Group Captain Lionel Mandrake According to film critic Alexander Walker, the author of biographies of both Sellers and Kubrick, the role of Group Captain Lionel Mandrake was the easiest of the three for Sellers to play, as he was aided by his experience of mimicking his superiors while serving in the RAF during World War II. There is also a heavy resemblance to Sellers's friend and occasional co-star Terry-Thomas and prosthetic-limbed RAF ace Douglas Bader.
On top of this, Strangelove employed sensitivity by tinkering with a line spoken early on in the film by Maj. Kong. While rifling through a pack of military supplies that included chewing gum, lipstick, nylon stocking, and prophylactics, Kong (originally) remarked, “A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all this stuff.” A sloppy lip-dub replaced the word “Dallas” with “Vegas” as not to allude callously to the site of Kennedy’s murder.
Well, boys, I reckon this is it. Nuclear (pronounced 'nookular') combat, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies.
The international climate of the early 1960s piqued Stanley Kubrick’s interest in writing and directing a nuclear war thriller. Kubrick began consuming piles of literature on the topic until he came across former Royal Air Force office Peter George’s dramatic novel Red Alert. Columbia Pictures optioned the book, and Kubrick began translating the bulk of the novel into a script.
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Kubrick argued that Fail Safe's own 1960 source novel Fail-Safe had been plagiarized from Peter George's Red Alert, to which Kubrick owned creative rights and pointed out unmistakable similarities in intentions between the characters Groeteschele and Strangelove. The plan worked, and Fail Safe opened eight months behind Dr. Strangelove, to critical acclaim but mediocre ticket sales.
Originally, Sellers was cast as four characters in Dr. Strangelove: Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and the titular mad scientist (all of whom he played in the movie), as well as Major Kong. After Sellers injured his leg and had trouble with the Texas accent, Kubrick had to bring in an outsider.
Former Goon Show writer, and friend of Sellers, Spike Milligan, was credited with suggesting the Vera Lynn music for the ending. (Additionally, Sellers' ad-libbed dialogue as the President on the phone with the Russian premier is drawn from a skit between him and Milligan in the Goon Show episode "The Lost Emperor".)
Conflicting rumors attribute the scrapping of the scene to the Kennedy assassination (with Turgidson’s “our beloved president” line coming off as inappropriate in the context of JFK’s death) and Kubrick’s feeling that the scene simply didn’t work creatively. The idea was scrapped following the Nov. 22 test screening and has been shown publicly only once: at a screening of the film at London's National Film Theatre in 1999, immediately following Kubrick’s death.
In collaboration with George, Kubrick started writing a screenplay based on the book. While writing the screenplay, they benefited from some brief consultations with Schelling and, later, Herman Kahn. In following the tone of the book, Kubrick originally intended to film the story as a serious drama. However, as he later explained during interviews, he began to see comedy inherent in the idea of mutual assured destruction as he wrote the first draft. Kubrick said:
Perhaps Kubrick's most perfectly realised film, simply because his cynical vision of the progress of technology and human stupidity is wedded with comedy.
There were a total of four Academy Award nominations (with no wins) for the film: Best Picture, Best Actor (Peter Sellers), Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It lost the first three Oscars to the popular My Fair Lady (1964), and the Screenplay award to Becket (1964).
Before being cast as Dr. Strangelove’s gung-ho bomber pilot Major. T. J. Kong, actor Slim Pickens had starred almost exclusively in Westerns, with nary a comedy part to his name (much less a political satire). This didn’t pose much of a problem, however, as Kubrick deemed the actor’s natural cadence and decorum to be perfect for the cowboy soldier.
Perhaps the most legendary deleted scene in the history of cinema, Dr. Strangelove’s original ending involved the entire war room staff engaging in a madcap pie fight. The segment in question begins with Soviet Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky, disgruntled over his mistreatment at the hands of General Turgidson, hurling a custard pie at the American officer, but missing and hitting President Muffley instead.
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At the Pentagon, General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) briefs President Merkin Muffley (also Peter Sellers) and other officers and aides about the attack in the "War Room". President Muffley is shocked to learn that such orders could be given without his authorization, but Turgidson reminds him that Plan R, enabling a senior officer to launch a strike against the Soviets if all superiors have been killed in a first strike on Washington, DC, allows such an action.
..in the two years it has been my privilege to be your commanding officer, I have always expected the best from you, and you have never given me anything less than that.
In keeping with Kubrick's satirical character names, a "merkin" is a pubic hair wig. The president is bald, and his last name is "Muffley"; both are additional homages to a merkin.
In the months following the film's release director Stanley Kubrick received a fan letter from Legrace G. Benson of the Department of History of Art at Cornell University interpreting the film as being sexually-layered. The director wrote back to Benson and confirmed the interpretation, "Seriously, you are the first one who seems to have noticed the sexual framework from intromission (the planes going in) to the last spasm (Kong's ride down and detonation at target)."
Mandrake discovers that no war order has been issued by the Pentagon and tries to stop Ripper, who locks them both in his office. Ripper tells Mandrake that he believes the Soviets have been using fluoridation of United States water supplies to pollute the "precious bodily fluids" of Americans; Mandrake now realizes that Ripper is insane.
Four years after Peter George penned Red Alert, Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler came out with similarly themed but more commercially successful novel Fail Safe. Shortly after the second novel’s publication, the film was optioned for adaptation. Curiously enough, the studio in question was Columbia Pictures, the very company that was producing Dr. Strangelove at the time.
President Merkin Muffley For his performance as President Merkin Muffley, Sellers flattened his natural English accent to resemble an American Midwesterner. Sellers drew inspiration for the role from Adlai Stevenson, a former Illinois governor who was the Democratic candidate for the 1952 and 1956 presidential elections and the U.N. ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
'Dr. Strangelove' may have worked as a serious thriller, but Kubrick knew better.
One line by Slim Pickens, "a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff", was dubbed to change "Dallas" to "Vegas" since Dallas was the city in which Kennedy was killed. The original reference to Dallas survives in the French-subtitled version of the film.
In Casablanca, Morocco in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
The funny (and frightening), dark film cleverly cuts back and forth mid-scene (and increases in rapidity as the film draws to an insane close) from three main set locations, each with their own distinctive camera styles:
As it turns out, Slim Pickens had never left the United States. He had to hurry and get his first passport. He arrived on the set, and somebody said, "Gosh, he's arrived in costume!", not realizing that that's how he always dressed ... with the cowboy hat and the fringed jacket and the cowboy boots—and that he wasn't putting on the character—that's the way he talked.
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By a whopping margin, this is Kubrick's most radical film and greatest dramatic gamble.
The pre-eminent satire of cold-war paranoia, Dr. Strangelove is a hilarious and harrowing fable of systemised madness.
Dr. Strangelove does what so few comedies do today: it challenges us, provokes us, unsettles us while also making us laugh.
A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.
In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society's crime problem - but not all goes according to plan.
A slick satire of the cold war, and one that succeeds in brilliantly lampooning the hands that guide the world.
Meanwhile, United States Army forces arrive at Burpelson, which is still sealed by General Ripper's order. A bloody battle ensues, and the Army forces eventually take over the base. Ripper kills himself, fearing he will be tortured into revealing the recall code. A soldier named Colonel "Bat" Guano (Keenan Wynn) forces his way into Ripper's office, where Mandrake identifies Ripper's CRM code from his desk blotter ("OPE," a variant of both Peace on Earth and Purity of Essence).
Title: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and also seven BAFTA Awards, of which it won four.
Kubrick won two awards for best director, from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, and was nominated for one by the Directors Guild of America.
As the alert is signaled by a siren sounding on the base - and the special code is transmitted to a fleet of B-52's, Ripper closes his venetian blinds. The narrator makes a final statement regarding Strategic Air Command readiness - later dubbed "Operation Dropkick":