Dr. Strangelove: Wikis


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

Original film poster by Tomi Ungerer.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Produced by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Screenplay:
Stanley Kubrick
Terry Southern
Peter George
Peter Sellers
James B. Harris
Peter George
Starring Peter Sellers
George C. Scott
Slim Pickens
Sterling Hayden
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Editing by Anthony Harvey
Studio Hawk Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) 29 January 1964
Running time 94 minutes
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget US$1,800,000

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (commonly known as Dr. Strangelove) is a 1964 black comedy film directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, and featuring Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens and Tracy Reed. Loosely based on Peter George's Cold War thriller novel Red Alert (aka Two Hours to Doom), Dr. Strangelove satirized the nuclear scare.

The story concerns an unhinged US Air Force general who orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, and follows the President of the United States, his advisors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer as they try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse, as well as the crew of one B-52 as they attempt to deliver their payload.

In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was listed as number three on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs.



USAF Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, the commander of Burpelson Air Force Base, initiates a plan to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons in the paranoid belief that there is a Communist conspiracy involving water fluoridation which will lead to contamination of everyone's "precious bodily fluids." Ripper orders his nuclear-armed B-52s, which were holding at a fail-safe point as part of a special training exercise, to move into Soviet airspace. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, an RAF exchange officer serving as General Ripper's executive officer issues the command on Ripper's order, but later realizes that it was issued inappropriately and not in retaliation to a Soviet attack on America. He resolves to recall the planes on his own authority, but Ripper refuses to disclose the three-letter code needed to get the bombers back to base and locks the two of them in his office.

In the "War Room" at The Pentagon, General Buck Turgidson briefs President Merkin Muffley. He reports that Ripper apparently took advantage of "Wing Attack Plan R", which is intended to give Field Commanders authority to retaliate with nuclear weapons in the event that a Soviet first strike obliterates Washington, DC and incapacitates U.S. leadership. When President Muffley scoffs at the idea that such an option was ever considered, he is reminded that he supported and endorsed the plan when it was first proposed. When President Muffley states that General Turgidson had assured him that the "Human Reliability Program" would make it impossible that a Field Commander would exceed his authority in this manner, the General responds that he doesn't "think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up."

Turgidson tries to convince Muffley to seize the moment, and eliminate the Soviet Union by launching a full-scale attack on remaining Soviet defensive capabilities. Turgidson believes the U.S. is in a superior strategic position and a first strike would destroy the majority of the Soviets' missiles before they could retaliate significantly. Without such a response, the US would be annihilated by "Red Retaliation." Muffley rebukes him and summons the Soviet ambassador, Alexei De Sadesky, calls Soviet Premier Dmitri Kisov on the hotline, and gives the Soviets information to help them shoot down the American planes.

Over the phone, a drunken Kisov tells his ambassador that their country has deployed a doomsday device which will automatically destroy all life on Earth if there is a nuclear strike against any strategic targets in the Soviet Union. The president expresses amazement that anyone would build such a device. The President now calls upon Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi and weapons expert. Strangelove uses a wheelchair, is apparently paralyzed, and has little control over his right arm (it occasionally extends into a nazi salute and/or attempts to strangle him). In moments of excitement he forgetfully addresses the President as "Mein Führer".

Dr Strangelove explains the technology behind the Doomsday Device and why, once activated, it is essential that not only should it destroy the world in the event of a nuclear attack but also destroy the world if anyone attempts to deactivate the Device. He further points out that the "whole point of the Doomsday Device is lost if you keep it a secret. Why didn't you tell the world?" Ambassador De Sadesky says it was supposed to be announced the following week at the (Communist) Party Congress because "the Premier loves surprises."

U.S. Army forces arrive at Burpelson to arrest General Ripper. Because Ripper has warned his men that the enemy might attack disguised as American soldiers, the base's security forces open fire on them. A pitched battle ensues, which the Army forces finally win, and Ripper, fearing torture to extract the recall code, shoots himself. Colonel "Bat" Guano shoots his way into Ripper's office and suspects that Mandrake, whose uniform he does not recognize, is leading a mutiny and arrests him. Mandrake convinces Guano he must call the President with the recall code, OPE, which he has deduced from Ripper's desk blotter doodles, but the regular base phone lines are down. When Mandrake attempts to use a pay phone, he doesn't have enough change and the Pentagon declines a collect call, so he convinces Guano to shoot open a Coca-Cola machine to extract the necessary coins. Off camera, Mandrake finally contacts the Pentagon and is able to get the code combinations to the President and Strategic Air Command.

The correct recall code is issued to the planes, and all those that have not been shot down by the Soviet military turn back toward base except one. Its radio and fuel tanks were damaged by an anti-aircraft missile, leaving the plane unable either to receive the recall message or reach its primary or secondary targets, where the Soviets have concentrated all available defences at the urging of President Muffley. Instead, the pilot heads for the nearest target of opportunity, an ICBM complex. Aircraft commander Major T. J. "King" Kong goes to the bomb bay to open the damaged doors manually, straddling a nuclear bomb as he repairs sparking wires overhead. When he effects his electrical patches, the bomb bay doors suddenly open, the bomb releases and Kong rides it to the ground like a rodeo cowboy, whooping and waving his cowboy hat.

The bomb detonates, triggering the doomsday machine. According to the Soviet ambassador, life on Earth's surface will be extinct in ten months. Dr. Strangelove recommends the President gather several hundred thousand people to be relocated into deep mine shafts, where the radioactivity would never penetrate, so the U.S. can be repopulated. Strangelove suggests a gender ratio of "ten females to each male," with the women selected for their stimulating sexual characteristics and the men selected for physical strength, intellectual capabilities, and importance in business and government. He points out that with proper breeding techniques, the survivors could work themselves up to the present Gross National Product, and emerge after the radioactivity has ceased in about 100 years. At one point, Strangelove's errant right arm tries to strangle him.

General Turgidson warns of a possible "Mineshaft Gap" which might be a factor when the survivors emerge. When Strangelove informs the President he has a plan, he miraculously gets up from his wheelchair, takes a couple of steps, and shouts, "Mein Führer! I can walk!" The film then cuts to views of multiple nuclear detonations, accompanied by Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again."


Main cast

Peter Sellers's multiple roles

Columbia Pictures agreed to finance the film on condition that Peter Sellers play at least four major roles. This condition stemmed from the studio's impression that much of the success of Lolita (1962), Kubrick's previous film, was based on Sellers's performance in which his single character assumes a number of identities. Sellers had also played three roles in 1959's The Mouse That Roared. Kubrick accepted the demand, considering that "such crass and grotesque stipulations are the sine qua non of the motion-picture business."[5][6]

Sellers ended up playing just three of the four roles written for him. He was expected to play Air Force Major T. J. "King" Kong, the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft commander, but from the beginning Sellers was reluctant. He felt his workload was too heavy and he worried he would not properly portray the character's Texas accent. Kubrick pleaded with him and asked screenwriter Terry Southern (who had been raised in Texas) to record a tape with Kong's lines spoken in the correct accent. Using Southern's tape, Sellers managed to get the accent right, and started shooting the scenes in the airplane. But Sellers sprained an ankle and could not work in the cramped cockpit set.[5][6][7]

Sellers is said to have improvised much of his dialogue, with Kubrick incorporating the ad-libs into the written screenplay so that the improvised lines became part of the canonical screenplay, a technique known as retroscripting.[8]

Group Captain Lionel Mandrake

According to film critic Alexander Walker, the author of biographies of both Sellers and Kubrick, the role of Lionel Mandrake was the easiest of the three for Sellers to play, as he was aided by his experience of mimicking his superiors while serving in the RAF during World War II.[8] There is also a heavy resemblance to Sellers's friend and occasional co-star Terry-Thomas and the prosthetic-limbed RAF ace Douglas Bader.

President Merkin Muffley

For his performance as President Merkin Muffley, Sellers flattened his natural English accent to resemble an American Midwesterner. Sellers drew inspiration for the role from Adlai Stevenson,[8] a former Illinois governor who was the Democratic candidate for the 1952 and 1956 presidential elections and the U.N. ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In early takes, Sellers faked cold symptoms to emphasize the character's apparent weakness. This caused frequent laughter among the film crew, ruining several takes. Kubrick ultimately found this comic portrayal inappropriate, feeling that Muffley should be a serious character.[8] In later takes Sellers played the role straight, though the president's cold is still evident in several scenes.

Dr. Strangelove

The title character, Dr. Strangelove, who was not in the original book,[9] serves as President Muffley's scientific advisor in the War Room, presumably making use of prior expertise as a Nazi physicist. When General Turgidson says to Mr. Staines (Jack Creley) that "Strangelove" is a very bizarre name, Staines responds that Strangelove's original German surname was "Merkwürdigliebe," without mentioning that "Merkwürdigliebe" translates to "Strangelove" in English. Twice in the film, Strangelove accidentally addresses the President as "Mein Führer."`

The character is an amalgamation of RAND Corporation strategist Herman Kahn, mathematician and Manhattan Project principal John von Neumann, German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and Edward Teller, the "father of the hydrogen bomb."[10] Strangelove's accent was influenced by that of Austrian-American photographer Weegee, who worked for Kubrick as a special photographic effects consultant.[8] Strangelove's appearance echoes the mad scientist archetype as seen in the character Rotwang in Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis. Sellers's Strangelove takes from Rotwang the single black gloved hand (which in Rotwang's case is mechanical due to a lab accident), the wild hair and, most importantly, his inability to be completely controlled by political power.[11] According to film critic Alexander Walker, Sellers improvised Dr. Strangelove's lapse into the Nazi salute, borrowing one of Kubrick's black leather gloves for the uncontrollable hand that makes the gesture. Dr. Strangelove apparently suffers from diagonistic apraxia, or alien hand syndrome. Kubrick wore the gloves on the set to avoid being burned when handling hot lights, and Sellers, recognizing the potential connection to Lang's work, found them to be menacing.[8]

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

Slim Pickens, an established character actor and veteran of many Western films, was eventually chosen to replace Sellers as Major Kong after Sellers's injury. Terry Southern's biographer, Lee Hill, said the part was originally written with John Wayne in mind, and that Wayne was offered the role after Sellers was injured but he immediately turned it down.[12] Dan Blocker of the Bonanza western TV series was approached to play the part, but according to Southern, Blocker's agent rejected the script as being "too pinko."[13] Kubrick then recruited Pickens, whom he knew from working on Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks.[12]

Fellow actor James Earl Jones recalls, "He was Major Kong on and off the set—he didn't change a thing—his temperament, his language, his behavior." Pickens was not told that the movie was a comedy and was only given the script for scenes he was in, to get him to play it "straight."[14]

Kubrick biographer John Baxter explained the documentary Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove:

As it turns out, Slim Pickens had never left the United States. He had to hurry and get his first passport. He arrived on the set, and somebody said, "Gosh, he's arrived in costume!", not realizing that that's how he always dressed... with the cowboy hat and the fringed jacket and the cowboy boots—and that he wasn't putting on the character—that's the way he talked.

Pickens, who had previously played only minor supporting and character roles, said his appearance as Maj. Kong greatly improved his career. He later commented, "After Dr. Strangelove the roles, the dressing rooms and the checks all started getting bigger".[15]

George C. Scott as Gen. Buck Turgidson

Kubrick tricked Scott into playing the role of Gen. Turgidson far more ridiculously than Scott was comfortable doing. Kubrick talked Scott into doing "over the top" practice takes, which Kubrick told Scott would never be used, as a way to warm up for the "real" takes. Kubrick used these takes in the final film, causing Scott to swear never to work with Kubrick again.[16]

During the filming, Kubrick and Scott had different opinions regarding certain scenes, but Kubrick got Scott to conform largely by repeatedly beating Scott at chess, which they played frequently on the set.[17] Scott, a skilled player himself, later said that while he and Kubrick may not have always seen eye to eye, he respected Kubrick immensely for his skill at chess.

The character is said to be loosely based on Air Force General Curtis LeMay.[18]


Novel and screenplay

Kubrick on the set of Dr. Strangelove.

Kubrick started with nothing but a vague idea to make a thriller about a nuclear accident, building on the widespread Cold War fear for survival.[19] While doing research, Kubrick gradually became aware of the subtle and unstable "balance of terror" between nuclear powers. At Kubrick's request, Alistair Buchan (the head of the Institute for Strategic Studies), recommended the thriller novel Red Alert by Peter George.[20] Kubrick was impressed with the book, which had also been praised by game theorist and future Nobel Prize in Economics winner Thomas Schelling in an article written for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and reprinted in The Observer,[21] and immediately bought the film rights.[22]

In collaboration with George, Kubrick started writing a screenplay based on the book. While writing the screenplay, they benefited from some brief consultations with Schelling and, later, Herman Kahn.[23] In following the tone of the book, Stanley Kubrick originally intended to film the story as a serious drama. But, as he later explained during interviews, he began to see comedy inherent in the idea of mutual assured destruction as he wrote the first draft. Kubrick said:

My idea of doing it as a nightmare comedy came in the early weeks of working on the screenplay. I found that in trying to put meat on the bones and to imagine the scenes fully, one had to keep leaving out of it things which were either absurd or paradoxical, in order to keep it from being funny; and these things seemed to be close to the heart of the scenes in question.[24]

After deciding to make the film a black comedy, Kubrick brought in Terry Southern as a co-writer. The choice was influenced by reading Southern's comic novel The Magic Christian, which Kubrick had received as a gift from Peter Sellers[5] (which, coincidentally, became a Sellers film in 1969). Sellers is also sometimes considered an uncredited co-writer, as he improvised many lines later added to the script.

Sets and filming

Dr. Strangelove was filmed at Shepperton Studios, in London, as Peter Sellers was in the middle of a divorce at the time, unable to leave England.[25] The sets occupied three main sound stages: the Pentagon War Room, the B-52 Stratofortress bomber and the last one containing both the motel room and General Ripper's office and outside corridor.[5] The studio's buildings were also used as the Air Force base exterior. The film's set design was done by Ken Adam, the production designer of several James Bond films (at the time he had already worked on Dr. No). The black and white cinematography was by Gilbert Taylor, and the film was edited by Anthony Harvey and Stanley Kubrick (uncredited). The original musical score for the film was composed by Laurie Johnson and the special effects were by Wally Veevers.

For the War Room, Ken Adam first designed a two level set which Kubrick initially liked, only to decide later that it was not what he wanted. Adam next began work on the design that was used in the film, an expressionist set that was compared with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang's Metropolis. It was an enormous concrete room (130 feet long and 100 feet (30 m) wide, with a 35-foot (11 m) high ceiling[22]) suggesting a bomb shelter, with a triangular shape (based on Kubrick's idea that this particular shape would prove the most resistant against an explosion). One side of the room was covered with gigantic strategic maps reflecting in a shiny black floor inspired by the dance scenes in old Fred Astaire films. In the middle of the room there was a large circular table lit from above by a circle of lamps, suggesting a poker table. Kubrick insisted that the table be covered with green baize (although this could not be seen in the black and white film) to reinforce the actors' impression that they are playing 'a game of poker for the fate of the world.'[26] Kubrick asked Adam to build the set ceiling in concrete to force the director of photography to use only the on-set lights from the circle of lamps. Moreover, each lamp in the circle of lights was carefully placed and tested until Kubrick was happy with the result.[27]

Lacking cooperation from The Pentagon in the making of the film, the set designers reconstructed the cockpit to the best of their ability by comparing the cockpit of a B-29 Superfortress and a single photograph of the cockpit of a B-52, and relating this to the geometry of the B-52's fuselage. The B-52 was state-of-the-art in the 1960s, and its cockpit was off-limits to the film crew. When some United States Air Force personnel were invited to view the reconstructed B-52 cockpit, they said that "it was absolutely correct, even to the little black box which was the CRM."[8] It was so accurate that Kubrick was concerned whether Ken Adam's production design team had done all of their research legally, fearing a possible investigation by the FBI.[8]

In several shots of the B-52 flying over the polar ice en route to Russia, the shadow of the actual camera plane, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, is visible on the snow below. The B-52 was a Monogram 1:72 scale model composited into the arctic footage which was sped up to create a sense of jet speed.[28] Home movie footage included in Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove on the 2001 Special Edition DVD release of the film shows clips of the Fortress with a cursive "Dr. Strangelove" painted over the rear entry hatch on the right side of the fuselage.


Red Alert author Peter George collaborated on the screenplay with Kubrick and satirist Terry Southern. Red Alert was more solemn than its film version and it didn't include the character of Dr. Strangelove, though the main plot and technical elements were quite similar. A novelization of the actual film, rather than a re-print of the original novel, was published by George, based on an early draft where the film was meant to be bookended by aliens trying to understand what happened after arriving at a wrecked Earth.

During the filming of Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick learned that Fail-Safe, a film with a similar theme, was being produced. Although Fail-Safe was to be an ultra-realistic thriller, Kubrick feared that its plot resemblance would damage his film's box office potential, especially if it were released first. Indeed, the novel Fail-Safe (on which the film of the same name is based) is so similar to Red Alert that Peter George sued on charges of plagiarism and settled out of court.[29] What worried Kubrick most was that Fail-Safe boasted acclaimed director Sidney Lumet and first-rate dramatic actors Henry Fonda as the American President and Walter Matthau as the advisor to the Pentagon, Professor Groeteschele. Kubrick decided to throw a legal wrench into Fail-Safe's production gears. Lumet recalled in the documentary, Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove: "We started casting. Fonda was already set... which of course meant a big commitment in terms of money. I was set, Walter [Bernstein, the screenwriter] was set... And suddenly, this lawsuit arrived, filed by Stanley Kubrick and Columbia Pictures."

Kubrick argued that Fail Safe's own 1960 source novel of the same name had been plagiarized from Peter George's Red Alert, to which Kubrick owned creative rights, and pointed out unmistakable similarities in intentions between the characters Groeteschele and Strangelove. The plan worked, and Fail-Safe opened eight months behind Dr. Strangelove, to critical acclaim but mediocre ticket sales.

Original ending: the pie fight

The cream pie fight removed from the final cut

The end of the film shows Dr. Strangelove exclaiming "Mein Führer, I can walk!" before cutting to footage of nuclear explosions, with Vera Lynn singing "We'll Meet Again." This footage comes from nuclear tests such as shot BAKER of Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll, the Trinity test, the bombing of Nagasaki, a test from Operation Sandstone and one of the massive hydrogen bomb tests from Operation Redwing. In some shots old warships (such as the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen), which were used as targets, are plainly visible. In others the smoke trails of rockets used to create a calibration backdrop can be seen. It was originally planned for the film to end with a scene that was filmed, with 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."[25] 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."[8] 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.'"[8]

Peter Sellers, in a biographic documentary, was credited with suggesting the Vera Lynn music for the ending.[citation needed]

The Kennedy assassination

A first test screening of the film was scheduled for November 22, 1963, the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination. 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.

One line by Slim Pickens – "a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff" – was dubbed to change "Dallas" to "Vegas," Dallas being the city where Kennedy was killed. The original reference to Dallas survives in some foreign language-dubbed versions of the film, including the French release.

The assassination also serves as another possible reason why the pie-fight scene was cut. In the scene General Turgidson exclaims, "Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!" after Muffley takes a pie in the face. Editor Anthony Harvey states that "[the scene] would have stayed, except that Columbia Pictures were horrified, and thought it would offend the president's family."[30]



From the opening scene of a "boom and receptacle" aerial refueling between a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker and a B-52 Stratofortress (set to an instrumental version of Harry M. Woods's "Try a Little Tenderness") to General Ripper's sexual dysfunction being at the root of the eventual apocalypse, sexual references appear throughout the film.

The character of Dr. Strangelove is laced with innuendo, even aside from his suggestive name. He is the character responsible for creating fantasies of a polygamous post-apocalyptic society with a ratio of "ten females to each male,"

General Jack D. Ripper is named after Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial killer who murdered prostitutes in London in the late 1880s. General Ripper's primary concern about Communism is his assertion that water fluoridation is "a Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids," of which he was made aware when his "loss of essence" during "the physical act of love" fatigued him. Ripper's paranoia about water fluoridation is based on a conspiracy theory by the John Birch Society, which was prominent in conservative politics in the early 1960s.[31] He continues to explain that women "seek the life essence" and then says, "I do not avoid women but... I do deny them my essence." Here "essence" is used as a synonym or euphemism for semen.

Many characters' names involve sexual wordplay. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake's last name refers to the Mandrake plant, which has mythical fertility properties. The Soviet Ambassador Alexei de Sadesky is named for the Marquis de Sade, and Premier Dmitri Kisov's last name is pronounced "Kissoff," a pun on "kiss off." Major "King" Kong rides a phallic-looking H-bomb,[32] which explodes as he approaches the "target of opportunity," when they are unable to reach the primary target, Laputa (in Spanish: la puta means "the whore"), though the airborne island in Gulliver's Travels is also implied. President Merkin Muffley's first name, merkin, is a pubic wig, and his last name is a take on muff (a furry handwarmer, and also slang for the female genitalia). General Turgidson's name has as its root, "turgid" which euphemistically refers to the male erection. Colonel "Bat" Guano's name is a scatological (rather than sexual) play on words meaning bat feces which could echo the slang term bat-shit, meaning insanity.

The only female character in the film is General Turgidson's secretary (Tracy Reed) who appears in a sleek bedroom with twin beds and a sun lamp, wearing a bikini. Although she tells a caller they are working, there is a clear implication she and the general have a sexual relationship (in a later phone call, Turgidson tries to reassuringly say he will make her "Mrs. Buck Turgidson"). Reed is also shown as the Playboy centerfold being looked at by Major Kong.[4] In this photograph most of her bottom is hidden by the January 1963 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, hence Tracy Reed was billed as "Miss Foreign Affairs."

Satirizing the Cold War

Dr. Strangelove takes passing shots at numerous Cold War attitudes, such as the "missile gap," but it primarily focuses its satire on the theory of mutual assured destruction (MAD), in which each side is supposed to be deterred from a nuclear war by the prospect of a universal cataclysmic disaster regardless of who "won." Herman Kahn, in his 1960 On Thermonuclear War, used the theoretical example of a doomsday machine to illustrate the concept of mutual assured destruction (MAD); in effect, Kahn argued, both sides already had a sort of doomsday machine, since their nuclear arsenals were large enough to destroy most life on Earth. Kahn, a leading critic of American strategy during the 1950s, urged Americans to plan for a limited nuclear war, and later became one of the architects of the MAD doctrine in the 1960s. Kahn, as a physicist-turned strategist, reasoned that a nuclear war was inherently unwinnable (therefore, suicidal) and that suicide was illogical; thus, neither side would be willing to engage in all-out nuclear war. Kahn came off as cold and calculating; for instance, in his works, he estimated how many human lives the United States could lose and still rebuild economically. This attitude is reflected in Turgidson's remark to the president about the outcome of a pre-emptive nuclear war: "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops, uh, depending on the breaks." Turgidson also has a binder that is labelled "World Targets in Megadeaths."

The portrayals of Ripper and Turgidson are usually compared to the fiery personality of Air Force general Curtis LeMay and his direct subordinates in the Strategic Air Command.


The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted it the 24th greatest comedy film of all time. It is one of the rare films to have received a 100 percent "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[33] and it is ranked 15th top film of all time on TopTenReviews Movies. It is ranked number six in the All-Time High Scores chart of Metacritic's Video/DVD section with an average score of 96,[34] and is currently ranked the 30th greatest film of all time at the Internet Movie Database.[35]

Roger Ebert has Dr. Strangelove in his list of Great Movies,[36] saying it is "arguably the best political satire of the century." It is also rated as the fifth greatest film – the highest rated comedy – in Sight & Sound’s directors’ poll.

Awards and honors

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and also seven BAFTA Awards, of which it won four.

Academy Awards nominations:

BAFTA Awards nominations:

  • Best British Actor: Peter Sellers
  • Best British Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, Terry Southern
  • Best Foreign Actor: Sterling Hayden

BAFTA Awards won:

  • Best British Art Direction (Black and White): Ken Adam
  • Best British Film
  • Best Film From Any Source
  • UN award.

In addition, the film won the best written American comedy award from the Writers Guild of America and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Kubrick himself won two awards for best director, from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, and was nominated for one by the Directors Guild of America.

American Film Institute recognition

See also



  1. ^ P.D. Smith, Doomsday Men: The Real Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon Macmillan (2007), p. 424-426.
  2. ^ WSJ.com, Opinion piece by James Earl Jones about Doctor Strangelove.
  3. ^ The distinctive bikinied torso on the cover dates this as the real June 1962 issue, which features the pictorial "A Toast to Bikinis" (being a play on the testing-site atoll for nukes), shown as the pinups on the inside of the B-52's safe door. Grant B. Stillman, "Last Secrets of Strangelove Revealed", 2008.
  4. ^ a b For the pose, Reed lay flat on her chest and had the January 1963 (Vol. 41, No. 2) issue of Foreign Affairs covering her buttocks. Despite this modest pose, her mother was furious. In the novel and advertising posters the Playboy model is referred to as "Miss Foreign Affairs". Brian Siano, "A Commentary on Dr. Strangelove", 1995 and "Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove", a documentary included with the 40th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of the film.
  5. ^ a b c d Terry Southern, "Notes from The War Room", Grand Street, issue #49
  6. ^ a b Lee Hill, "Interview with a Grand Guy": interview with Terry Southern
  7. ^ In the fictionalized biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, it is suggested that Sellers faked the injury as a way to force Kubrick to release him from the contractual obligation to play this fourth role.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove", a documentary included with the 40th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of the film
  9. ^ Jeffrey Townsend, et al., 'Red Alert' in John Tibbetts & James Welsh (eds), The Encyclopedia of Novels into Films, New York, 1999, pp. 183-6
  10. ^ Paul Boyer, 'Dr. Strangelove' in Mark C. Carnes (ed.), Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, New York, 1996.
  11. ^ Frayling, Christopher. Mad, Bad, and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema. London: Reaktion, 2006. p.26
  12. ^ a b Lee Hill - A Grand Guy: The Life and Art of Terry Southern (Bloomsbury, 2001), pp.118-119
  13. ^ Biography for Dan Blocker at Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ "Movie Night!". Phenry.org. 1999-02-22. http://www.phenry.org/movies/movienight/strangelove.php. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  15. ^ Slim Pickens biography
  16. ^ James Earl Jones (2004-11-16). "A Bombardier's Reflection". Opinionjournal.com. http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110005898. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  17. ^ "Kubrick on The Shining" from Michel Ciment, 'Kubrick', Holt, Rinehart, and Winston; 1st American ed edition (1983), ISBN 0-03-061687-5
  18. ^ ""Reflecting on Curtis E. Lemay"". Findarticles.com. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3723/is_200611/ai_n17196019. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  19. ^ Brian Siano, "A Commentary on Dr. Strangelove", 1995
  20. ^ Alexander Walker, "Stanley Kubrick Directs", Harcourt Brace Co, 1972, ISBN 0-15-684892-9, cited in Brian Siano, "A Commentary on Dr. Strangelove", 1995
  21. ^ Phone interview with Thomas Schelling by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, published in her book The Worlds of Herman Kahn; The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War (Harvard University Press, 2005) "Dr. Strangelove"
  22. ^ a b Terry Southern,"Check-up with Dr. Strangelove", article written in 1963 for Esquire but unpublished at the time
  23. ^ Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, "The Worlds of Herman Kahn; The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War", Harvard University Press, 2005.
  24. ^ Macmillan International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, vol. 1, p. 126
  25. ^ a b "An Interview with Stanley Kubrick (1969)", published in Joseph Gelmis, The Film Director as Superstar, 1970, Doubleday and Company: Garden City, New York.
  26. ^ "A Kubrick Masterclass", interview with Sir Ken Adam by Sir Christopher Frayling, 2005; excerpts from the interview were published online at Berlinale talent capus and the Script Factory website
  27. ^ Interview with Ken Adam by Michel Ciment, published in Michel Ciment, "Kubrick", Holt, Rinehart, and Winston; 1st American ed edition (1983), ISBN 0-03-061687-5
  28. ^ The camera ship, a former USAAF B-17G-100-VE, serial 44-85643, registered F-BEEA, had been one of four Flying Fortresses purchased from salvage at Altus, Oklahoma in December 1947 by the French Institut Geographique National and converted for survey and photo-mapping duty. It was the last active B-17 of a total of fourteen once operated by the IGN, but it was destroyed in a take-off accident at RAF Binbrook in 1989 during filming of the film Memphis Belle. "1944 USAAF Serial Numbers (44-83886 to 44-92098)". USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to Present. Joseph F. Baugher. http://home.att.net/~jbaugher/1944_6.html. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  29. ^ "Red Alert — Peter Bryant — Microsoft Reader eBook". eBookMall, Inc.. http://www.ebookmall.com/ebook/72987-ebook.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-27. 
  30. ^ "No Fighting in the War Room Or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat", a documentary included with the 40th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of the film
  31. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/trivia
  32. ^ Chris Sheridan, War and Sex, 1995
  33. ^ "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dr_strangelove/. Retrieved August 14, 2009. 
  34. ^ "DVD/Video: All-Time High Scores". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/video/highscores.shtml. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  35. ^ "IMDb Top 250". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/chart/top. Retrieved December 28, 2009. 
  36. ^ Roger Ebert, "Dr. Strangelove (1964)", 11 July 1999


  • Dolan Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
  • Hardwick, Jack and Schnepf, Ed. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies". The Making of the Great Aviation Films, General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
  • Henriksen, Margot A. (1987). Dr. Strangelove's America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age. University of California Press. ISBN 0520083105. http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/6232.php. 
  • Oriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorne, California: Aero Associates Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-9613088-0-X.
  • Rice, Julian (2008). Kubrick's Hope: Discovering Optimism from 2001 to Eyes Wide Shut. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0810862069. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Tom Jones
BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source
Succeeded by
My Fair Lady
Preceded by
Tom Jones
BAFTA Award for Best British Film
Succeeded by
The Ipcress File


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, commonly known as Dr. Strangelove, is a 1964 satirical film about the Cold War in which an insane renegade general attempts to start a nuclear war and others attempt to avert it.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Written by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George, based on the book Red Alert by Peter George.
The hot-line suspense comedy


President Merkin Muffley

  • [on the phone, after having been told that the Russian Premier is drunk] Hello? Uh, hello? Hello, Dmitri? Listen, I can't hear too well, do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little? [pause] Oh, that's much better. Yes. Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri. Clear and plain and coming through fine. I'm coming through fine too, eh? Good, then. Well then, as you say we're both coming through fine. Good. Well, it's good that you're fine, and - and I'm fine. I agree with you. It's great to be fine. [Laughs] Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. [pause] The BOMB, Dmitri! The hydrogen bomb! Well now, what happened is, uh, one of our base commanders, he had a sort of, well, he went a little funny in the head. You know. Just a little...funny. And uh, he went and did a silly thing. Well, I'll tell you what he did, he ordered his planes...to attack your country. Well, let me finish, Dmitri. Let me finish, Dmitri. Well, listen, how do you think I feel about it? Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri? Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello? [sounding hurt] Of course I like to speak to you! Of course I like to say hello! Not now, but any time, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened. It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call. Listen, if it wasn't friendly,...you probably wouldn't have even got it. They will not reach their targets for at least another hour. [pause] I'm sorry too, Dmitri. I'm very sorry. All right! You're sorrier than I am! But I am sorry as well. I am as sorry as you are Dmitri. Don't say that you are more sorry than I am, because I am capable of being just as sorry as you are. So we're both sorry, all right? All right.

Dr. Strangelove

  • Sir! I have a plan... [stands from his wheelchair] Mein Führer, I can walk!

Base Commander Jack D. Ripper

  • Do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk, ice cream? Ice cream, Mandrake? Children's ice cream!...You know when fluoridation began?...1946. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works. I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love...Yes, a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I-I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women, er, women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake...but I do deny them my essence.


Turgidson: General Ripper called Strategic Air Command Headquarters shortly after he issued the go code. I have a phone transcript of that conversation if you'd like me to to read it.
Muffley: Read it!
Turgidson: Ahem... The Duty Officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact that he had issued the go code, and he said, uh, "Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in, and nobody can bring them back. For the sake of our country, and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them. Otherwise, we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation." Uh... "My boys will give you the best kind of start, 1400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won't stop them now." Uhuh. Uh... "So let's get going, there's no other choice. God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural... fluids. God bless you all." And he hung up.
[Pause as he realizes the implications of General Ripper's words]
Turgidson: Uh, we're... still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.
Muffley: There's nothing to figure out, General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.
Turgidson: We-he-ell, uh, I'd like to hold off judgment on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in.
Muffley: General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring!
Turgidson: Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.
Muffley: General Turgidson, I find this very difficult to understand. I was under the impression that I was the only one in authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.
Turgidson: That's right sir. You are the only person authorized to do so. And although I hate to judge before all the facts are in, it's beginning to look like General Ripper exceeded his authority.

Turgidson: Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops, uh, depending on the breaks.
Muffley: I refuse to go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler.
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.

Russian Ambassador: When it is detonated, it will produce enough lethal radioactive fallout so that within ten months, the surface of the Earth will be as dead as the moon!...When they are exploded, they will produce a Doomsday shroud. A lethal cloud of radioactivity which will encircle the earth for ninety-three years!...It is not anything a sane man would do. The Doomsday Machine is designed to trigger itself automatically...It is designed to explode if any attempt is ever made to untrigger it...
Turgidson: That's a load of Commie bull and an obvious Commie trick.
Muffley: It's absolute madness.
Russian Ambassador: There were those of us who fought against us. But in the end, we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. And at the same time, our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our Doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we'd been spending on defense in a single year. But the deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a Doomsday gap.
Muffley: This is preposterous! I've never approved of anything like that!
Russian Ambassador: Our source was the New York Times.

Dr. Strangelove: I would not rule out the chance to preserve a nucleus of human specimens. It would be quite easy...heh, heh...at the bottom of ah...some of our deeper mineshafts. Radioactivity would never penetrate a mine some thousands of feet deep, and in a matter of weeks, sufficient improvements in dwelling space could easily be provided.
Muffley: How long would you have to stay down there?
Dr. Strangelove: ...I would think that uh, possibly uh...one hundred years...It would not be difficult Mein Fuhrer! Nuclear reactors could, heh...I'm sorry, Mr. President. Nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely. Greenhouses could maintain plant life. Animals could be bred and slaughtered. A quick survey would have to be made of all the available mine sites in the country, but I would guess that dwelling space for several hundred thousands of our people could easily be provided.
Muffley: Well, I, I would hate to have to decide...who stays up and...who goes down.
Dr. Strangelove: Well, that would not be necessary, Mr. President. It could easily be accomplished with a computer. And a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross-section of necessary skills. Of course, it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition. Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time, and little to do. Ha, ha. But ah, with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present Gross National Product within say, twenty years.
Muffley: Wouldn't this nucleus of survivors be so grief-stricken and anguished that they'd, well, envy the dead and not want to go on living?
Dr. Strangelove: When they go down into the mine, everyone would still be alive. There would be no shocking memories, and the prevailing emotion will be one of nostalgia for those left behind, combined with a spirit of bold curiosity for the adventure ahead! [involuntarily gives the Nazi salute and forces it down with his other hand]Ahhh!
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.
Russian Ambassador: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.


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Dr. Strangelove
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Produced by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Peter George (also the novel Red Alert)
Stanley Kubrick
Terry Southern
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Editing by Anthony Harvey
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) January 29, 1964
Running time 94
Country United Kigndom
Language English / Russian
Budget $1.8 million
IMDb profile

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (better known as only Dr. Strangelove) is a 1964 movie directed by Stanley Kubrick, and starring Peter Sellers.

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