Dr. Strangelove,Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
In these bizarre political rimes, this classic film hits close to home, especially if one replaces “communists” with “muslims in certain scenes.
Dr. Strangelove works on many levels, but finds its most effective vehicle in satire. Directed by auteur Stanley Kubrick during the height of the Cold War-and the height of his powers- the film scares us in many ways even as we are chuckling at the absurdities. Those entrusted with the most delicate and life-threatening information and weaponry are shown to be weak, vacillating, or just plain nuts. The names themselves give away much: The President, Merkin Muffey, a General, Buck Turgidson, Brig Gen Jack Ripper, Col Bat Guano, and Buck’s girlfriend, Miss Foreign Affairs, the sole female in the movie.
Ripper decides in a fit of paranoid delusion to give the go ahead for his squadron of B-52’s to continue toward Russia and drop the big ones. Maj TJ King Kong is the pilot of one of them. Kubrick, in a brilliant move, told the actor Slim Pickens, better known for his western roles, to play it as drama. So, Kong puts down the Playboy he was perusing, opens a safe and starts spouting out the procedures:”Well… I reckon this is it. Nuclear combat toe-da-toe with the Ruskies”. (puts on cowboy hat, with a determined frown). He goes through the survival kits contents of gum, money and condoms-“Shoot, a guy could have a good time in Vegas with this stuff.”
In such a film as this editing is crucial and, as it turns out, flawless. Not only between the main scenarios-the War Room, the Army Base, and the B-52 interior, but within those scenes, especially the bomber. Faces, gauges, switches, plane exterior, slide rule, pencil, landscape below all alternate before our eyes in a collage of accelerating, but somehow deadpan, tension.
Classic lines fall like hailstones:
“Gentleman you can’t fight in here, this is the war room!”
“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.”
“Now I’m not saying we wont get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than 10 to 20 million people killed, tops…..depending on the breaks.”
“Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water?”
“You can’t let him in here! He’ll see everything…he’ll, he’ll see the big board!!”
Has any actor ever topped Peter Seller’s trio of roles in this film? His Dr. Strangelove could have been an amalgam of Edward Teller and Werner Von Braun. The frozen smile, the thick German accent and the renegade arm that is out of control. It is said that he reduced the normally serious Kubrick to tears on the set.
His Lionel Mandrake, the prissy British officer, is someone he had already done in older British films, and the sensitive, soft spoken President, was a harbinger of things to come in Being There, his last film.
General Turgidson (George C. Scott) was not scripted to fall over in the war room when he gets excited, but when it happened, Kubrick decided it was in character, and left it in.
Remembering his work on the western OneEyed Jacks, Kubrick cast Slim Pickens as Kong, the gung-ho hick pilot determined to drop his bombs at any cost. Pickens was never shown the script nor told it was a black comedy; ordered by Kubrick to play it straight, he played the role as if it were a serious drama – with amusing results.
Major Kong’s comment about the survival kit (a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff) originally referred to Dallas instead of Las Vegas, but was overdubbed after President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.
It was widely suggested, and widely denied, that the model for the character of Dr. Strangelove was the father of the hydrogen bomb, physicist Edward Teller
Trivia Courtesy of IMDB