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Dr. Strangelove Or:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, US/UK)

In producer/director Stanley Kubrick's brilliant, provocative black comedy/fantasy satire, with Peter Sellers playing three marvelous and distinctive roles; it told about doomsday and Cold War politics that featured an accidental, inadvertent, pre-emptive nuclear attack; the undated, landmark film was the first commercially-successful political satire about nuclear war; the witty screenplay, co-authored by the director (with Terry Southern), was based on Peter George's novel Red Alert (the U.S. title); its nightmarish, apocalyptic theme was about how technology had gone haywire and had dominated humanity; all of the major characters - belligerent military leaders and politicians - were portrayed as caricatures:

  • the opening credits sequence featured a B-52 SAC nuclear bomber aircraft refueling in mid-air - looking like a sexual act (mechanical copulation); the silvery, huge, phallic-like nose of the tanker aircraft jutted toward the camera before its aerial copulation with the bomber below
  • the film's three main set locations included: (1) a locked office in a sealed-off Air Force command base run by a psychotic, impotent bomb-group commander who was zealously convinced that the Russians had devised water fluoridation to weaken American men, (2) the cramped, flight deck interior of the B-52 bomber sent to destroy the Soviets with a preemptive strike - led by a Southern-accented, gung-ho major, and (3) the Pentagon's huge underground War Room where an inept US President had convened an advisory staff - including a saber-rattling general (and other military brass), a Soviet ambassador, and a crazed German nuclear scientist (the title character)
  • the B-52 bomber landed on the airfield of Burpelson Air Base where petty officer Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers in the first of three roles), a British RAF attache exchange officer, was phoned about a 'Red Alert' by his supervisor - delusionally-demented cigar-chomping renegade brigadier Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden); Ripper ordered a Plan R or "Condition Red" to seal the base and be ready for an impending emergency (he called it a "shooting war"); the plan, transmitted by a special 3-letter code, was delivered to 34 nuclear-armed B-52's of the 843rd Bomb Wing, ordering them to move past their failsafe points to await further orders to proceed
  • the next scene was set inside the claustrophobic, machine-dominated interior of one of the B-52 bombers at its failsafe point; its dim-witted crew was commanded-piloted by gung-ho redneck cowboy Major T. J. "King" Kong (Slim Pickens), a thick-accented Texan, who received Ripper's orders for a Wing attack, known as Plan R; although skeptical of the veracity of the order, when it was confirmed, Kong declared: "Well, boys, I reckon this is it. Nuclear (pronounced 'nookular') combat, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies"; he then delivered a memorable, patriotic intercom speech to his men - a parody of the totally-loyal American sent on a glory mission: ("I'd say that you're all in line for some important promotions an' personal citations when this thing's over with")

Major T.J. "King" Kong (Slim Pickens)

Kong's Patriotic Intercom Speech to B-52 Crew Members
  • the next scene was set in the hotel suite of hawkish, hedonistic, cartoonish and militaristic General "Buck" Turgidson (George C. Scott), who at 3 o'clock in the morning was dallying with his brunette Playmate 'secretary'/mistress Miss Scott (Tracy Reed, a real Playboy centerfold); he also doubted the Plan R orders, but decided to visit the War Room for further details
  • back at Burpelson Air Base, Gen. Ripper spoke over the PA system to his men with his cigar in one hand and a phallic-looking microphone in the other, urging everyone to be alert during the closing of the base; he advised to trust no one and to fire on any intruders without asking questions; Mandrake became suspicious when his civilian portable radio was still playing regular broadcasting rather than civil defense warnings
  • Mandrake entered Ripper's fortress-office and asked: "We don't want to start a nuclear war unless we really have to, do we?"; Mandrake respectfully suggested issuing the three-letter recall code under his own authority to bring back the Wing - a code prefix that could radio the bombers to turn back in time, but he was reprimanded by Gen. Ripper with a pearl-handled .45 revolver on his desk
  • the babbling Ripper, who locked Mandrake inside his office, expressed his fears of the degradation of his bodily fluids (his male potency and sexual functioning), reasoning that his actions would forestall the Soviet plot to fluoridate US drinking water: "I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids"

Gen. Turgidson Briefing President Muffley

US President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers)
Turgidson's Suggestion to Strike First Against the Soviets
  • in the "War Room" at The Pentagon, the egg-head ineffectual American President (Commander-in-Chief) Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers in the second of three roles) and his undersecretary advisors sat at a round war council table; a massive graphic display of a strategic map known as the Big Board was lit with blinking lights to indicate the progress of the bomber wing planes on their way to Russian targets; Air Force General Buck Turgidson briefed the shiny-headed President about the orders issued by General Jack Ripper to the 34 B-52's; he had bypassed the President with Plan R - something that Muffley had approved (in cases where the normal chain of command had been disrupted); Turgidson reminded the President that in about 18 minutes, the planes would penetrate Russian radar cover, and it would be impossible in that amount of time to come up with the correct three letter code group prefix to recall the planes
  • Gen. Turgidson took the opportunity to suggest taking advantage of the situation by striking first against the Soviet Union: ("I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them"); he urged that Ripper's attack be reinforced with an all-out nuclear offensive war against the Russians before they could retaliate - a potential WWIII; with cold calculations about nuclear destruction, he predicted that the US could destroy 90% of their missiles before they could retaliate, resulting in a victory for the U.S. with "acceptable" American casualties of "no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops... depending on the breaks
  • President Muffley refused to "go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler"; he proposed to negotiate with the Soviet Ambassador, Alexei de Sadesky (Peter Bull)

Survival Kit Checklist

Kong: "Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff"
  • meanwhile in a farcical scene, Kong checked the contents of his survival kit with his crew on board the B-52, including nine packs of chewin' gum, one issue of prophylactics, three lipsticks, and three pair of nylon stockin's, with the hilarious comment: "Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff"
  • in a classic scene, once the Soviet Ambassador entered the War Room, a struggle and fight broke out between him and Turgidson; it concluded with Muffley's reprimanding classic line: "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room"
  • meanwhile, outside Burpelson Air Base, guard soldiers had been persuaded by Gen. Ripper that approaching trucks with soldiers and paratroopers were evidence of Communist infiltration (Russians disguised as Americans); a firefight battle commenced - American troops against Americans
  • back in the War Room, President Muffley made a polite hot-line phone call (a monologue) to the drunken Soviet premier Dmitri Kissof to explain an erroneous bombing attack ("...It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call. Listen, if it wasn't friendly, probably wouldn't have even got it. They will not reach their targets for at least another hour!"); Muffley promised to give the Soviets all of the intelligence necessary to shoot down the American planes before they could carry out their strikes
  • at the Air Base, the nutty, obsessed General found a scapegoat for his own sexual inadequacies in the Russkies; he theorized that flouridation of water was a Soviet conspiracy: ("Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?"); Ripper joined in the machine-gun fire raging outdoors by pulling out his own Browning machine-gun from his golf bag with a long ammunition belt - to find off his own invading army and exchange gunfire; he also reasoned that the Commies were unaffected by the plot to pollute the water of the world because they drank vodka; he blamed his own male impotency and sexual inadequacy on the Russian conspiracy to affect his bodily fluids
  • in the War Room, Soviet Ambassador Sadesky warned about the effects of a lethal, automatic Doomsday Device or Machine (a network of computers) that would be triggered by a nuclear bomb attack inside Russia; although both Turgidson and Muffley were in disbelief, the ambassador confirmed that it had been constructed and was activated - and could not be deactivated as a built-in safeguard; it would destroy all human and animal life on Earth (within 10 months) and enshroud the planet in a 93-year radioactive cloud
  • President Muffley consulted with the sinister, mad and peculiar wheelchair-bound German nuclear scientist and U.S. weapons strategist named Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers in his third role).(an ex-Nazi "kraut") who spoke with a falsetto- and German-accent, and had an uncontrollable, independently-minded mechanical-arm Nazi salute (and his wrestling with his own gloved hand); Strangelove confirmed the existence of the Doomsday Machine; he emphasized that it was "triggered automatically" and also was "impossible to untrigger"; it would automatically trigger world destruction if an H-bomb fell on Russia
  • eventually, General Ripper's defending troops surrendered Burpelson Base to the US Army; as Ripper mumbled about his fear that he would be tortured to divulge the code, Mandrake attempted to convince him to give him the code; but then Ripper - fearing torture to divulge the recall code - calmly blew his brains out inside the bathroom with his loaded pistol; suddenly, Colonel "Bat" Guano (Keenan Wynn), the gun-happy leader of the attack forces, entered brandishing an M-1 rifle to arrest and take Mandrake prisoner; the anxious Mandrake proposed calling SAC and urgently suggested phoning the President and trying a recall code based on the OPE three letter code patterns in Ripper's doodles on his desk

Colonel "Bat" Guano (Keenan Wynn)

Shooting at a Coca Cola Machine
  • meanwhile, on the B-52 bomber, a Soviet anti-aircraft tracking missile approached and detonated at a range of one mile from the plane, sending a shockwave through it and nearly knocking the plane out of the sky; it knocked out the radio-gear and the communications system, and there was a devastating fuel leak
  • marched out of Ripper's office at gunpoint, Mandrake begged Col. Guano to allow him to phone the President at the White House to save the world in a nearby phone booth; however, he did not have enough spare change for the call, and Guano reluctantly shot at a Coca Cola machine, fearing retribution by the company; the message was finally transmitted to SAC and received by the president - the three-letter code OPE was successfully provided to all approaching aircraft to Russia and war seemed to be averted; however, Kong's damaged plane failed to respond to the recall code, and continued flying at a low level under the radar
  • with depleted fuel, Kong suggested flying their "Leper Colony" bomber plane to target a different location - the ICBM complex at Kodlosk; in the War Room, Turgidson could barely contain his excitement that the plane might succeed; as the airship approached its new objective, the bombing plane's theme song played on the soundtrack: When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again; Kong personally decided to investigate a faulty bomb bay door that wasn't functioning; as he crawled toward the door, two huge nuclear warhead bombs appeared in the foreground, each labeled with sexual salutations: "Hi There!" (a homosexual advance), the other labeled "Dear John!"
  • after manually opening the bomb bay door, Kong was seated astride the "Hi-There" nuclear bomb like a bucking bronco in a rodeo, riding it toward its target and crying "Yaahooo" as he fanned his cowboy hat; the Doomsday Machine was triggered, and therefore the total destruction of the Earth
Kong Astride Nuclear Bomb Yelling: "Yahoo!"
  • in the War Room in the final sequence, the villainous Dr. Strangelove giggled with pleasure as he described his 100 year plan for the underground survival of 200,000 elites - in deep underground, mine-shaft caverns to escape radiation effects; he uncontrollably addressed the President as "Mein Fuehrer" while dreaming of an underground bunker world populated by "top government and military men" after the impending apocalypse; he also was sexually gleeful when he excitedly mentioned his personal duty to help populate the human race with selective sexual breeding with women (at a ratio of 10 females to one male); he also couldn't restrain his left fist that slammed down and his black-gloved mechanical right arm that reflexed into an unintentional Nazi salute ('Sieg Heil'); Strangelove's future vision of "strange love" imagined love-less, assembly-line, mechanical sex, in a world in which everyone could "Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"

Crazed Dr. Strangelove's Uncontrollable Hitler-Salute

Turgidson: "We must not allow a mine-shaft gap!"

Strangelove: "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!"
  • Turgidson ranted about his paranoia of Russian military supremacy in 100 years when they would emerge from the deep mine shafts, predicting that the Russians might build stronger bunkers in their mine shafts than the US; he stressed that America "must not allow a mine shaft gap"
  • ecstatic over the total annihilation of the Earth, Dr. Strangelove "resurrected" himself, miraculously regaining his ability to walk; his mechanical, robot-like body rose out of his wheelchair as he cried out exultantly with an ultimate exclamation: "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!"
  • in the film's finale, the world was destroyed; multiple, orgasmic H-bomb mushroom clouds signaled universal nuclear destruction throughout the world, blossoming into Vera Lynn's rendition of the WWII tune: "We'll Meet Again" ("We'll meet again / Don't know where, don't know when / But I know we'll meet again / Some sunny day")

Refueling of B-52 Nuclear Bomber in Opening Credits

Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers)

Gen. Ripper (Sterling Hayden): "Looks like we're in a shooting war"

Gen. "Buck" Turgidson (George C. Scott) with Mistress/Secretary Miss Scott (Tracy Reed)

Gen. Ripper's Announcement to Close Off USAF Air Base

Gen. Ripper Reprimanding Mandrake And Expressing Paranoia About Degradation of His Bodily Fluids

Pentagon's Circular War Room

War Room's Graphic Display of Bomber Planes Approaching Targets

Gen. Turgidson Arguing with Soviet Ambassador (Peter Bull)

Muffley: "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room"

Awkward Phone Call Between Soviet Premier and US President, With Ambassador Listening In

Ripper Speaking of Communist Plots to Mandrake, Including Fluoridation of Water

Ripper With His Own Machine-Gun To Fight Off Invading US Forces at Air Base

Soviet Ambassador Warning of Activation of Doomsday Machine Device

Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) Wheeling Himself Into View in War Room and Confirming Existence of Doomsday Machine

Doodles on Ripper's Desk - Revealing the OPE Three-letter Recall Code

Kong's Lone Damaged B-52 Flying Toward Target

Two H-Bombs: "Hi There!" and "Dear John"

Dr. Strangelove Describing 100 Year Plan Underground for 200,000 Elites

Finale's Mushroom Cloud Destruction


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