Dr. Strangelove

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Columbia Released 1964

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Movie Summary

Director:
Stanley Kubrick
Released:
1964
Rating:
PG

1964's groundbreaking "nightmare comedy", Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb stars Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn and Slim Pickens. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film is loosely based on the novel Red Alert, a Cold War political thriller by Peter George, and follows military and government officials in the middle of a sudden crisis that could cause the end of the world. Three of the characters (U.S. President Merkin Muffley, British R.A.F officer Lionel Mandrake, and the eponymous Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi scientist) are all played by Peter Sellers. Sellers was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film, losing out to Rex Harrison (for My Fair Lady). Savagely satirical, nail-bitingly suspenseful and truly terrifying, this legendary movie was officially regarded as "culturally significant" by the US Library of Congress in 1989 and is being preserved in the National Film Registry.

Metacritic Score

  • 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    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 con...

  • 90

    Variety

    George C. Scott as the fiery Pentagon general who seizes on the crisis as a means to argue for total annihilation of Russia offers a top performance, one of the best in the film. O...

  • 70

    The New York Times

    The ultimate touch of ghoulish humor is when we see the bomb actually going off, dropped on some point in Russia, and a jazzy sound track comes in with a cheerful melodic rendition...

Peter Sellers

Peter Sellers

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake/President Merkin Muffley/Dr. Strangelove

George C. Scott

George C. Scott

Gen. 'Buck' Turgidson

Sterling Hayden

Sterling Hayden

Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper

Keenan Wynn

Keenan Wynn

Col. 'Bat' Guano

Slim Pickens

Slim Pickens

Maj. T.J. 'King' Kong

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Stanley Kubrick's original idea was simply to make a film about the likelihood of a nuclear war starting by accident. It was only after several weeks of research that he came across "Red Alert", a minor novel by an English former RAF pilot, Peter George, which dealt with this very subject. George's novel, which had attracted little critical attention, was a straight thriller with a tragic ending, and Kubrick originally intended his film to be the same. However, as he and George worked on the script, each became convinced that a certain inherent absurdity was evident in the nuclear procedures of the various world powers, and they decided to develop it as a "nightmare comedy", whilst retaining the tragic ending. Comic novelist Terry Southern was then brought in to do additional writing, which he was still doing as the filming got under way.

    • Peter Sellers was originally to have played four parts in this film, the fourth one being Major T.J. 'King' Kong. But Sellers could not master the Texas accent Stanley Kubrick required, so a genuine Texan, Slim Pickens, was hired at short notice to do the role. This marked the first time Pickens had ever been out of the United States.

    • Stanley Kubrick planned to open this film in London at the end of November of 1963, but the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd led him to postpone the opening for another two months. The film was finally premiered on January 29th, 1964. In the interim, Kubrick arranged for the actor Slim Pickens to re-record a single line of dialogue, so that there was no longer a reference to Dallas, the scene of the Kennedy assassination.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Major T.J. "King" Kong: [after itemizing the contents of his Air Force survival kit]: Shoot! Feller could have a real good weekend in Vegas on this.

    • President Muffley: [on the hot line to Moscow]: Now then, Dimitri... You know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. The bomb, Dimitri. The hydrogen bomb. Well, one of our base commanders, he went a little...funny. In the head. You know - funny. And he did a silly thing. Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes to attack your country. Let me finish, Dimitri. Let me finish, Dimitri. Please let me finish, Dimitri...

    • General Buck Turgidson: We must not allow a mine-shaft gap!

    • Dr. Strangelove: [last line of dialogue in film]: Mein Fuhrer - I can walk!

    • President Muffley: Gentlemen, you can't fight in here - this is the War Room!

  • NOTES (1)

    • This film marks the only screenwriting credit of Peter George, a former RAF pilot and author of the original novel, Red Alert, upon which the film is loosely based. George rewrote the novel extensively after the film was made, bringing it into line with the film's revised plot and new, blackly comic tone; this new version was published in 1964 in a tie-in edition which is now the only version of the book generally available. George subsequently wrote another "doomsday" novel, Commander-1, but this was not a great financial success, despite being advertised as "by the author of Dr. Strangelove". George, who was quite convinced of the inevitability of an international thermonuclear holocaust, committed suicide in 1966.

  • ALLUSIONS (2)

    • General Ripper's crazed idea that the fluoridation of water was actually a Communist plot to poison Americans was not invented for this film. It was seriously put forward as a claim by members of the extreme right-wing John Birch Society in the 1950s.

    • The notion of a "doomsday machine", a device which sets off a number of stored nuclear weapons simultaneously, so that the fall-out will cover the whole of the planet and thus destroy everything on it, was not an invention of this film. The famous nuclear strategist Dr. Herman Kahn had suggested the manufacture of just such a machine several years before preparations for Dr. Strangelove began, adding (as Dr. Strangelove does in the film) that the cost of such a device would be well within the capabilities of even the smallest nuclear power, and that it would be a considerable cost-saver, as no further weapons would ever need to be made.

More Info About This Movie

Categories

Comedy

Themes

Politics, Dark Comedy, Classics, Satire