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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb(1964)

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teaser Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

SYNOPSIS

Convinced the Russians have invented water fluoridation as a means of sapping the "precious bodily fluids" of America's men, the mad General Jack D. Ripper launches a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union from his command post at Burpelson Air Force Base. As worldwide destruction looms, Stanley Kubrick's landmark black comedy cuts back and forth between the base, where British liaison officer Captain Mandrake tries in vain to learn Ripper's secret attack code and turn the bombers back; the War Room in Washington, D.C., where President Muffley works to head off disaster by convincing the Soviet premier it was all a mistake, and the cockpit of a B-52 commanded by Major "King" Kong, a gung-ho patriot determined to reach his target at all costs.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: Victor Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George (based on his novel, Red Alert)
Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor
Editor: Anthony Harvey
Production Design: Ken Adam
Art Direction: Peter Murton
Music: Laurie Johnson
Cast: Peter Sellers (Capt. Lionel Mandrake/President Merkin Muffley/Dr. Strangelove), Sterling Hayden (Gen. Jack D. Ripper), Keenan Wynn (Col. "Bat" Guano), Slim Pickens (Major T. J. "King" Kong), James Earl Jones (Lt. Lothar Zogg).
BW-149m. Letterboxed. Close captioning.

Why Dr. Strangelove is Essential

On the surface, the plot of Dr. Strangelove sounds like a suspense film designed to hold viewers on the edge of their seats. But even a quick glance at the absurd character names alerts us to the fact that Kubrick and company are up to something else. That Dr. Strangelove manages to be frightening while also delivering one of the most savagely funny satires ever put on film is what makes this Cold War-era classic still so powerful and enjoyable today. Stanley Kubrick creates a pile-up of insane incongruities that propel the story toward its horrifying conclusion. Ripper is motivated not only by anti-Communist zealotry but by a sexual dysfunction for which he needs a scapegoat. Armed Services Commander General Buck Turgidson isn't merely an enthusiastic hawk but a rampant hedonist who equates war with sexual conquest. Colonel Bat Guano is a first-rate soldier on a mission to storm Ripper's office and head off disaster. Not only does he hold a strong contempt for commie "preverts," but also an overwhelming concern for corporate property, even as the world races toward destruction. And the German scientist and advisor to the president, Dr. Strangelove, is a wheelchair-bound fanatic with a mechanical hand that keeps threatening to break into a Nazi salute. Strangelove's mad plan to save humanity is to install society's male elite and a proportionately larger contingent of beautiful women in underground hideouts until the radioactivity is low level......almost 80 years later!

Much has been made of the sexual imagery and jokes in the film. The opening credits roll to the romantic strains of "Try a Little Tenderness" as a B-52 bomber emerges from the clouds to refuel with an airborne tanker in a mechanical evocation of human coupling. And one of the last human images places the H-bomb like a swollen phallus between Kong's legs. From beginning to end, Kubrick equates the warring impulse to male sexual drive, much of it bound up in the sexual obsessions of the two most militant characters, Ripper (who denies his "essence" to women and hoards his "precious bodily fluids") and Turgidson (first seen in a sexual romp with his secretary, who is also the Playboy centerfold ogled by the bomber crew). Even the names of the characters resonate with sexual in-jokes: Mandrake (a medicinal root believed to increase potency), Turgidson (from "turgid," meaning swollen), Merkin Muffley (combining two terms referring to the female pubic area) and, perhaps stretching it a bit, Strangelove. Anyone familiar with the work of the writer Terry Southern - The Loved One (1965), Barbarella (1968), and the novels Candy (1968) and The Magic Christian (1969), will recognize his hand in these elements of the screenplay.

But it would be a mistake to view Dr. Strangelove as just one long sex joke. What really captured audiences of its day was its depiction, however comic it may have been, of what many considered an entirely plausible scenario. When the film was released early in 1964, the Cold War was very much "in progress" and the Soviet Union was still regarded as a major threat to world peace and national security. The hawk like attitude of military officers like Turgidson and Ripper wasn't that far removed from the rhetoric surrounding our excursions into Laos and, soon after, Vietnam and the Dominican Republican. Most of all, it had only been 15 months since the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world closer to nuclear war than it had been before or since. The same year Kubrick's film came out, another picture on the same theme, Fail Safe, was released. That movie took a more melodramatic approach, depicting honorable people battling a system out of their control. Kubrick's absurdist humor, on the other hand, put human folly firmly at the root of global disaster and drove the point home by letting audiences in on the joke; some situations are so horrendous you simply have to laugh in disbelief.

To add to the irony and incongruity fueling the film's humor, Kubrick for the first time effectively juxtaposes music and image in ways he would explore even more deeply in later work. Of course, there's that sensual bomber scene at the beginning played out against a tender love song. Then, in the film's final moments, the director places stock footage of nuclear explosions over Vera Lynn's popular World War II ballad "We'll Meet Again" - a sweet and comforting voice singing "Will you please say hello to the folks that I know/Tell them I won't be long/They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go/I was singing this song" while the world is blown to bits. Kubrick carried this music-versus-image technique into his later films, notably in the lilting strains of "The Blue Danube" underscoring the coldly mechanical but somehow lyrical motions of spacecraft in orbit in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). And for any viewer of A Clockwork Orange (1971), neither "Singing in the Rain" nor Beethoven's Ninth Symphony will ever sound the same again.

By Rob Nixon

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teaser Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Pop Culture 101 - DR. STRANGELOVE

Some of the dialogue of the film has entered the common language - "precious bodily fluids," of course, and also the way the dim-witted Col. Bat Guano (Keenan Wynn) hints darkly of Commie "preverts," possibly the first public use of that term.

On Oscar® night, April 5, 1965, emcee Bob Hope used the film's subtitle to poke fun at a notorious casting decision. Julie Andrews had created the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on Broadway. But when the film was cast, the producing studio, Warner Bros., chose the bigger star, Audrey Hepburn, over Andrews. Andrews got her revenge when she was nominated (and eventually won) for the title role in one of the year's biggest hits, Mary Poppins (1964). During his opening monologue, Hope spotted a beaming Andrews in the audience and made reference to her role in "Mary Poppins, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jack Warner." Dr. Strangelove was also up for four Oscars that year but lost three of them (director, picture and actor) to My Fair Lady and the fourth (adapted screenplay) to Becket.

The November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy figured into the film in several ways. Examining the survival kit provided by the Air Force (which included weapons, food, condoms, lipstick and nylons, uppers, downers and tranquilizers), Major Kong remarks, "Gee, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff." The line had originally referenced Dallas, but after the assassination there, it was redubbed with the word Vegas substituted. Kubrick had planned to close the film with a custard pie fight in the War Room (and some shots show the room's tables filled with desserts), but decided it was not an effective ending. JFK's murder, however, also played a part in that decision. In the aborted fight, President Muffley was smacked in the face with a pie and fell over, prompting General Turgidson to cry out, "Gentlemen, our gallant young president has just been struck down in his prime by a pie!" a line considered tasteless in light of recent events. Finally, the film's release was delayed from early December 1963 to January 1964 because a dark political satire seemed inappropriate following so closely on the heels of the assassination. Some references to the film still give its release date as 1963.

By Rob Nixon

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DR. STRANGELOVE - Trivia and Other Fun Stuff

Peter Sellers based Dr. Strangelove's accent on the voice of Weegee, who had gained fame as a crime photographer in the 1950s by frequently showing up at crime scenes before the police. The German-born Weegee had made an on-set visit early in the production of Dr. Strangelove, and Sellers adapted his accent for the character.

Sellers was a master of accents, and in addition to the title character, he also created a bland American voice for President Merkin Muffley and a stiff-upper-lip English style for Captain Mandrake. Whether apocryphal or not, the story goes that Sellers had a difficult time developing a Texas accent for the fourth part he was cast in, Major "King" Kong, who rides the bomb down rodeo-style at the end of the film. After sending Kubrick a letter saying he would not be able to play the part, Sellers broke his leg, an injury whose legitimacy Kubrick doubted. But the director was forced by the production's insurance company to recast the role. He chose character actor Slim Pickens.

The November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy figured into the film in several ways. Examining the survival kit provided by the Air Force (which included weapons, food, condoms, lipstick and nylons, uppers, downers and tranquilizers), Major Kong remarks, "Gee, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff." The line had originally referenced Dallas, but after the assassination there, it was overdubbed to Vegas. Kubrick had planned to close the film with a custard pie fight in the War Room (and some shots show the room's tables filled with desserts), but decided it was not an effective ending. JFK's murder, however, also played a part in that decision. In the aborted fight, President Muffley was smacked in the face with a pie and fell over, prompting General Turgidson to cry out, "Gentlemen, our gallant young president has just been struck down in his prime by a pie!" a line considered tasteless in light of recent events. Finally, the film's release was delayed from early December 1963 to January 1964 because a dark political satire seemed inappropriate following so closely on the heels of the assassination. Some references to the film still give its release date as 1963.

George C. Scott considered his performance as Turgidson to be his favorite.

Major Kong's primary target in the Soviet Union is a missile complex at "Laputa." In Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels (a savage political satire in its own day), Laputa is a country peopled by caricatures of the scientific researchers of the day. Swift describes them as single-minded in their approach to science, to the point of being oblivious to everything around them and in danger of falling into holes, running into posts and sustaining other physical injuries unless they had the help of their servants.

The casting of Sterling Hayden as the rabidly anti-communist General Jack D. Ripper had ironic political connotations outside the film itself. As a young man, Hayden had fought alongside the Yugoslavian partisan rebels of Marshall Tito, who later became that country's Communist ruler for many years. After that experience, Hayden briefly joined the U.S. Communist Party. A few years later, during the House Un-American Activities Committee's anti-Communist witch-hunts, Hayden appeared as a friendly witness, denouncing his former party affiliations and naming some names before the committee. Hayden later repudiated the committee and his testimony.

In an interesting footnote to the Sterling Hayden story, Kubrick was the director of the Roman epic Spartacus (1960), which was written by Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, whose refusal to give testimony to HUAC led to their blacklisting and conviction for contempt of Congress.

Famous Quotes from DR. STRANGELOVE

Miss Scott: Buck, honey, I'm not sleepy either...
General "Buck" Turgidson: I know how it is, baby. Tell you what you do: you just start your countdown, and old Bucky'll be back here before you can say "Blast off!"

General Jack D. Ripper: Your Commie has no regard for human life. Not even his own.

General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No, I don't think I do, sir, no.
General Jack D. Ripper: He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. 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.

Major T. J. "King" Kong: Goldie, how many times have I told you guys that I don't want no horsing around on the airplane?

Major T. J. "King" Kong: Well, boys, I reckon this is it - nuclear combat toe to toe with the Roosskies. Now look, boys, I ain't much of a hand at makin' speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin' on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin'. Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human bein's if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelin's about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back home is a-countin' on you and by golly, we ain't about to let 'em down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important promotions and personal citations when this thing's over with. That goes for ever' last one of you regardless of your race, color or your creed. Now let's get this thing on the hump - we got some flyin' to do.

Miss Scott: It's 3 o'clock in the morning!
General "Buck" Turgidson: Weh-heh-heh-ll, the Air Force never sleeps.
General "Buck" Turgidson: I don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up.

General "Buck" Turgidson: General Ripper called Strategic Air Command headquarters shortly after he issued the go code. I have a phone transcript of that conversation if you'd like me to to read it.
President Merkin Muffley: Read it!
General "Buck" Turgidson: Ahem... The Duty Officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact that he *had* issued the go code, and he said, uh, "Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in, and nobody can bring them back. For the sake of our country, and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them. Otherwise, we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation. Uh, my boys will give you the best kind of start, 1400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won't stop them now, uhuh. Uh, so let's get going, there's no other choice. God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural... fluids. God bless you all" and he hung up.
General "Buck" Turgidson: Uh, we're, still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.
President Merkin Muffley: There's nothing to figure out, General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.
General "Buck" Turgidson: We-he-ell, uh, I'd like to hold off judgement on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in.
President Merkin Muffley: General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you *assured* me there was *no* possibility of such a thing *ever* occurring!
General "Buck" Turgidson: Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.

General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless *distinguishable*, postwar environments: one where you got twenty million people killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.
President Merkin Muffley: You're talking about mass murder, General, not war!
General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.

Major T. J. "King" Kong: Survival kit contents check. In them you'll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days' concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

President Merkin Muffley: Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.

President Merkin Muffley: But this is absolute madness, Ambassador! Why should you *build* such a thing?
Ambassador de Sadesky: There were those of us who fought against it, but in the end we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. At the same time our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we had been spending on defense in a single year. The deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap.
President Merkin Muffley: This is preposterous. I've never approved of anything like that. Ambassador de Sadesky: Our source was the New York Times.

General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk... ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children's ice cream.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Lord, Jack.
General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.
General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. Nineteen forty-six, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works. Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen, tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first... become... well, develop this theory?
General Jack D. Ripper: Well, I, uh... I... I... first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.
General Jack D. Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I... I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.
General Jack D. Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No.
General Jack D. Ripper: But I... I do deny them my essence.

Major T. J. "King" Kong: Well boys, we got three engines out, we got more holes in us than a horse trader's mule, the radio is gone and we're leaking fuel and if we was flying any lower why we'd need sleigh bells on this thing... but we got one little budge on those Roosskies. At this height why they might harpoon us but they dang sure ain't gonna spot us on no radar screen!

By Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford

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The Big Idea Behind DR. STRANGELOVE

The nuclear arms race was a subject that intrigued Kubrick for several years before Dr. Strangelove (1964). According to Norman Kagan in his book The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick (Continuum, 1989), he had read more than 70 books on the subject and subscribed to Aviation Week and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In the course of his reading, he came upon Peter George's novel Red Alert and purchased the screen rights to make what he planned to be a serious film about the possibility of accidental war. As he started to work on the screenplay, however, he began to see the absurdity and humor in many of the scenes and decided to write instead a "nightmare comedy." "After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?" So he brought in satirist Terry Southern to punch up the humor and flesh out the comically grotesque characters.

"My idea of doing it as a nightmare comedy came in the early weeks of working on the screenplay," Kubrick later said. "I found that in trying to put meat on the bones and to imagine the scenes more fully, one had to keep leaving things out which were either absurd or paradoxical in order to keep it from being funny; and these things seemed to be close to the heart of the scenes in question."

In Stanley Kubrick Directs (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), Alexander Walker writes that Kubrick once said, "Confront a man in his office with a nuclear alarm, and you have a documentary. If the news reaches him in his living room, you have a drama. If it catches him in the lavatory, the result is comedy." In the film, Kubrick gives a perfect example of this, bringing the dire message to General Buck Turgidson in the john.

By Rob Nixon

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teaser Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Behind the Camera on DR. STRANGELOVE

The relatively simple and inexpensive sets for Dr. Strangelove (1964) were created and photographed for maximum impact. They were designed by Ken Adam, who was born in Germany and had studied architecture. His background may explain the echoes of German expressionism found in the film, such as the "War Room" set, which was influenced by Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927). Adam (who also designed several James Bond films) told Michael Ciment, author of Kubrick (Calmann-Levy, 1980), that the "War Room" was exaggerated in size and filmed in long shots to give a fantastic quality to the activity there, primarily the decision-making process where the power players are at considerable distances from each other. On the other hand, General Ripper's office and Major Kong's bomber, "The Leper Colony," are rendered realistically. The bomber scenes, shot in an area not much bigger than a closet, were very tightly framed to emphasize the claustrophobic cramped space and filmed with available lighting only, a Kubrick trademark he would perfect further in such later works as A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Barry Lyndon (1975). While giving the scenes the feel of photo-reportage, this lighting also lent a spectral, nightmarish air to the lethal plane's cabin. The assault on the air force base (the attempt to storm Ripper's office and reverse the attack order) is shot on orthochromatic film using a handheld camera that was operated much of the time by Kubrick himself (an activity rarely engaged in by feature film directors, although Steven Soderbergh shot his latest film, Traffic (2000) that way). The cinema verite style and gritty black and white give those sequences the feel of a documentary, adding to the suspense and the chilling humor.It was this air of realism and plausibility that led Columbia Pictures to tack the following disclaimer at the beginning of the film: "It is the stated position of the United States Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events as are depicted in this film. Furthermore, it should be noted that none of the characters portrayed in this film are meant to represent any real persons living or dead."

"The real image doesn't cut the mustard [sic], doesn't transcend. I'm now interested in taking a story, fantastic and improbable, and trying to get to the bottom of it, to make it seem not only real but inevitable." - Kubrick in 1964 around the time of the film's release.

In a scene in which General Turgidson gets highly excited, George C. Scott got swept up in the character's agitation and fell over while performing the scene. It wasn't scripted, but Kubrick decided it was perfect for the character and kept the humorous shot in the film.

Although much of the film was tightly scripted, Kubrick gave Peter Sellers free rein to improvise his roles. Many of the lines delivered by his three characters were Sellers' own creation.

The film was shot in Shepperton Studios outside London, partly because Sellers was getting a divorce and couldn't leave the country for an extended period.

Kubrick sought no help from the U.S. Department of Defense. The flight deck of the B-52 bomber was based on a single still shot that had been published in a British aviation magazine. Most of the shots of the plane in flight were simulated with a ten-foot model of the plane and a moving matte image behind. Each shot cost about $600, virtually bargain-basement by today's special effects standards.

A visitor to the set observed Kubrick's total control over every aspect of the process, which, she said, the crew regarded with awe and respect rather than hostility. She noted there was an overall atmosphere of dedication and good humor although no prankishness was evident. The happiest moments, the ones that inspired outright laughter on the set, were when a difficult shot was achieved.

"He is most certainly in command, and he's so self-effacing and apologetic it's impossible to be offended by him." - George C. Scott

By Rob Nixon

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The Critics' Corner on DR. STRANGELOVE

"No Communist could dream of a more effective anti-American film to spread abroad than this one." - The Washington Post

"Beyond any question, the most shattering sick joke I've ever come across."
"There is so much about it that is grand, so much that is brilliant and amusing, but much that is grave and dangerous."
"Somehow, to me, [the ending] isn't funny. It is malefic and sick."
"I am troubled by the feeling, which runs all through the film, of discredit and even contempt for our whole defense establishment, up to and even including the hypothetical Commander in Chief."
- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, January 21, 1964.

"It is not this film that is sick; what is sick is our supposedly moral, democratic country, which allowed this [nuclear arms] policy to be formulated and implemented without even the pretense of open public debate. The film is the first break in the catatonic cold war trance that has so long held our country in its rigid grip."
- social critic Lewis Mumford in a letter to The New York Times, March 1, 1964.

"Seen after 30 years, "Dr. Strangelove" seems remarkably fresh and undated - a clear-eyed, irreverant, dangerous satire. And its willingness to follow the situation to its logical conclusion - nuclear annihilation - has a purity that today's lily-livered happy-ending technicians would probably find a way around. Its black and white photography helps, too, putting an unadorned face on its deadly political paradoxes. If movies of this irreverence, intelligence and savagery were still being made, the world would seem a younger place." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

"Of the great nightmare he has made a lafforama that leaves one with a painful grin on the face and a brassy taste in the mouth...Dr. Strangelove is a machine constructed to deliver the maximum punch. The intercutting throughout of the American plane's progress with the "meanwhile back at the air base (or the President's war room) sequences, for instance, are beautifully handled for suspense, and the plane's theme song, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, is exactly right in its cockiness and its outdatedness. But it is Kubrick's direction of the actors that I most admired: he has made them into commedia dell'arte grotesques, but grotesques that take off from a solid foundation of what one uneasily recognizes as our everyday American reality. Peter Sellers, as the President, is disturbingly right....But the heart of the film is the military grotesques, and I wonder if Kubrick, even with Columbia Pictures behind him, will get away with it." - Dwight MacDonald, Dwight MacDonald on Movies.

"Kubrick manages this bewildering slither from real to unreal and back again with total mastery. Unlike Paths of Glory with its lazy sweep of tracking shots, or Lolita with its arrogantly sensual arabesques, Dr. Strangelove is choppy, abrupt, at times as urgently graceless as a newsreel, at others breathtakingly well lit and shot...A film which maintains the courage of its convictions to the bitter end is rare enough; even rarer is one which pursues its course with such relentless logic...A tough film, then, which makes one think, laugh and weep in equal proportions, and which ends on an image which makes every other film about The Bomb look like a pretty game...A sick film? I think, rather, one of bitter denunciation and hopeful warning. A lot of Americans, unfortunately, are likely to find it hard to take." - Tom Milne, Sight and Sound.

"The best American picture that I can remember since Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux and Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre...It is so truthful a film, so unsparing, so hopeless in the last pit-bottom depths of that word, that the very blackness has a kind of shine. It is to the vestige or promise of the Olympian in us that it speaks, and it is that possibly saving remnant in us that it makes laugh." - Stanley Kauffman, The New Republic.

"An outrageous, daring, inventive, devilish, macabre, and scintillating comedy - one that is not quite successful in fitting all its parts into a whole as it tries for unusualness, but one that is successful in making its caustic comments on the hydrogenic world we live in...No one thinks our ingeniously destructive world-destroying bombs are a laughing matter. I'm very sure Kubrick doesn't think so. But on some fairly safe planet, out of range, maybe this is the way they would view our predicament. I'm inclined to think that this mordant young director, Kubrick, has carried American comedy to a new high ground." - Hollis Alpert, Saturday ReviewA.

"An outrageously brilliant satire - the most original American comedy in years and at the same time a supersonic thriller that should have audiences chomping their fingernails right down to the funny bone...And it fulfills Stanley Kubrick's promise as one of the most audacious and imaginative directors the U.S. cinema has yet produced." - Time.

"While there are times when it hurts to laugh because somehow there is a feeling that the mad events in Strangelove could happen, it emerges as a most unusual combination of comedy and suspense...Peter Sellers is excellent, essaying a trio of roles. George C. Scott offers a top performance, one of the best in the film. Odd as it may seem in this backdrop, he displays a fine comedy touch. Sterling Hayden is grimly realistic and emerges a tragi-comic figure." - 'Daku,' Variety.

"Dr. Strangelove is irreverent to a point of savagery; it is funny and it is engrossing. And it's heady stuff for moviegoers, for Kubrick, boy genius that he is, assumes that we're grown-up enough to share his bitter laughter." - Judith Crist, N. Y. Herald Tribune.

"Conservatives will find it subversive, liberals will find it irresponsible, utopians will find it bleak, humanitarians will find it inhuman - Dr. Strangelove is all these things. But it also releases, through comic poetry, those feelings of impotence and frustration that are consuming us all; and I can't think of anything more important for an imaginative work to do." - Robert Brustein, New York Review of Books.

Awards and Honors:

Dr. Strangelove received Oscar® nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Peter Sellers), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Kubrick, Peter George, Terry Southern).

Some said Peter Sellers should have been nominated three times. Oscar® campaign ads on his behalf were submitted for Best Actor for all three roles and three times as Best Supporting Actor for each role.

Other Awards:

- New York Film Critics Award for Best Director: Stanley Kubrick.
- British Academy Award Best Picture and BestBritish Picture.

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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teaser Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Dr. Strangelove (1964), director Stanley Kubrick's brilliant satire on sex, politics, nuclear Armageddon and the military industrial complex, is also a cornucopia of outrageous comic performances, not the least of which were the three roles portrayed by Peter Sellers. But believe it or not, Kubrick did not originally envision the film as either a black comedy or as a starring vehicle for Peter Sellers. In fact, Sellers came into the production in a very fortuitous manner. During the casting phase, Stanley Kubrick and his producing partner, James B. Harris, amicably broke up their partnership, over issues of the tone of the film and Harris' own ambitions to direct. Because of the dissolution of their partnership, Seven Arts Productions, a British production studio, refused to finance any more Stanley Kubrick pictures without the steadying influence of James B. Harris. Thus, Kubrick had to find other financial resources that would fund a production that would ultimately cost around $2 million. The project, still under the working title of Two Hours to Doom, finally found a permanent home at Columbia Studios, but not without some major restrictions in casting choice. This led to the addition of Peter Sellers to the cast, since Columbia was convinced that he was the reason why Kubrick's previous film, Lolita (1962), was a success in Europe. They insisted that not only he be featured in Dr. Strangelove but that he play multiple roles as well. The casting of the gifted comedic actor was but one factor that ultimately led Kubrick to completely overhaul the tone of the project from a straight drama to satiric black comedy.

Sellers indeed was cast in four major roles, all of which underwent considerable changes before filming ended. He was originally going to play U.S. President Merkin Muffley, B-52 pilot Major "King" Kong, Colonel Lionel Mandrake, and the mysterious Dr. Strangelove. Muffley was at first written in the script and played by Sellers as broad slapstick. In fact, the footage of Muffley's entrance into the War Room had to be scrapped because of the incessant laughter on the set, after which Kubrick decided for Sellers to play Muffley completely straight. Sellers' portrayal of the title character, Dr. Strangelove, whose full name, according to the source novel, was Dr. MerkwŸrdigichliebe, bore some similarities to former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger which were noted at the time. This was Sellers at his best, inventing bits of comic action that added immeasurably to the role, such as the bit of Dr. Strangelove's uncontrollable, homicidal hand. Capturing the right tone for the Colonel Lionel Mandrake character gave Sellers no trouble either. Having impersonated a stuffy British officer many times in the Royal Air Force as a young company entertainer, Sellers' characterization of Mandrake was almost second nature to him. In fact, Sellers' Mandrake looks and sounds suspiciously like Alec Guinness's Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). This connection is palpable, since Sellers worshipped Guinness and emulated him whenever possible, including performing multiple roles in films, as Guinness had done spectacularly in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).

Of course, Sellers emulation of Guinness wasn't necessarily a good thing for him in every situation. When Sellers objected to taking on one of his four scheduled roles, that of Major "King" Kong, he came under much pressure from Kubrick to follow through with the role. Kubrick argued that Guinness could pull off such a demanding role, so why not Sellers? But Sellers could not master the Texas dialect that the role called for, and he was intimidated by the Texas drawl that co-star Sterling Hayden and screenwriter Terry Southern spoke only naturally. But there is evidence that the dialect problem was only part of the reason why Sellers decided to forego the Major Kong role. Sellers' long-time driver and valet Bert Mortimer claimed that Sellers was terrified at the thought of shooting the climactic drop out of the B-52's bomb bay doors. The shooting of this scene necessitated placing the actor three meters off the studio floor, a considerable distance for someone who feared heights.

Kong was eventually recast with an entirely different performer. Starting the search, Kubrick reasoned that a mere actor would not do in the case of Major Kong. As reported in a biography by author John Baxter, Kubrick said, "We can't replace him with another actor...we've got to get an authentic character from life, someone whose acting is secondary--a real-life cowboy." Enter Slim Pickens, who Kubrick remembered from an open casting call for an earlier project. Pickens was a Texas cowhand who competed on the rodeo circuit and eventually drifted into movie stunt work, like many rodeo stars had before. Kubrick took full advantage of Pickens' unique personality, instructing him to play Kong "as straight as you can." But whereas Sellers was a chameleon in all three roles, Pickens basically played himself.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: Victor Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George (based on his novel, Red Alert)
Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor
Editor: Anthony Harvey
Production Design: Ken Adam
Art Direction: Peter Murton
Music: Laurie Johnson
Cast: Peter Sellers (Capt. Lionel Mandrake/President Merkin Muffley/Dr. Strangelove), Sterling Hayden (Gen. Jack D. Ripper), Keenan Wynn (Col. "Bat" Guano), Slim Pickens (Major T. J. "King" Kong), James Earl Jones (Lt. Lothar Zogg).
BW-95m. Letterboxed.

by Scott McGee

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