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Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Entry updated 14 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1963). Hawk/Columbia. Produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Written by Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George, based on Two Hours to Doom (1958; vt Red Alert) by Peter Bryant (pseudonym of Peter George). Cast includes Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, George C Scott, Peter Sellers and Keenan Wynn. 94 minutes. Black and white.

This, the first of Kubrick's three sf films, has worn well, with its curious blend of black comedy, documentary realism and almost poetic homage to the very machines (B-52s and their nuclear cargo) that he shows as destroying the world in World War Three. The original novel was a serious story about an insane US general who launches a pre-emptive attack on Russia without presidential authority, but Kubrick opted for a grotesquely satirical and very funny treatment, transforming George's officer into the impotent Brigadier General Jack D Ripper (Hayden), who is convinced the Commies are polluting his "precious bodily fluids". Kubrick's most brilliant coup was to cast Peter Sellers in three roles, most importantly that of Dr Strangelove himself, a sinister ex-Nazi, generally seen as burlesquing a distinguished real-life Scientist, mostly likely Werner von Braun, with added colour provided by Herman Kahn, then notorious for suggesting that the "unthinkable" – ie the consequences of nuclear devastation – were entirely "thinkable", and could be dealt with: as Strangelove blurts, unforgettably, the last line of the film: "Mein Führer, I can walk!" The appalling point of the film is the way the vision of Armageddon attracts the very protagonists whose job it is to prevent it: Strangelove is sexually aroused by the idea of a cleansing Holocaust, and it excites the lunatic general and even the bomber pilot (Pickens), who rides his own bomb down with Texan whoops of triumph. At the end of the movie Vera Lynn's voice rises plangently into "We'll Meet Again" as the screen is covered with mushroom clouds. The novelization is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963) by Peter George.

The film received the 1965 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. [PN/JB/JC]

see also: Cinema; Paranoia; Underground.


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