A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview
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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Rating: ***** Threat: Doomsday device

Columbia. Written by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern & Peter George based on the novel Two Hours to Doom by Peter George writing as Peter Bryant; Photographed by Gilbert Taylor; Special effects by Wally Veevers; Edited by Anthony Harvey; Music by Laurie Johnson; Produced & directed by Stanley Kubrick. B & W, 93 minutes.


Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove, former Nazi scientist now serving as the president's technical advisor on weapons; Merkin Muffley, president of the United States; Lionel Mandrake, British exchange officer); George C. Scott (Gen. Buck Turgidson, air force advisor to President Muffley); Sterling Hayden (Gen. Jack D. Ripper, commander of Burpleson Air Base); Slim Pickens (Maj. T.J. “King” Kong, flight commander of the Leper Colony); Peter Bull (Alexei de Sadesky, Russian ambassador); Keenan Wynn (Col “Bat” Guano, officer who arrests Mandrake); Tracy Reed (Miss Scott, Turgidson's secretary and mistress); James Earl Jones (Lt. Lothar Zogg, bombardier on the Leper Colony); Frank Berry (Lt. Dietrich, navigator on the Leper Colony); Glenn Beck (Lt. Kivel, crew member of the Leper Colony); Shane Rimmer (Capt. Owens, co-pilot of the Leper Colony); Paul Tamarin (Lt. Goldberg, communications officer on the Leper Colony); Gordon Tanner (Gen. Faceman, army chief of staff); Hal Galili, Laurence Herdon, John McCarthy (soldiers at Burpleson Air Base).


Dr. Strangelove is perhaps the best known and most celebrated black comedy dealing with the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear annihilation. One interesting detail is that the picture was originally conceived as a serious thriller, very similar to Fail Safe (1964), which was directed by Sidney Lumet and also produced by Columbia. While working on the initial script, Stanley Kubrick found himself unable to take the plot seriously and thought it would be more fresh and effective as a farce. He then invited scriptwriter Terry Southern to join the project, and this absurdist misadventure emerged.

The picture opens with a scrawl that disclaims the possibility of the events depicted in the film actually happening and asserts that all characters are fictitious. A sentimental rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness” is heard over the credits while a bomber is being refueled in flight. The story picks up at Burpleson Air


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A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema
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