was an action that was a push and pull from both characters and one that ended up failing.

Mandrake’s actions do not presuppose any physical or emotional state. When dealing with Ripper, Mandrake wasn’t quick to address the absurdity of his theories, he made no statements regarding what Ripper was physically doing or how he appeared emotionally. Mandrake instead focused on kindly persuading him to give the code, and simply listened to what Ripper was saying without rebuttals. Although he tried persuading him to give the code, he was not manipulative. He didn’t force it out of him, he did it gently – perhaps the reason he wasn’t successful.

Most of Mandrake’s actions had a cap. For example, making the phone call to initiate Plan R, figuring out the code, getting it to the President. Once the specified goals were reached, the action was finished.



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