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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

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


Cast:

  • Stanley Kubrick, Director/Writer

  • Terry Southern and Peter George, Writers

  • Laurie Johnson, Music

  • Peter Sellers as Group captain Lionel Mandrake, Merkin Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove

  • George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson

  • Sterling Hayden as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper

  • Keenan Wynn as Colonel "Bat" Guano

  • Jack Creley as Mr. Staines

  • Slim Pickens as Major T. J. "King" Kong

  • Peter Bull as Soviet Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski

  • James Earl Jones as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg

  • Tracy Reed as Miss Scott

  • Shane Rimmer as Capt. Ace Owens


*Recognition:

  • Based on the novel Red Alert by Peter George, Dr. Strangelove was originally released on January 29, 1964.

  • Dr. Strangelove would go on to gross $9.1 million worldwide finishing as the #12 film of 1964. The film also garnered four Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director (Kubrick), Actor (Sellers), and Adapted Screenplay (Southern, George, and Kubrick).

  • Dr. Strangelove is on Roger Ebert's list of The Great Movies, and he described it as "arguably the best political satire of the century".

  • In 1998, Time Out conducted a reader's poll and Dr. Strangelove was voted the 47th greatest film of all time. Entertainment Weekly voted it at No. 14 on their list of 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.

  • In 2002, it was ranked as the 5th best film in Sight & Sound poll of best films.

  • It is also listed as number 26 on Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, and in 2010 it was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 best films since the publication's inception in 1923.

  • The Writers Guild of America ranked its screenplay the 12th best ever written.

  • In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted it the 24th greatest comedic film of all time. The film ranked 42nd in BBCs 2015 list of the 100 greatest American films.

  • The film was selected as the 2nd best comedy of all time in a poll of 253 film critics from 52 countries conducted by the BBC in 2017.

  • The film ranked No. 32 on TV Guide's list of the 50 Greatest Movies on TV (and Video).

  • The American Film Institute included the film as #26 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies, #3 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs, #64 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes ("Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!") and #39 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).

  • In 1989, Dr. Strangelove was one of the inaugural 25 films selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry.

  • Dr. Strangelove currently holds a 98% among critics on RT, a 97 score on Metacritic, and a 4.3/5 on Letterboxd.


What is this movie about?/Elevator Pitch: What would happen if one small piece of the US nuclear force went rogue?


Plot Summary: In Stanley Kubrick's satirical masterpiece, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," the Cold War tension reaches a bizarre crescendo as the United States and the Soviet Union teeter on the brink of nuclear annihilation.


With a darkly comedic touch, Kubrick weaves a tale of political incompetence, military absurdity, and the unpredictable consequences of technological warfare. Peter Sellers delivers a tour de force performance in multiple roles, including the titular Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi scientist with a penchant for sinister solutions.


As geopolitical tensions unfold, the film explores the absurdity of mutually assured destruction and the precarious balance between power and chaos. Kubrick's sharp wit and keen eye for irony make "Dr. Strangelove" a timeless commentary on the folly of humanity in the face of its own creation.


Did You Know:

  • It was originally planned for the film to end with a scene that depicted everyone in the War Room involved in a pie fight. Accounts vary as to why the pie fight was cut. In a 1969 interview, Kubrick said, "I decided it was farce and not consistent with the satiric tone of the rest of the film." Critic Alexander Walker observed that "the cream pies were flying around so thickly that people lost definition, and you couldn't really say whom you were looking at." Nile Southern, son of screenwriter Terry Southern, suggested the fight was intended to be less jovial: "Since they were laughing, it was unusable, because instead of having that totally black, which would have been amazing, like, this blizzard, which in a sense is metaphorical for all of the missiles that are coming, as well, you just have these guys having a good old time. So, as Kubrick later said, 'it was a disaster of Homeric proportions.'"

  • A first test screening of the film was scheduled for November 22, 1963, the day of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The film was just weeks from its scheduled premiere, but because of the assassination, the release was delayed until late January 1964, as it was felt that the public was in no mood for such a film any sooner.

  • In the months following the film's release, director Stanley Kubrick received a fan letter from Legrace G. Benson of the Department of History of Art at Cornell University interpreting the film as being sexually-layered. The director wrote back to Benson and confirmed the interpretation, "Seriously, you are the first one who seems to have noticed the sexual framework from intromission (the planes going in) to the last spasm (Kong's ride down and detonation at target)."

  • In 1995, Kubrick enlisted Terry Southern to script a sequel titled Son of Strangelove. Kubrick had Terry Gilliam in mind to direct. The script was never completed, but index cards laying out the story's basic structure were found among Southern's papers after he died in October 1995. It was set largely in underground bunkers, where Dr. Strangelove had taken refuge with a group of women. In 2013, Gilliam commented, "I was told after Kubrick died—by someone who had been dealing with him—that he had been interested in trying to do another Strangelove with me directing. I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to."

  • Peter Sellers was paid $1 million, 55% of the film's budget. Stanley Kubrick famously quipped "I got three for the price of six". Columbia Pictures agreed to finance the film if Peter Sellers played at least four major roles. The condition stemmed from the studio's opinion that much of the success of Kubrick's previous film Lolita (1962) was based on Sellers' performance, in which his single character assumes several identities. Sellers also played three roles in The Mouse That Roared (1959). Kubrick accepted the demand, later saying that "such crass and grotesque stipulations are the sine qua non of the motion-picture business."


Best Performance: Peter Sellers (Strangelove, Mandrake, and the President)

Best Secondary Performance: Stanley Kubrick (Director/Writer)/Sterling Hayden (Ripper)

Most Charismatic Award: George C. Scott (Turgidson)

Best Scene:

  • Wing Plan R

  • Miss Scott

  • Russian Ambassador

  • Fluoridation

  • Calling the President

  • Bomb's Away

  • Mine Shaft Gap

Favorite Scene: Mine Shaft Gap

Most Indelible Moment: Mine Shaft Gap/Bomb's Away


In Memorium:

  • Gary Graham, 73, American actor (Star Trek: Enterprise, Hardcore, All the Right Moves, and Alien Nation)

  • Charles Osgood, 91, American journalist (original host of CBS Sunday Morning and the Osgood File)

  • David Gail, 58, American actor (Robin's Hoods, Savannah, Port Charles)

  • David Emge, 77, American actor (Dawn of the Dead, Basket Case 2, Hellmaster)

  • Norman Jewison, 97, Canadian film director and TV producer (Moonstruck, In the Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof, The Thomas Crowne Affair) 7 Oscar nominations, 3 for Best Director, and 3x Emmy Winner.


Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

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


General Jack D. Ripper: Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.


Colonel "Bat" Guano: Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: What?

Colonel "Bat" Guano: You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.


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: I will not go down in history as the greatest mass-murderer since Adolf Hitler.

General "Buck" Turgidson: Perhaps it might be better, Mr. President, if you were more concerned with the American People than with your image in the history books.


[Strangelove's plan for post-nuclear war survival involves living underground with a 10:1 female-to-male ratio]

General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.


General "Buck" Turgidson: Sir, you can't let him in here. He'll see everything. He'll see the big board!


General "Buck" Turgidson: It'd be naive of us, Mr. President, to imagine that these new developments would cause a change in Soviet expansionist policy. I mean, we must be increasingly on the alert to prevent them taking over other mine shafts space, in order to breed more prodigiously than we do. Thus, knocking us out of these superior numbers when we emerge! Mr. President, we must not allow a mine-shaft gap!


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6.75

Impact/Significance: 7.75

Novelty: 9

Classic-ness: 7

Rewatchability: 7

Audience Score: 9.25 (91% Google, 94% RT)

Total: 47.25


Remaining Questions:

  • Why would the Ambassador take pictures of the War Room after the bomb went off?

  • Can you explain the significance of Dr. Strangelove being able to walk?

  • How is the human race still standing?

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