A film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button — and it played the situation for laughs. U.S. Air Force General Jack Ripper goes completely insane, and sends his bomber wing to destroy the U.S.S.R. He thinks that the communists are conspiring to pollute the “precious bodily fluids” of the American people.
Stanley Kubrick’s bleak Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb belongs to a class and genre all its own. Here’s everything you need to know about the game-changing film, which made its premiere on January 29, 1964.
The film was originally intended to be a very serious war drama, but as the production progress, the cast and crew found the piece so funny, Kubrick decided to reorient his approach to the film and make it a comedy. He did not intend for the film to be silly or fantastic; on the contrary, all of the situations in the film are gravely important.
Dr Strangelove is part of the vast collection of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest films, and goes down, as the greatest film about the cold war and nuclear scare, which the world has ever seen, combining comedy and a real fright perfectly. Strangelove, or, “How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb”, tells the story of what could happen if the US nuclear programme went wrong. Based around the fears of many Americans, and much of the Western World, at the height of the cold war, a US air force general, who is the only one who has the codes to launch and bring back a fleet of planes carrying nuclear weapons, goes mad, and orders his entire fleet to attack the Soviet Union. As the story unfolds we see the pure exceptional talents of Sellers in three characters, the bumbling British RAF pilot, Lionel Mandrake, the worried and hysterical US President, and the former, (perhaps still), Nazi weapon specialist, Dr Strangelove. Through each of these characters, alongside marvellous acting from George C. Scott and Peter Bull, we see the fleet of H-Bombs draw closer to the USSR from four different perspectives, as the possibility of a nuclear war draws ever closer. Released to cinemas just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the world came closer to nuclear war than ever before, Kubrick, in all his wit and talent, took a very real possibility, exposing the weaknesses of the safeguards of nuclear warfare, and made audiences laugh with joy, despite the fact the event could have happened just later that afternoon. With Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, and the direction of Stanley Kubrick, the film makes for an incredibly entertaining ride, where we are taken along with each of the characters, and allowing us to look right into the weaknesses of the nuclear programme. The acting of each and every character is purely fantastic, and a quality which most people would find hard to top. The cinematography, in the style of a documentary like handheld camera, adds to the realism, whilst at the same time, adding to the ridiculous and humorous connotations of a nuclear war breaking out. The script, based on a serious novel called Red Alert, was adapted perfectly for the funny and sharp style Kubrick was aiming for, balancing moments of serious action and tension, with the laugh out loud moments following straight after. It is hard not to laugh at the fantastic film which Kubrick has produced. Whilst it may be more than 50 years old, and the cold war has come to an end many years ago, Dr Strangelove still impacts on audiences today, in the same way it did in 1964. A fantastically funny, brilliantly acted, and exceptionally directed story, which only the master team of Sellers, Scott and Kubrick could achieve.
I never would have thought that such a simple story and such simple situations could turn into such a loveable film. As the military plans nuclear war it’s almost as if the cameras have been placed around the board of directors as the plan attacks. The conversations are so well plotted out that it seemed as though I was watching a documentary in moments.
Dr. Strangelove is a 1964 dark-humored satire on Cold War politics and nuclear weaponry directed by Stanley Kubrick. Teens who view this movie may need some background to understand the sense of helpless peril of the Cold War years. They may also need some preparation to understand the nature of black comedy, and some may find it, and particularly the unconventional ending, very disturbing. There is cigar and cigarette smoking and occasional sexualized imagery, including a scantily clad secretary clearing having an affair with her boss. Off screen, a character commits suicide with a bullet to the head. There are some battle scenes involving the U.S. Army fighting with itself after a tyrannical general takes over a base and tries to start World War III.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 motion picture “Dr. Strangelove” or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.As we all know that when the script for the movie was first written it was not a funny, but a very serious movie about nuclear disaster in which every leaving creature on thisplanet would die. However when the director Stanley Kubrick began to film, things have changed. It was decided that it should be a comedy, a parody about nuclear war. Now the question arises why would they change it?In 1964 when the movie was filmed Cold War was at its peak, Cuban Missile crisis were just over and people were still in a shock. We have to take into consideration that people during those days had nothing to joke about, because any moment “Ruskis” might come and nuke America. I think that Stanley Kubrick did a right decision by changing the movie from a serious genre to a comedy. I think the reason was that people were already enough scared and paranoid about nuclear war, also making a serious movie would only make things worse. Let’s picture our selves in 1964, do we really want to see how one day we can all die and not be saved by Bruce Willis or George Clooney? I don’t think so, especially at those times. People don’t like to talk about horrible things that can happen or what can go wrong, so I believe that one of the reasons why the script of the movie was changed is because otherwise no one would have seen it, or…
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, more commonly known as Dr. Strangelove, is a 1964 political satire black comedy film that satirizes the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. The film was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, stars Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, and features Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, and Slim Pickens. Production took place in the United Kingdom. The film is loosely based on Peter George’s thriller novel Red Alert (1958).
Strangelove presents an indictment of war, military power, and blind hubris in the form of a hilarious, understated satire. Satire is a literary genre that uses comedy for social commentary.
Dr. Strangelove critiques mutually assured destruction, a military strategy that posits that the use of nuclear weapons can only lead to the annihilation of both sides in a conflict. The Cuban Missile Crisis lingered in recent memory in 1964, when Dr. Strangelove opened in theaters across the country. Kubrick utilizes satire in the film to critique the political climate of the early Cold War. Satires provide the kind of critical distance that comes with exaggerating a situation enough to be able to step back from yourself and have a laugh at the absurdity of it all.
The story concerns an unhinged United States Air Force general who orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. It follows the President of the United States, his advisers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer as they try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. It separately follows the crew of one B-52 bomber as they try to deliver their payload.In 1989, the United States Library of Congress included Dr. Strangelove in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
During the writing process, however, the director found himself struggling to escape a persistent comedic overtone because he found the vast majority of the political calamities described in the story to be inherently funny. Eventually, Kubrick abandoned the idea of fighting the adaptation’s dark sense of humor and embraced it wholeheartedly.
The film proceeds to switch between three settings: the B-52 bomber, Burpleson Air Force Base, and the War Room at the Pentagon in Washington DC.
The Big Lebowski to Jeffrey Lebowski a.k.a. the Dude in The Big Lebowski (1998)) Beginning with the landmark Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), dark comedy emerged as a genre that allowed filmmakers to develop serious cultural critiques of American politics and society in the guise of comedies. Dark comedy also permitted filmmakers to take on more controversial or serious subject matter at a time when the longstanding strictures of the Production Code Administration (PCA) were increasingly under siege but had not yet been dismantled.
“Dr. Strangelove’s” humor is generated by a basic comic principle: People trying to be funny are never as funny as people trying to be serious and failing. The laughs have to seem forced on unwilling characters by the logic of events. A man wearing a funny hat is not funny. But a man who doesn’t know he’s wearing a funny hat … ah, now you’ve got something.
The characters in “Dr. Strangelove” do not know their hats are funny. The film begins with Gen. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) fondling a phallic cigar while launching an unauthorized nuclear strike against Russia. He has become convinced that the commies are poisoning “the purity and essence of our natural fluids” by adding fluoride to the water supply. (Younger viewers may not know that in the 1950s this was a widespread belief.) Ripper’s nuclear strike, his cigar technique and his concern for his “precious bodily fluids” are so entwined that they inspire unmistakable masturbatory associations.
Strangelove has a black-gloved mechanical prosthetic arm that he can’t control. The black glove belonged to Kubrick, who wore them on the set to protect his hand from the hot lights he was handling. Sellers thought it would be a great prop for Strangelove, and it also reminded him of the black-gloved mad scientist in Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis. As a famous scientist in Fascist Germany, Strangelove probably had access to the latest and greatest biotech engineering guys to design his prosthetic arm. But it has a few glitches; it has a life of its own and has the tendency to fly up in a Nazi salute, or grab Strangelove menacingly. The arm represents one of the movie’s major motifs: man-made technology that escapes human control and wreaks havoc on us. Kubrick evidently thinks that’s hugely ironic and incredibly funny. In the last scene in the film where Strangelove’s gleefully laying out his survival-of-a-superior-race plans for humanity, he’s desperately trying to control his disobedient arm while trying not to look like an idiot. He can’t. It’s pure genius.
In retrospect, Kubrick’s black comedy provided a far more accurate description of the dangers inherent in nuclear command-and-control systems than the ones that the American people got from the White House, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media.
“Dark” or “black” humor occurs when funny elements are introduced in an otherwise serious or pessimistic atmosphere, thus producing a satiric result. Dark humor in films can unsettle the audience’s expectations, infuse dramatic scenes with comic tension, and deliver the film’s messages in sophisticated ways. The title sequence of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb(1964) is a textbook example of black humor: the scene plays a light, airy rendition of the song “Try a Little Tenderness” while showing U.S. bomber planes refueling in mid-air and flying calmly through the skies. Later in the film, a deadpan Colonel “Bat” Guano (Keenan Wynn) implies that having to answer to the giant Coca Cola Company for breaking into one of their soda machines for change is a more dire situation than trying to call off a nuclear attack. George C. Scott’s General Turgidson provides humorous understatement when he says that General Jack D. Ripper (yes, the names satirically emphasize the connection between sex and brutality), “may have exceeded his authority” in ordering a nuclear attack. Equally funny is when Turgidson says that the whole military decision-making process should not be scrapped because of “one slip-up,” as if, even if that one mistake causes human extinction, it shouldn’t be criticized too harshly. The Russian leader’s name, “Premiere Kissoff,” is an appropriate comment on what is happening to the human race. And, when Slim Pickens’ Major Kong promises citations and promotions for his crew after their mission, it strikes the audience that there can hardly be any “after” following the explosion of the nuclear weapons. The plane’s H-bombs themselves are hilariously labelled “Nuclear Warheads – Handle with Care,” as if they were some dinner plates in a crate. All of these examples of wit not only contribute laughs for the audience, but they also reveal subtleties about the attitudes and ideologies the film is satirizing. These touches of black humor help elevate the film to a level of social commentary that has stood the test of time.
The impact of “Dr. Strangelove” as both a cautionary tale and a “nightmare comedy” (in Kubrick’s words) has not lessened with the passing of years; indeed, it has become more pronounced. Much of Sellers’ work as Strangelove was improvised, and Kubrick, recognizing the actor’s genius at creating such a horrifically comedic character, gave him free reign.Uncharacteristically for such a meticulous filmmaker, Kubrick even included a take near the end of the film in which Peter Bull, playing the Russian ambassador, is clearly starting to laugh — or as the British put it, “corpse” — in the middle of a scene, reacting to the extreme energy and absurdity of Seller’s performance as the wheelchair-bound, partially paralyzed Dr. Strangelove.
The in communicating role of language is one of the typical themes of traditional criticism when dealing with this film. Language not only detaches characters from their reality but also detaches us from the reality (attack) of the film.
The comic or inappropriate language characters use detaches the audience in two ways: either it makes the viewer reflect about the object under attack or laugh at what (s)he hears without any edifying purpose at all. Once attack is dismissed, the main effect of language will strictly be that of engaging the audience’s attention by providing comedy and laughter. A clear example is the evolution of Muffley’s language. At first his language is completely serious and obeys to a sensible attempt to impose order in the midst of the chaotic situation he is in. But during the short spell in which he appears as a prominent figure his language changes into the outrageously comic speech of the telephone conversation with Premier Kissoff: in this case language carries the weight of the purely comic scene. Kong’s (the bomber’s pilot) portrayal relies on the characterising function of language from the beginning: his extraordinarily vivid accounts and descriptions are presented more as comic elements than as examples of his unawareness. Nevertheless, Strangelove is portrayed as the character whose use of language provides the best examples of comedy in the film. But the comic content of his language does not lie in what he actually says but in the way in which he says it and in the performance which accompanies that speech. Strangelove is an example of how a content which is obviously condemnable is rendered as comic through mainly Strangelove’s funny Germán accent, facial expression and body posture. In this case the context of the utterance outweighs in importance its content and transforms the essence of Strangelove’s appearances from denunciation into pure comedy.
Strangelove’s theatrical performance, his funny Germán accent and the struggle with his own mechanical hand, Major Kong’s final image in which he falls with the bomb as if he were riding a horse, are comic devices which clearly render themselves as artificial and contrived, which will prevent them from being understood as a literal description of an event. This artificial comedy may also present comic symbols and cinematic devices that comment on characters: Ripper’s cigar and pistol are sexual symbols (linking his prepotence in sex and in war), Strangelove’s orthopaedic hand reveals a man dominated by the machine; the President’s bald head and grey suit are symbols of his inefficiency while Kong’s cowboy hat ascribes to him a narrow American mentality. The third use of artificiality in comedy is its capacity to expound and communicate the character’s feelings and values: the atmosphere of outrageous actions and discourses will match Turgidson’s proposals or Strangelove’s ideas about a huge nuclear shelter. Their inability to respond realistically and practically to what is happening will be exposed through evident comic excesses. Artificiality is therefore the basis of this comedy.
After the narrator’s initial mention of a Doomsday device, Kubrick subtly begins his nightmare comedy by suggesting that man’s warlike tendencies and his sexual urges stem from similar aggressive instincts. He does this by showing an airborne B-52 coupling with a refueling plane in mid-air, while the sound track plays a popular love song, “Try a Little Tenderness.” The connection between sexual and military aggression continues throughout the film, as when an otherwise nude beauty in a Playboy centerfold has her buttocks covered with a copy of Foreign Af- fairs, but it is most evident in the names given the characters by the screenwriters. Jack D. Ripper, the deranged SAC general, recalls the sex murderer who terrorized London during the late 1880s. The name of Army strategist Buck Turgidson is also suggestive: his first name is slang for a virile male and his last name suggests both bombast and an adjective meaning “swollen.” Major King Kong, pilot of the B-52, reminds viewers of the simple-minded beast who fell in love with a beautiful blonde. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake’s last name is also the word for a plant repu- tedly known for inducing conception in women, while both names of President Merkin Muffley allude to female genitals. Appropriately, Ripper and Turgidson are hawks, while Muffley is a dove. Other names-Dr. Strangelove, the Soviet Ambassador De Sadesky, and Premier Dmitri Kissov-carry similar associations. These sexual allusions permeate the film, providing one level of the film’s nightmare comedy.
Characters are the life-blood of most stories, but Kubrick takes it to an extreme in Dr. Strangelove. He fully embraces the genius of one of his era’s most-talented comedic minds, and supports him with other great talents. Peter Sellers makesDr. Strangelove, but he has help. Though these characters are interpreted as farcical, none of them are obvious jokesters. Much like Kubrick’s camera plays things straight, all of the characters are genuine. Their characteristics may be exaggerated, but none of them are trying to be funny.
As Daniel R. White writes in Nietzsche at the Altar: Situating the Devotee, “To laugh at the literal behavior of other characters in the social drama, is to change the truth value of what those characters do so as to undermine its seriousness, its claim to veracity, to authority, and so to call it into question.” According to White, once we are able to laugh at something, we disarm it and become free to question its authority and reject it. The effect of laughter White describes is the effect Joseph Heller and Stanley Kubrick intend to evoke in their respective satires, Catch-22 and Dr. Strangelove. The context of war in each of these works has caused many critics to classify it in the war genre. This classification, however, is mistaken because the worlds Heller and Kubrick depict are not horrific on account of war, but rather because individuals are subjected to the arbitrary authority of an impersonal and omnipotent bureaucracy that neither understands nor cares about them. In Catch-22, Heller portrays the bureaucracy through the eyes of his protagonist, Yossarian, who realizes that the control the bureaucracy, represented by his ambitious and impersonal superior officers, exercises over his life is arbitrary.
When Stanley Kubrick was adapting the Peter George novel Red Alert, the rationale behind nuclear warfare couldn’t help but seem ridiculous, and it’s a stroke of genius that Kubrick not only transformed the material into the black comedy, Dr. Strangelove, but found a perfect representation for the insanity in the sexual imagery running throughout the film.
The opening image of a bomber refueling as “Try a Little Tenderness” brazenly plays over the soundtrack has been compared to copulation, and Dr. Strangelove’s rise from his wheelchair, immediately preceding a montage of mushroom clouds, as well as Slim Pickens’ iconic ride on the bomb, have also been compared to sexual climax.