There are just some films that unfortunately do not age well. Such classics as Superman and The Terminator are just some of the few films that were stunningly creative in visuals at the time of their releases, but have not looked so good as cinema continues to revolutionize. You know you have a true classic in front of you when you can easily relish in its pure beauty now or 40 years ago. This is partly because a cinephile's eye explicitly fixates on one element at a time upon each viewing. The surreal brilliance of Dr. Strangelove has resonated from beyond its restricted Cold War era release to our less restrictive, but still oversuspicious current era.
In such a conservatively biased time, the Cold War satire was not without its controversies. Partially based on Peter George’s Red Alert, I guess you can call it that, although the film could have easily been credited as an original piece since it bears little to no resemblance to its novel— other than its main plot point. The film was intended to be a dramatic war story piggybacking on the nuclear war climate. Although, it was a hot topic that many filmmakers thought to get behind, with Fail-Safe, Sidney Lumet’s film being released on the heels of Dr. Strangelove.
Stanley Kubrick, in his usual outlier style of thinking, made the ingeniously loathsome alternative of turning George’s suspenseful novel into a satirical black comedy. Of course, to say that the masterful film did not have its obstacles to overcome would be like saying you can do hurdles without jumping. Dr Strangelove or, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, has it is so amply titled, was the right film at the wrong time, or the wrong film at the right time (depending on how you view its initial reception). The film did garner a slew of Academy Award Nominations, but it has now become a renowned classic showcasing Kubrick’s future career of apparent regardlessness to strife and the type of thinking that was well ahead of its time.
Here are just some of the few well known, but nonetheless, entertaining facts about the film’s troubled shoot as well as its cast and crew.
10. The Influences Of Dr. Strangelove
Nuclear War strategist Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), the German confidant that President Muffley (also Peter Sellers) brings in for his expertise. With Hungarian Manhattan Project developer John von Neumann and German aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun just some of the few people who offered inspiration to the character. Both are European physicist developers who revolutionized the concept of the hydrogen bomb.
While von Braun was less sympathetic to Nazi ideologies, his innovative discoveries and lust for conquering over totalitarian governments was an easy transfer to Dr. Strangelove. Now, unlike von Neumann and more like Strangelove, von Braun was a member of the Nazi party, even developing hydrogen and rocket technology in the SS outfit. Kubrick draws from von Braun’s engineering genius as well as his dapper signature suit and sunglasses in parallel fashion.
9. 'We’ll Meet Again'
On its own, Dr. Strangelove is a masterwork of satirical fiction, but the film would not be the same without its well known opening and ending song “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn. A popular song during and at the end of World War II— it was a tune that perfectly reflected the World War era for soldiers and the family of soldiers. Kubrick’s use of the song is a satire in of itself. Ending the film with the song playing over clips of atomic bombings, it was a comical contradiction of Cold War era emotions with patriotism of World War II.
8. Longest Titled Movie To Be Nominated For An Academy Award
As said, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was nominated for four Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Actor (Sellers), and Adapted Screenplay). Not only being the most popular movie nominated that year, it also has the longest movie title before and since with 13 words in its title. That’s right, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) cannot hold a candle to Kubrick’s classic.
7. 'Three Roles For The Price Of Six' — Stanley Kubrick
Dr. Strangelove would not be as much of a flawless epic without each of the irreplaceable performances of Peter Sellers. So good he was, I don’t think anyone would mind if he played every single one of the roles. With the characters of Dr. Strangelove, President Muffley, and Captain Mandrake, and Major Kong originally before Slim Pickens took over, all being as memorable as the next because of one man. Of course, Kubrick could not have been the only brilliant mind to have thought of that. And, in fact, he wasn’t, since Peter Sellers played three roles, Duchess Gloriana, the Prime Minister, Rupert Mountjoy, and military leader Tully Bascomb in The Mouse that Roared.
6. Dr. Strangelove Syndrome
Dr. Strangelove’s past history of working with the Nazi party may have gone over the heads of the American diplomats, but his alien hand syndrome certainly did not. Seriously? Yeah, that is an actual medical condition. There have been studies that have taken place since the release of the film, with some doctors even calling it Dr. Strangelove syndrome, but alien hand syndrome, or diagnostic apraxia, is a sensation in the hand where its actions are forced outside of one’s control. With strokes and brain disorders being a main culprit of the syndrome, its effects may be traumatic in the real world, but it certainly is amusing in the cinematic one.
5. November 22, 1963
Dr. Strangelove’s most avid fans know this one, but the film was actually supposed to be screened to the critics on November 22, 1963, the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But, like he did for A Clockwork Orange seven years later, Kubrick withdrew the film and, instead, released it in the dreaded month of January of 1964. Speaking of the JFK assassination…
4. Major 'King' Kong Re-Dubbed
A lot of the film’s dialogue had to be re-dubbed in post-production. With massive emotions and sentiments still rolling with the death of President Kennedy, the producers of Dr. Strangelove did whatever they could to make the film’s release an easier pill to swallow. I mean, it was already going to be a satire on Cold War paranoia, something that President Kennedy and those in Washington, D.C. were synonymous with. The line in particular was when Major Kong (Slim Pickens) is going through the survival kit in case the aircraft is shot down. Using the line “A fella could have a good weekend in Dallas” to describe the survival kit’s commodities. The line makes sense given Major Kong’s southern roots, but it was later re-dubbed to say Vegas as opposed to Dallas, the place of Kennedy’s assassination.
3. Congress Policies
The prospects of something like this happening in reality were merely laughed off at the beginning, but what made the film so frightening upon its release was when the U.S. government decided to test if something like this could actually happen. Before the release of the film, the responsibility of the code coordinates for a impending nuclear launch was usually given to one single individual of a political power. If that powerful political figure were to go “a little funny in the head” (you have to see the movie) than we would be living in a much different world where toxic air and zombies coincide in a nuclear holocaust. Since then, congress has changed policy so that more than one individual can have the code coordinates, and by the 1970’s coded switches were utilized to limit unauthorized nuclear launches.
2. Poker In The War Room
Dr. Strangelove’s empowering black-and-white cinematography has given the Kubrick’s film a slick stylized approach to imminent doom with gray coats of shadowy picturesque details of bright lights and smokey frames. The film, most likely, could have been perceived quite differently with color frames. One of the unfortunate details of Kubrick's that was added to the film’s trivialities was a green speed cloth, reminiscent of a poker table. In theory, it makes sense narrative-wise since the political leaders are gambling with the lives of America and the Soviet Union, but it was left unnoticed by Gilbert Taylor’s cinematography.
1. Paranoia Much?
Before main production began in England, Stanley Kubrick’s favorite country to film in, hired a second unit crew to fly around the Arctic circle. Flying in a plane with “Dr. Strangelove” written on the side, the crew’s flight was flagged down by American fly fighters. Unknowingly, the crew was flying over an American base in Greenland. Thinking that the second unit crew were Soviet Union spies, the crew was signaled to land, upon touchdown— the crew was taken out and forced lay on the ground until their actual identities were confirmed. Did I mention that this was a very conservative era with Cold War paranoia?
Fun Fact: There's an unseen pie fight deleted scene that was meant to end the film.