Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a satirical black comedy about the nuclear threat during the cold war directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Peter Sellers. It is highly regarded amongst film critics and theorists and remains as one of Kubrick’s greatest cinematic achievements. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and seven BAFTA’s and regularly appears in ‘top film’ lists compiled by critics, associations and film publications.
Jack D. Ripper, a paranoid General of the United States Air Force believes that the USSR are polluting the American water systems with toxic substances in order to pollute the citizens of the country. In a mad rage, he sends his bomber wing to destroy the USSR. In a meeting with ambassadors and officials, the US President is informed that if a bomb is dropped on the USSR, they will trigger a ‘Doomsday Device’ which will inflict nuclear disaster on the entire planet. The officials have to recall the bombers while trying to determine whether such a device is in existence. Peter Sellers plays three parts in the film, one as British Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, US President Merkin Muffley and a former Nazi genius Dr Strangelove. The fate of the world rests tentatively on the shoulders of these men as they try to prevent the world from catastrophic disaster.
Columbia Pictures agreed to finance the film, but only if Peter Sellers was to play several leading roles as he had done previously in Kubrick’s other film Lolita. Kubrick angrily agreed to such heinous demands and cast Sellers as three main characters.
While the film does not directly mention the Cold War it makes several passes at it, most notably the idea of ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’ (MAD) where both opposing sides threaten to destroy one another with the highest amount of destruction in the hope that one side would inevitably back down. This is mirrored in Dr Strangelove by the ‘Doomsday device’ which is mentioned by the Soviet Ambassador, would the USSR inflict something so strong, knowing full well that they too would be destroyed by it? But would they take that risk? Will they be able to reach all the bombers in time and tell them to turn around and come back? Needless to say, one such bomber goes awry with the pure intention of detonating somewhere, anywhere! In one of the film’s most iconic moments, the crazed pilot rides his bomb like a cowboy as it hurtles towards a field.
If you like political satire, black comedy and Stanley Kubrick I highly recommend giving this a go. It is a true testament to what a phenomenal Director Kubrick was and effortlessly demonstrates the great talent of Peter Sellers.
Further Reading in the Information Store
Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – DVD ZONE – 791.43
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures by Jan Harlan – BOOK ZONE – 778.53092
Stanley Kubrick: Drama and Shadows by Rainer Crone – BOOK ZONE – 770.92