Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964) is a dark, dark political satire about the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between Russia and the USA. The film was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, who also did the screenplay with Terry Southern, and stars Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, and features Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, and Slim Pickens.
It follows an unhinged U.S. Air Force general who orders a first strike nuclear attack on the USSR, as President of the United States, his advisors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer as try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Another story line follows a B-52 bomber drew as they try to deliver their payload.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and seven BAFTA Awards, winning four, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Sellers.
The wheelchair-bound title character gets the most laughs with his uncontrollable right arm and occasional outbursts that reveal his loyalty to Adolf Hitler. But, the best line in the film, and today’s quote, belongs to President Merkin Muffley, one of Sellers’ three characters. His delivery is so forceful, so serious, that at first you don’t realize how absurd the line is, as the world faces certain destruction. The sentiment of “Well, everything is fucked so we might as well laugh” makes sense in our own era, when demented men with bad hair play with nuclear weapons while we live in fear.
Dr. Strangelove was filmed in England at Shepperton Studios. Ken Adam was the film’s set designer. He was the production designer of many of James Bond films. The rich black and white cinematography was by Gilbert Taylor.
The ”War Room” that Adam designed is an expressionist set that references The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Fritz Lang‘s Metropolis (1927). It is an enormous concrete room suggesting a bomb shelter, with a triangular shape, based on Kubrick’s notion that a three-sided room would be the most resistant against a nuclear explosion. One side of the room is covered with gigantic strategic maps reflecting in a shiny black floor inspired by the dance numbers from the RKO films with Fred Astaire. In the middle of the room there is a large circular table lit from above by a circle of lamps, suggesting a poker table. Kubrick insisted that the table be covered with green felt (although it is black and white film) to reinforce the actors’ impression that they are playing ”a game of poker for the fate of the world”. Kubrick asked Adam to build the set ceiling in concrete to force Taylor, the cinematographer, to use only the light from the circle of lamps.
Dr. Stranglove, with its black humor and terrifying suspense, is a perfect movie for our own time. With its arch tone and deadpan buffoonery, the scenario is all too real. It is streaming on Hulu and Amazon.