The One about Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”

It was a time of turmoil in the world. There was the threat of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia, how fatalistic Americans were during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US involvement in the military conflict in Vietnam was starting to heighten and tensions were high. Director Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a thriller on a what if there was a nuclear accident.

Using Peter George’s novel “Red Alert” (written back in 1958) as a source to write his film adaption, his knowledge of nuclear war after reading over 50 books on the subject, after the Cuban Missile Crisis started to become a growing concern with Americans, Kubrick wanted to give a unique perspective and not make things so grim. He immediately decided to change the screenplay which was more of a serious thriller into a black comedy.

Needless to say, his decision to do so has made “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” a classic film that was ahead of its time back in 1965 and has so much relevance in today’s modern world. The film was well-written as the film is a satire on the political system, sexual themes (which the names and the characters and their role in the film plays a big part of the film’s theme and their manhood) and most importantly the Cold War.

As basic as this summary is, there is so much detail in the writing of “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” that it is one of those films to watch and just be in awe of. From the performances of Peter Sellers (playing multiple characters) to George C. Scott (who didn’t know that he was being filmed during his run through of scenes) and just the amount of thought and detail that went into the creation of the film.

Director Stanley Kubrick went through many nuclear war books (over 50) and read quite a few of them several times in order to immerse himself and gaining the knowledge he needed in creating the film, finding certain situations of that time that seem absolutely frivolous now but actually did happen during that era and crafting characters based on other characters but giving everything a satirical spin. The results are magnificent and just brilliant!

At first, when hearing General Jack D. Ripper wanting to go to war due to fluoridated water. I thought such a thing was preposterous but then I learned that the John Birch Society at that time thought it was a conspiracy by the US government to introduce fluoridated water into the system. Also, to learn that the “Doomsday Device” was not a far off idea, that a scientist had proposed a Cobalt Bomb that would act like the Doomsday device and annihilate all human life on the Planet.

I was really amazed by this film and it definitely gave the viewers this unique perspective that Stanley Kubrick had at that time but giving it a comedy spin. You have to remember that during that era this film was released, the threat of nuclear war and everyone dying from it was very real. The political tension between the Kennedy Administration and the Russians was very real and very tense. So, for this film to put a comedy spin into nuclear war was probably unheard of. So, needless to say, it was a film ahead of its time and has so much relevance today.


 

Dennis A. Amith