Dr. Strangelove (1964)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 35 mins

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By turns insightful and comedic, this classic suspense drama follows the complex sequence of events sparked by paranoid Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper of Burpelson Air Force Base. Based on the delusion and belief that fluoridation of the American water supply is a Soviet plot to poison the U.S. populace, Ripper decides able to deploy, through a back door mechanism, a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union without the knowledge of his superiors, including the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Buck Turgidson, and President Merkin Muffley. Only Ripper knows the code to recall the B-52 bombers and he has shut down communication in and out of Burpelson as a measure to protect this attack. Ripper's executive officer, RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (on exchange from Britain), who is being held at Burpelson by Ripper, believes he knows the recall codes if he can only get a message to the outside world. Meanwhile at the Pentagon War Room, key persons including Muffley, Turgidson and nuclear scientist and adviser, a former Nazi named Dr. Strangelove, are discussing measures to stop the attack or mitigate its blow-up into an all out nuclear war with the Soviets. Against Turgidson's wishes, Muffley brings Soviet Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky into the War Room, and get his boss, Soviet Premier Dimitri Kisov, on the hot line to inform him of what's going on. The Americans in the War Room are dismayed to learn that the Soviets have a yet as unannounced Doomsday Device to detonate if any of their key targets are hit. As Ripper, Mandrake and those in the War Room try and work the situation to their end goal, Major T.J. "King" Kong, one of the B-52 bomber pilots, is working on his own agenda of deploying his bomb where ever he can on enemy soil if he can't make it to his intended target. In this tense and dangerous circumstance, with so many unstable powers at play, how will events unfold? What will happen of Ripper?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Peter Sellers

Crew: Stanley Kubrick (Director), Gilbert Taylor (Director of Photography), Laurie Johnson (Music Director)

Rating: U (India)

Genres: Comedy, War

Release Dates: 29 Jan 1964 (India)

Tagline: The hot-line suspense comedy.

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Did you know? This was the final collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and his producing partner James B. Harris. Harris left to begin his own directing career. Harris was involved in the early development stage of this production. It was during this stage that, according to Harris, Kubrick began to toy with the idea of turning it into a comedy. Read More
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Production Company
Assistant Producer





Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Production Designer
Art Director


Makeup and Hair

Makeup Artist
Film Type:
Feature Film
Colour Info:
Black & White
Sound Mix:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1, 1.37 : 1
The hot-line suspense comedy.
Revealing Mistakes
After having shot the Coca-Cola machine, Colonel Bat Guano leans down to grab the coins and is subsequently hit in the face with a stream of the soft drink. Keenan Wynn's head was too high when the stream began to spew toward him, and he can be seen lowering his face down into it to produce the full comedic effect.

Revealing Mistakes
Strings can be seen holding up the model of the bomber.

Revealing Mistakes
In the cockpit scenes, when the aircraft banks during evasive maneuvers, no change appears in the instruments: they continue indicating straight and level flight (notably the attitude indicator).

Factual Mistake
Typos in the opening captions include "Base on the book Red Alert by Peter George", "ficticious" instead of "fictitious", and "occurence" instead of "occurrence".

Factual Mistake
The depicted capabilities of the airborne radar in the B-52 are fantasy. The B-52 never had a fully rotating radar with a PPI scope, it had a ground attack radar, and the gun turret radar didn't operate like that. No airborne radar in the 1960's could detect a target as small as a surface-to-air missile at 50 miles away. A sweeping radar would not be able to display the missile exploding in mid-sweep.

Factual Mistake
During the ending of the opening credits it says "Base on the Novel Red Alert" instead of "Based on the Novel Red Alert".

Factual Mistake
The pilots wings on General Turgidson are basic pilot wings. For a four star general they should be Command Pilot Wings with a wreath and star on top.

Revealing Mistakes
The panel in the B-52 labeled "Auto Destruct" is in fact a flare launch control panel. Visible under the black paint are the instructions "INSTRUCTIONS 1) PULL COVER DOWN 2) MOVE MASTER (CENTER) SWITCH DOWN 3) RELEASE A FLARE BY MOVING EITHER SIDE SWITCH"

Audio/Video Mismatch
After Major Kong lists the contents of the emergency ration kits, he says "Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good time in Vegas with all that stuff." His lips are saying Dallas instead of Vegas. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas shortly after filming was completed, and the producers did not want to remind anyone of sad events during a joke.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Mandrake finds the radio, it is on the shelf of an IBM 1403 high-speed printer, with the cover open. The printer is running; anyone who has ever been around a working 1403 printer knows that they are very loud. Operators had to shout to be heard. The printer is not making the loud noise it should be making while running in the shown 600 lines per minute mode with the cover open.

Character Error
Towards the end of the film, when Strangelove is fighting with his renegade right hand over control of his wheelchair and punches it several times out of frustration, the Russian Ambassador (Peter Bull) clearly corpses (laughs) at Peter Sellers' performance and then quickly regains his composure.

Character Error
De Sadesky says that the fallout from the doomsday device has a half-life of 93 years, but then he also says that the fallout would circle Earth for 93 years. This is a contradiction: half-life is the time it takes for radiation to be halved, not completely dissipated. It is common however for people to confuse these concepts, and the dissipation time for the fallout from a nuclear weapon salted with cobalt is indeed about a century.

Character Error
De Sadesky claims that the doomsday device are large nuclear weapons that have been jacketed with a compound of Cobalt and Thorium. While Cobalt is indeed a first choice when making such a weapon, using Thorium makes no sense at all since it will not be activated by the blast to form any dangerous fallout.

Character Error
James Earl Jones is sporting the most magnificently bushy sideburn peeking out from under his helmet during several shots. Hardly a military short back 'n' sides.

In a number of scenes showing the B-52 flying from behind, the plane banks and turns yet none of the control surfaces on the wings move.

When Gen. Ripper and Capt. Mandrake are using the belt-fed machine gun, in one shot Mandrake is holding a chair over his head for protection, but when it cuts and the camera is behind them and Ripper crawls away from the window, Mandrake isn't holding the chair, and the closest chair is 10 feet away from him.

Crew/Equipment Visible
The background footage for the model B-52's is filmed from a Boeing B-17G, whose shadow can be seen on the ground.

Errors in Geography
General Turgidson learns from his secretary, Miss Scott, of General Ripper's ordered attack on the USSR at 3 a.m. Washington D.C. time. However, the concurrent scenes at Burpleson Air Force base (somewhere in the Western United States) take place in the daytime.

Factual Mistake
When General Jack D. Ripper is firing the .30 caliber machine gun with the assistance of Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, he is holding the machine gun by the barrel. In reality, this would quickly cause serious burns and would not be possible for more than a few seconds.

Factual Mistake
The B-52 aircraft models shown in the film have no tail numbers.

Factual Mistake
In reality incoming missile threats are not detected by a radar on an aircraft as depicted in the movie, but by a Radar Warning Receiver. An RWR assesses threats by detecting a ground radar as it directs its tell-tale emissions at the aircraft to guide a missile to it, or by detecting a radar on-board the missile itself.
This was the final collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and his producing partner James B. Harris. Harris left to begin his own directing career. Harris was involved in the early development stage of this production. It was during this stage that, according to Harris, Kubrick began to toy with the idea of turning it into a comedy.

Peter Sellers was also cast as Maj. T.J. "King" Kong, but he had trouble developing a Texas accent. When Sellers broke his ankle, Stanley Kubrick decided to cast another actor who naturally fit the role. John Wayne never responded. Bonanza (1959) star Dan Blocker, declined the role because of the script's progressive political content. Kubrick cast Slim Pickens because of his work on One-Eyed Jacks (1961). Pickens was not told that the movie was a comedy and was only shown the script for scenes he was in. As a result, Pickens played the role "straight".

The favorite film of film critic Gene Siskel.

Tracy Reed, the only woman seen in the film, plays Turgidson's secretary Miss Scott, who was billed in some early advertisements as "Miss Foreign Affairs". This was due to her also appearing as that character in the centerfold of Playboy magazine (June 1962), which is read by Major Kong in the cockpit. The magazine covering her butt is "Foreign Affairs".

Based on the novel "Red Alert" by Peter George, and originally conceived as a tense thriller about the possibility of accidental nuclear war. Stanley Kubrick was working on the script when he realized that many scenes he had written were actually quite funny. He then brought in Terry Southern to turn the story into a satire. Among the changes were the addition of the title character and the renaming of other characters using satirical names such as Turgidson, Kissoff, Guano, DeSadesky, and Merkin Muffley.

The character of Maj. T.J. "King" Kong (Slim Pickens) was based on Alvin "Tex" Johnston. Johnston was the chief test pilot for Bell Aircraft and Boeing in the 1940s and 1950s. Like Kong, he regularly flew wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson. While working for Boeing, he piloted the first flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, the same plane his fictional counterpart piloted in "Doctor Strangelove." Johnston was perhaps best known for his demonstration flight of the Dash-80, prototype for the Boeing 707, over Lake Washington during the 1955 Gold Cup Hydroplane Races. He was scheduled to perform a simple flyover. Instead, he performed a double barrel roll, leading many in the crowd -- including Boeing president Bill Allen -- to believe the plane was out of control and about to crash. The same year "Doctor Strangelove" premiered, Johnston was promoted to manage the Boeing Atlantic Test Center. One of the projects he worked on there was the development of the Minute Man missile.

Many of the characters have names which are double entendres or innuendos: Jack D. Ripper refers to the infamous London murderer who persecuted sex workers in 1888; Merkin Muffley's names refer to female parts - a merkin is a pubic hair wig and muff is slang for women's pubic hair; Turgidson's first name is "Buck" and "turgid" is a word describing the condition of an erect penis; the Soviet premier is "Kissoff"; the Soviet ambassador is named after the Marquis de Sade (the original "sadist"); and the title character is called "Strangelove".

James Earl Jones' initially thought Slim Pickens was staying in character off camera, until being told he wasn't putting on the character, that's the way he always talked.

As research, Stanley Kubrick read nearly 50 books about nuclear war.

According to Christiane Kubrick in her 2002 book "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures," her husband Stanley Kubrick often played chess with George C. Scott on the set between setups. Kubrick, renowned as a master-level chess player who used to hustle other players in his youth in New York City, outclassed Scott as a player and easily beat him, which had the effect of winning Scott's admiration for the director and keeping the famously volatile actor (who was only a few months younger than Kubrick) focused during the down-time.

The U.S. government dismissed Stanley Kubrick's scenario of an accidental nuclear war as too far-fetched. However, the scene where Group Captain Mandrake is trying to get through to the Pentagon with the code to recall the bombers, but doesn't have enough change for the pay phone, was shown at a session of Congress. Members said it raised legitimate questions about whether crucial information could find its way to the right people during a nuclear crisis.

According to Pablo Ferro, title designer, the opening title shots were born of remarks between himself and Stanley Kubrick wherein Ferro observed that all machines invented by men have a sexual aspect. In the context of the film, it made Kubrick think of B-52s refueling in mid-air. Originally talking about arranging for a shoot to capture that image, Ferro said he was sure the Air Force had been so proud of the technology that they had filmed the process from every conceivable angle. It didn't take long for him to bring back stock footage in which both men were delighted to see the aircraft involved in the process suggestively "bobbing," "bumping" up and down and swaying in the air as they connect, transfer fuel and then disconnect. The addition of the music instrumental on top heightened the intended effect, and knowing all this makes watching the opening titles quite a different experience. Indeed, the music actually 'punctuates' the refueling rod's eventual withdrawal from the B-52 seen.

Film debut of James Earl Jones'. Stanley Kubrick cast him after seeing him in a production of William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", in which George C. Scott also appeared.

Peter Sellers was not keen on multiple takes, one of Stanley Kubrick's trademarks. Kubrick felt that Sellers's performance improved with each successive take, while Sellers couldn't understand why he was being asked to keep doing the same scene over and over.

Stanley Kubrick usually gave directions to actors without cracking a smile. However, during the shooting of this film, Kubrick was laughing a good deal of the time while Peter Sellers was performing, often so hard that he brought himself to tears.

Shortly after the release of the movie, Stanley Kubrick met with Arthur C. Clarke to talk about making the "proverbial good science-fiction movie". During a discussion of ideas (that eventually became 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)), the two men saw what they at first thought was a satellite moving in a polar orbit, but it abruptly changed direction. When Clarke suggesting calling in a UFO report, Kubrick said, "After 'Dr. Strangelove', the Air Force doesn't want to hear from me."

The character of Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) was patterned after the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Curtis LeMay, who was renowned for his extreme anti-Communist views and who once stated that he would not be afraid to start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union if he was elected president. Similarly, Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) was patterned after Gen. Thomas S. Power, LeMay's protégé and successor as Chief of the Strategic Air Command. When briefed on a RAND proposal to limit U.S. nuclear strikes on Soviet cities at the beginning of a war, Power responded, "Restraint! Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards! ..... At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!"

Has the longest title for a Best Picture nominee or winner, at 13 words long.

General Ripper's paranoia about water fluoridation being a Communist plot is based on a conspiracy theory circulated by the extreme-right-wing John Birch Society in the 1950s and 1960s. The organization, which was founded in 1958, was quite influential in conservative politics at the time, and the "fluoridation is a Communist plot" theory took hold in many rural areas of the US, with some small towns going as far as to not only ban fluoridation of water but to pass ordinances requiring the arrest and jailing of anyone who advocated it.

While shooting aerial footage over Greenland, the second unit camera crew accidentally filmed a secret US military base. Their plane was forced down, and the crew was suspected of being Soviet spies.

Peter Sellers was paid $1 million, 55% of the film's budget. Stanley Kubrick famously quipped "I got three for the price of six".

Peter Sellers improvised most of his lines.

George C. Scott was reputedly annoyed that Stanley Kubrick was pushing him to overact for his role. While he vowed never to work with Kubrick again, Scott eventually saw this as one of his favorite performances. Many fans consider it some of his best work on-screen.

The scene where Gen. Turgidson trips and falls in the War Room, and then gets back up and resumes talking as if nothing happened, really was an accident. Stanley Kubrick mistakenly thought that it was George C. Scott really in character, so he left it in the film.

The War Room contains a large table of food because Stanley Kubrick intended to end the film with a custard pie fight between the Russians and the Americans. He decided not to use the footage because he found it too farcical to fit with the satirical nature of the rest of the film. The only known public showing of the pie fight scene was at the 1999 screening of the film at London's National Film Theatre, following Kubrick's death.

Dr. Strangelove's glove is from Stanley Kubrick's personal collection. Peter Sellers had seen Kubrick wearing them to handle hot lights on the set, and thought they looked sinister. He wore one on his right hand (the one not under his control) to add to Strangelove's eeriness.

Stanley Kubrick wanted the tablecloth on the War Room table to be green, so it looked like the world leaders were playing poker with the world's fate. However, this makes little sense, since the film's budget required it to be shot in black & white, so color of the tablecloth would make no difference on the final film release.

Major Kong's comment about the survival kit was originally "A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff". "Dallas" was overdubbed with "Vegas" after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Kong still mouths the word "Dallas".

In one version of the script, aliens from outer space observed all of the action.

There is a great deal of editing and cutting away shots in the sequence where Dr. Strangelove gets carried away in the War Room when his out-of-control right hand makes Nazi salutes and tries to strangle him, mainly to cover up the cast around him cracking up with laughter. Despite this, Peter Bull, playing Soviet Ambassador de Sadesky, can be glimpsed trying to suppress his laughter.

In the early 1960s the B-52 was cutting-edge technology. Access to it was a matter of national security. The Pentagon refused to lend any support to the film after they read the script. Set designers reconstructed the B-52 bomber's cockpit from a single photograph that appeared in a British flying magazine. When some American Air Force personnel were invited to view the movie's B-52 cockpit, they said it was a perfect copy. Stanley Kubrick feared that Ken Adam's production design team had used illegal methods and could be investigated by the FBI.

Dr. Strangelove apparently suffers from agonistic apraxia, also known as "alien hand syndrome". It's caused by damage to the corpus callosum, the nerve fibers that connect the brain's two hemispheres. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen who identified it named it Dr. Strangelove Syndrome. According to Professor Sergio Della Sala, the patients "slam their hand and shout 'My hand does things that I don't want it to do!'"

Peter Sellers was the first actor to be nominated for a single Academy award (best actor) for a film in which he portrayed three different characters in the same film.