Geeks logo

Dr. Strangelove: Or what happens when two geniuses work together

Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece turns nuclear war into a darkly comic nightmare. And Peter Sellers delivers an iconic comedic performance.

By Bharat BhoitePublished about a month ago 4 min read

In the thick of the Cold War, Stanley Kubrick created a work of art to reflect the state of human society in arguably the most absorbable form; a satire. As the great Sun Tzu said, all wars are won before they are fought; Dr Strangelove’s brilliance also comes through in its approach of the concept (nuclear war), before the cameras were turned on.

General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) commands his executive officer Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) to issue ‘Wing Attack Plan R’ to the bombers carrying Hydrogen Bombs and patrolling 2 hours away from their targets outside USSR. Mandrake hesitantly follows the order knowing what it means. The bombers should attack their targets as there has been an attack on the USA. Ripper demands confiscating all personal radio devices, and shutting off all radio and telephone lines on the base so no communication can flow.

President Muffley (Peter Sellers, again) gathers his top aid in the War Room to discuss the grave, the unexpected situation at hand since there has been no attack on the US. General Turgidson (George C. Scott) informs the President that the command General Ripper gave is to be executed when the President and all other superiors have been neutralised due to the attack. It comes as a surprise to the President that nuclear weapons can be used without his say-so. General Ripper’s action sets off a chain of events that were plausible at the time the movie was made and could then lead to complete annihilation.

Shot in black and white and almost devoid of music, the movie despite being a comedy has a serious tone to it given the serious nature of the premise. Kubrick has a penchant to bend the laws of storytelling in movies and here he shares the plot points gradually, with straight-faced humour. It takes a while to identify the crazies from the normies. General Ripper, for example, is going through a complete breakdown but Hayden plays him non-comedically. The scene where Ripper shares his true motives is shot like an introduction to a horror movie villain. Sterling Hayden has given a remarkable and memorable performance. On the other hand, Scott’s Turgidson is a farcical, flamboyant performance that keeps us off the edge of our seats despite the devastation the story is leading to.

In its 94 minutes, the movie deftly balances the genres of horror and comedy. The grandeur of the sets, like the War room, Ripper’s base and office express the bizarreness of the people inhabiting them. Are these the people in charge of making life-and-death decisions on our behalf? It’s a major oversight on the Academy’s part to not nominate Ken Adam for his production design and Gilbert Taylor for his thrilling cinematography.

There are very few movie actors that can be regarded as a ‘genius’ but any list comprising such content would do a disservice to the craft by not including Peter Sellers. Playing three characters, featuring the titular Dr. Strangelove as well, Sellers played each with a different accent, energy and dilemma. As the President, he is trying to achieve diplomacy in an honest effort to save the world to the best of his abilities, given the time constraints. In an iconic scene, he makes a call to the leader of the USSR to explain the dangerous situation while trying to come up with a fix. This is a highly unusual and uncomfortable phone call to make and Sellers sells the hell out of that idea. As RAF Group Captain Mandrake, Sellers emulates the paranoia and freak-out that can be experienced by the audience. Mandrake knows he can save the world if only he can reason with his superior; who is completely mental. And he’s running out of time.

Finally, Dr. Strangelove. A magnificent creation from the minds of not one but two geniuses (Kubrick and Sellers) shows up in just 2 scenes, but they are beautifully mysterious and funny. Gleeful about the possibility of mass extermination of humanity, Strangelove proposes a strategy to survive like he’s selling chocolates to children. Sellers, in this movie, is acting out scenes that have never before or after been seen in cinema. And to watch this masterful comedian at work is a joyously entertaining experience.

The sequences on the bomber plane are essential to the story but are too long by modern standards as they have lost their technical edge. As a result, they put you out of the urgency expressed in the rest of the show. Apart from that, the movie deserves to be seen by every movie lover and intelligent viewer. Stanley Kubrick is an intellectual director who makes movies that are, at times, demanding; yet when immersed in the experience, the payoff is extraordinary.

My President, I have a plan!

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake — ‘Colonel…that Coca-Cola machine. I want you to shoot the lock off it. There may be some change in there.’

Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano — ‘That’s private property.’

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake — ‘Colonel, can you possibly imagine what’s going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call to the President of the United States? Can you imagine? Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That’s what the bullets are for, you twit!’

Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano — ‘Okay. I’m gonna get your money for ya. But if you don’t get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what’s gonna happen to you?’

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake — ‘What?’

Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano — ‘You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.’

If you enjoyed reading this, please support by visiting my website (that's not too much to ask, is it?)—


About the Creator

Bharat Bhoite

Don't you hate when a friend gives away the ending? Well, that friend is the internet. I carefully craft spoiler-free reviews for your pleasure so your viewing experience isn't ruined.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments (1)

  • Sweileh 888about a month ago

    Thank you for the interesting and delicious content. Follow my story now.

Bharat BhoiteWritten by Bharat Bhoite

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.