Did we miss any relevant features for this product? Tell us what we missed.
Kubrik originally set out to do a serious treatment of the book. But Kubrik found as he tried to develop the screenplay that he kept running into scenes that he ended up writing as satire. Recognizing the challenge, Kubrik enlisted the talents of one of the best comedic screenwriters in Hollywood, Terry Southern, to do the screenplay.
Casting the film was part genius and part hit-and-miss happy accident. ... Somehow Slim Pickens' name came up and Pickens accepted the role of the B-52 bomber pilot. Even more ironic yet, Slim Pickens was more conservative than Dan Blocker, but Pickens never caught on during the film's production that Dr. Strangelove was a comedy, much less a satire and a farce unsympathetic to the official propaganda of the cold war.
In of itself, it was a comic master stroke telling Pickens play the role seriously. Pickens was apparently no great wit, so Kubrik was able to keep Pickens completely unaware that Pickens was actually playing in a comedy, not a serious war movie (one can only assume that the humor of the situation was not lost on the other cast members, including James Earl Jones who played Capt. Kong's bombardier.. "Don't tell Slim this is all a big joke, we have to let him think this is a real war movie." ).
Other than Peter Sellers' roles, George C. Scott (later in "Patton") and Sterling Hayden delivered memorable performances. Both were obviously instructed to play their roles "over the top." Kubrik instructed Scott to overact the role of the cigar-smoking, gut-slapping, martini-drinking & womanizing General Buck Turgidson (get it? Turgid-son?). In the scene in the war room where Turgidson exuberantly proclaims the spectacle of a B-52 bomber evading radar by hedge-hopping, Kubrik instructed George C. Scott to deliberately overact the part. Kubrik had Scott re-take the scene several times, asking Scott to make it even more over-the-top than before. On the last take of that scene, Scott practically performed it as a burlesque parody, which was of course, the final take that Kubrik actually used.
Sterling Hayden delivered a brilliant performance as the psychotic Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, the Air Force general who unilaterally orders the nuclear strike against the USSR. The confusion of Cold War paranoia, paranoid psychosis and false sexual power in Hayden's scenes is the blackest of black satire. Totally over the top, ludicrous and frightenlingly possible (what if one of your top military brass really went insane and over-rode all the safe-guards against nuclear war?). The insane babblings of General Ripper set the film's direction and act as its centerpiece, delivering both Kubrik's satire of anti-communist propaganda and the air of impossible odds for the rest of the film's characters to overcome that they might somehow avert doomsday.
Peter Seller's performances as the President, the British officer and Dr. Strangelove (a left-over Nazi scientist) are memorable, Sellers delivers the title role as the deranged wheelchair-bound Nazi scientist who suffers from involuntary palsied "Seig Hiels!" in his right arm. Again sex is the real underlying motive to yet another character and the opportunities for a sexually prodigious post-apocalyptic eugenic world brings the deranged Strangelove to a frenzied outburst of libidinal energy: "Mein Fuhrer! I can vwalk!" But as much as I enjoy Sellers' roles, they seem overshadowed by the rest of the film's characters. P>It comes probably of no surprise that the U.S. Air Force refused to assist Kubrik in shooting the movie. Having to choice, Kubrik had to resort to mocking up the B-52 flying scenes and bomber interior cabin scenes as best he could (the bomber interior was apparently such a good replica of the real thing that the FBI launched an investigation into who gave Kubrik such a detailed layout of a B-52's flight deck). Appropriately, the exterior B-52 flying scenes hold a comic flaw if you look closely enough: In one scene, as the damaged bomber hedge-hops across the Siberian taiga (northern boreal forest), you can see that the underlying shadow of the plane is actually that of a four-engine propellor aircraft and doesn't match the profile of the overlaid B-52 model.
Suffice it to say, when the movie came out, it was not universally received or even widely understood. It was drummed by political commentators and movie reviewers who found it to be tasteless and sophomoric. The studio was very concerned about the potential a negative backlash from its release (consider that in the same year, the Manchurian Candidate was withdrawn from theaters after Kennedy was assassinated). An internal memo described Dr. Strangelove as "a huge, sick malefic joke" and questioned the wisdom of even releasing the movie at all. After all, the movie starts off with B-52's and tanker planes copulating during mid-flight refuelings, displays Air Force "Peace is Our Profession" billboards in the midst of a fire fight between the US Army and Air Force security, depicts two Air Force generals as complete sex-obsessed baffoons, one a psychotic and the other a braying ass, delivers a deranged Nazi scientist and finally a cowboy pilot bucking the biggest phallic bronco of his career (never mind blowing up the world).
I can think of few other films whose film makers so defied convention and created a story that really turned conventional wisdom on its head. Dr. Strangelove keeps coming at you as one outrageous scene after another, interspersed with segments of complete straight-faced dead-pan, piling them all on until the fateful end. When Pickins died in 1983, CBS news anchor Dan Rather delivered the obituary replete with the out take of Pickins riding the bomb (Perhaps DeForest Kelley topped that and made good on his threat to have "He's dead, Jim" engraved on his tombstone....).
There are some things you just can't live down: Being the face that gets a great closing falling scene that leads to the end of all life on Earth happens to be one of those things. Poor Slim, he's probably suffering in a purgatory of a Liberal Methodist heaven.
In closing, I have to agree with that long-forgotten studio executive who wrote in the memo: Dr. Strangelove *IS* a huge, sick malefic joke. But it is one of the finest huge, sick malefic jokes ever created, and stands as a film masterpiece. Those who extoll the virtues of this fil
So we have "Dr. Strangelove," the movie that dares point out how our drive to destroy ourselves just might be some sort of twisted outgrowth of our libido. Hardly a moment goes by in this film without sexual text or context. Even the two bombs in the B-52 (named by its crew, "Leper Colony") are scribbled with what were then considered come-on lines. Deranged Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has sent his air wing into the Soviet Union because he felt a "loss of essence" during the "physical act of love," and is certain this is caused by flouridated water.
Peter Sellars plays three roles, wimpy President Muffley, RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and the title character, the bizarre, wheelchair-bound not-so-former Nazi advisor to the President. The awesome George C. Scott turns in a marvelous performance as Gen. Buck Turgidson, who has difficulty hiding his enthusiasm for Ripper's plan.
But the revelation here is Hayden (veteran of many a manly role), playing a character so concerned with losing his virility, he sets the world on course for an explosive and very final climax. Hayden's performance is a masterpiece of subtle derangement- no drooling or chewing the scenary. Watch for Sellar's reaction when he realizes Hayden's burly, muscular symbol of American power, in his medal-bejeweled Air Force uniform, is completely, irretrievably round the bend. It's a moment of pure, comic horror.
Sellars' characterization of Dr. Strangelove is the epitome of the post-nuclear man as monster. He's completely comfortable, almost gleeful, when talking about mass-murder as an abstraction and a political expediency.
Beautifully filmed in black and white (which gives it a certain Cold War veracity) and featuring some impressive sets and effective, documentary-style combat footage, "Dr. Strangelove" is one of Stanley Kubrick's finest films, uncompromising as it condemns hubris and macho posturing on all sides. And it does it with a weapon hopefully more effective in the long run than A-bombs and H-bombs. Humor.
Watch for Slim Pickens as twangy-voiced Maj. "King" Kong: his final scene has become iconic, and will remain in your mind for days. This movie also features James Earl Jones' movie debut, and yes, even then he had that impressive voice.