Monday, June 11, 2012
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Special Edition)
#26 (1998) and #39 (2007) on the AFI 100 Greatest Movies List
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, commonly known as Dr. Strangelove, is a 1964 black comedy film which satirizes the nuclear scare. It was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, and featuring Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, and Slim Pickens. The film is loosely based on Peter George's Cold War thriller novel Red Alert, also known as Two Hours to Doom.
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 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. It separately follows the crew of one B-52 as they try 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.
* Peter Sellers as:
o Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a British exchange officer.
o President Merkin Muffley, the American Commander-in-Chief.
o Dr. Strangelove, the wheelchair-bound nuclear war expert and former Nazi whose uncontrollable hand apparently has a Nazi mind of its own.
* George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson, an over-the-top and jingoist General who does not trust the Soviet ambassador.
* Sterling Hayden as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, a paranoid ultra-nationalist. Jack the Ripper was a serial murderer in 19th century London.
* Keenan Wynn as Colonel "Bat" Guano, the Army officer who finds Mandrake and the dead Ripper. Bat guano is bat excrement, prized as an agricultural fertilizer.
* Slim Pickens as Major T. J. Kong, the B-52 Stratofortress bomber's commander and pilot.
* Peter Bull as Soviet Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski.
* James Earl Jones as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, the B-52's bombardier.
* Tracy Reed as Miss Scott, General Turgidson's secretary and mistress, the film's only female character. Reed also appears as "Miss Foreign Affairs," the centerfold in the June 1962 issue of Playboy magazine that Major Kong is shown reading in the cockpit.
* Shane Rimmer as Capt. "Ace" Owens, the B-52 co-pilot.
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."
Peter Sellers playing
Group Captain Mandrake sitting at an IBM 7090 console,
President Merkin Muffley,
and Dr. Strangelove.
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 then Sellers sprained an ankle and could not work in the cramped cockpit set.
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