Classic Cold War satire, released in 1964. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George, based on George's novel "Red Alert." Starred Peter Sellers in a tremendous triple-role as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove, George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson, Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper, Keenan Wynn as Colonel Bat Guano, Slim Pickens as Major T. J. "King" Kong, Peter Bull as Ambassador de Sadesky, and James Earl Jones as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg.

When USAF General Jack D. Ripper goes completely nuts and orders his bomber wing to nuke the Soviet Union, Captain Lionel Mandrake tries in vain to reason with the mad general, while the American president and his advisors discover that the USSR has a failsafe if they are ever attacked with nuclear weapons: a Doomsday Device which will destroy all life on Earth. As the best efforts of the few people who could avert the disaster are thwarted by stupidity, insanity, and lunacy, the viewer is left to wonder if a nuclear holocaust would really be such a bad thing...

Peter Sellers was originally cast in four roles, but he had trouble getting his Texas accent down for Major Kong. He sent Kubrick a letter telling the director he couldn't play the role, then conveniently broke his leg. Pickens, meanwhile, was never shown a script, nor was he told the film would be a black comedy. He played the part as if it were a serious drama, which made his performance even funnier...

"Dr. Strangelove" was blessed with a plethora of funny lines and moments, ranging from President Muffley's "You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!" and Strangelove's "Mein Fuhrer! I can WALK!" to General Ripper's impassioned rant: "I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."

A few interesting pieces of trivia for you to enjoy:

  • The ending in the script was different from the one in the film, and indeed a different ending was also filmed. The details are a little sketchy, but the people in the famous War Room threw cream pies at each other. The air was full of cream. This exchange of pies was a clear symbol of the missiles flying in the air from and toward the US.
  • The famous "riding the bomb" scene was not planned, but was added during the shooting.
  • The film was going to be premiered on November 22, 1963, but something unexpected happened: Kennedy was shot. The film premiere date was pushed ahead, and a scene where the pilots go through their survival kits (including condoms and vitamins) and the commander of the plane says, "A fella could have a fun time with these in Dallas" was dubbed to "A fella could have a fun time with these in Vegas." The lips of the actor are clearly out of sync.
  • The actor (George C. Scott) playing the general in the War Room was known to be quite a rough and "tough boy." He had a lot of fights in previous movies, etc. Kubrik, however, "tamed" him by playing chess with him. Kubrik was a pretty good player, so Scott pondered his moves for hours and then Kubrik would walk over and move in less than a minute. Surprisingly (for some, maybe), Kubrik almost always won.

Another interesting factoid: Dr. Strangelove is thought to be modeled on Werner von Braun, the ex-nazi rocket scientist who was hired after the war by the Americans to design rockets for space exploration and the hurling of nuclear weapons. His life is brilliantly parodied in Tom Lehrer's "Werhner von Braun" (sic) (I think the original title is incorrect). The song includes various crackers: "The widows and cripples of old London town/all owe their large pensions to Werhner von Braun", referring to the V2 rockets designed by von Braun.

The alternate ending mentioned in Hexxx’s write-up was actually meant to happen this way; the Russian Ambassador de Sadesky and General Buck Turqidson get in a fight and resort to throwing pies at each other from the tables of food that are set off to the side. Others get involved, and there are so many pies flying around the air, that one hits President Muffley in the head, snapping his neck, killing him. The scene was cut because of the recent death of JFK, and Major Kong’s dialogue about having a good time in Dallas was changed for the same reason.

Another major change to the script was in the scene where General Ripper shoots himself. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake enters the restroom, because of the lapse in conversation to find nothing. No Ripper. No body. Nothing, as if Ripper had never existed. This was changed when Kubrick decided to leave the script as a comedy.

When my brother went into OCS, Dr. Strangelove was one of the films on his required viewing list. When I first heard this, I thought it odd, but then realized it made sense. The film covers the concept of the no-win scenario and the possibility of the misdirection or complete breakdown of the command structure. This was also covered in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers in more detail (two more of the books on his required reading list). I asked him for a complete list of the things he had to read and view, but he could not remember.

Slightly back on topic, Arlington High School of Arlington, Texas, did a live performance of Dr. Strangelove for their 2001 student directed production. So far as I have found, this has been the only live performance of the script. It really annoyed the teachers there; because the students got better reviews than the school had for several years.

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