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Dr. Strangelove

A Forthcoming Apocalypse 

by Avinaba Chakraborty


War against the Machine, or is it the other way round?

TLR Rating: 8 Reels.



The twentieth century was filled with lots of man-made disastrous events one after another. First came the World War which many thought of as the war to end all wars, but that concept proved delusive when the world witnessed a devastating mass murder once again even on a bigger scale in the Second World War. After the Second World War was over, a new event called the Cold War became everyone’s favorite topic in the newspapers to worry about. It made the whole world terrified of an incoming nuclear attack and a Third World War. This Cold War era, just like the two world wars gave birth to a lots of art and some of them were in the form of cinema. But is it possible to make a movie about an incoming nuclear threat which will make you laugh? When the director is someone like Stanley Kubrik, nothing is impossible. Loosely based on Peter George’s thriller novel ‘Red Alert’, this political satire, really made us think twice about the situation and just as the title suggests, stopped us from worrying about the nuclear bombs for a while.


In the beginning it seems just like another movie depicting the heroism of American soldiers when we see the crews of one B-52 fighter plane receiving an order from a higher authority general Jack D. Ripper to make a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union; slowly as the time passes by, the satirical nature of this brilliant film is unveiled to us. On the other side of the story, in the war room at the Pentagon, General Buck Turgidson briefs about this attack to the President who is determined to stop this nuclear tragedy at any cost. He invites the soviet ambassador into the war room and communicates with the Soviet president Dimitri Kissov to inform him about the situation and offers to provide all the strategies to bring the planes down if necessary. Ultimately after a heated argument, he came to know about a Doomsday device already developed by the Soviet Union which will detonate automatically on any nuclear strike on Soviet soil causing total annihilation of mankind. From this point the movie is filled with some adrenaline rush moments along with many comic reliefs. In the end ‘Dr Strangelove’, who is an ex-Nazi scientist provides a plan for the future of humans and suggests the President about sending men to live in the underground mineshafts which will be safe from radiation and once the severity of radiation will be gone, then there must be a ten to one female to male ratio in order to repopulate the earth again. Will we be able to escape the annihilation? Will the mission be accomplished to attack the Russians with nuclear weapon? Will the doomsday device be activated? I don’t want to spoil that awesome experience, so you have to watch this movie in order to get those answers.

The General on the line

Every director in every part of the world has some distinct genre of movies at which he is a master, but almost every one of Kubrik’s films belong to different genres, probably that’s why he is treated as a person who is above all. That touch of a visionary makes this movie way more than just a normal satire. In general his movies are considered as phenomena in cinematic world and the audience often have to go to great lengths to interpret them, this one though lacks complexity in comparison with his other works, is not short of messages and brilliant moments at all. The panic of the common people about a nuclear catastrophe, the psychotic nature of political leaders that brings these disasters into existence are all here in this movie from the beginning. At some portions it looks like a comedy of manners and again at some portions it disturbs the inner philosopher in you about the future of humanity. It is a movie where you will experience a disaster with a smile in your face. Other than Kubrik, Peter Sellers did one hell of a job to portray three different critical characters in the movie, the executive officer of General Ripper, the President of USA and ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ He improvised most of his dialogues and his efforts earned him an Academy award nomination. The ending scene with the words of Dr. Strangelove, “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk” is also a bit confusing. The internet is filled with theories like Dr. Strangelove was paralysed by the fears of Nazi officials and this dialogue meant that finally he is able to overcome it but as it is also true that the dialogue was improvised by Sellers himself, so I don’t think those theories are valid ones. But some depictions of machines taking control over humans with the advancement of technology make sense, as we witness the pilots were unable to control the plane at a point of time (Kubrik was obsessed with dehumanization). Some sexual themes are also depicted in the movie as Kubrik claimed, two planes coupling with each other, one supplying fuel to the other while flying in the mid-air, the photo of a model in the playboy magazine who is revealed later as the mistress of general Turgidson, the orgasmic feeling (popularly known as “wargasm”) that some characters get in the movie on thinking about a nuclear ambush indicates so. I may have missed some points but, it is always okay to miss some in a Stanley Kubrik film.

The enigmatic, strange, Dr. Strangelove

The title of this film is absolutely enormous in size and uncanny too. Why a movie is named after a character who appears for less than five minutes and who was not even a part of the main novel? I think though he had a very short on screen time in the movie, ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is a character that symbolizes many things which are associated with the satire. He is the only character who is seen not at all worried by either the nuclear strike or the outcome of the Doomsday machine. Well, that is what the film is all about; that we should stop worrying and live our own life because at the end of the day, we are not the ones who control a war or the future of our planet; we are just puppets to a play written by the cunning politicians. Along with scientific progresses, his character proves how devastating science can be if used by wrong hands. His paralysis may resemble the fact that though the weapons of mass destruction are developed by the scientists but they have little control over their use. The ‘I’ in the title may be anyone, it may be the doctor, it may be Stanley Kubrik himself or it may even be pointed for the audiences out there.

The real power at play

In a nutshell it takes the guts to make a movie about a serious situation in a satirical way and Kubrik did this with magnificence which never fails to cast a spell on the audiences even after more than fifty years of its release.


The author is an electrical engineer, a movie buff and a big fan of Satyajit Ray.

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